Two thirds of parents in the UK believe children are exposed to unsuitable content on television before the watershed, a survey has shown.
An online survey of 1,004 parents of children under the age of 18 revealed that 67 per cent thought inappropriate content was broadcast before 9pm.
A further 80 per cent said they felt films and video games with violent or sexual themes can be accessed too easily by children.
The research, conducted for Christian charity Mothers’ Union, also showed that most parents think television, films, magazines and the internet make children sexually aware at a younger age than they would be otherwise.
The findings are detailed in the charity’s report Bye Buy Childhood.
It describes the impact of advertising and marketing on children’s happiness.
The charity has called for a ban on marketing and selling sexualising products to children under 16.
It also wants to see safeguards put in place to protect children under 16 from viewing displays of goods of a sexualised nature.
The charity has raised concerns about so-called “peer-to-peer” marketing in which children are recruited by internet marketing campaigns.
Under these schemes, children are encouraged to pass email addresses of friends to marketers and promote products to other children.
Mothers’ Union worldwide president Rosemary Kempsell said: “Mothers’ Union is concerned at the increasing levels of marketing aimed at children.
“Brands deliberately encourage a culture of ‘pester power’ or use manipulative techniques such as recruiting young people as conduits for peer-to-peer marketing.
“This is having a far-reaching effect on children’s values, and their family life.
“Marketers play on the need that children have to fit in with their friends, to belong. We believe exploiting children for profit is wrong.”
Earlier this year scores of viewers expressed outrage after witnessing actors demonstrating sex positions live on ITV’s flagship daytime television show, This Morning.
Members of the public flooded internet message boards and complained to media groups saying the explicit sex topics were “inappropriate” for a morning show.
This Morning, traditionally famous for cookery and fashion features, shocked viewers when they were confronted with two young actors simulating sex, under the guidance of ‘relationship expert’ Tracey Cox, live on air as part of the show’s ‘sex week’.
Last year researchers found that children who view TV programmes aimed at adults are more likely to engage in sexual activity earlier in life.
The study found that the younger children were exposed to TV shows with adult content, the sooner they became sexually active during adolescence.
In a separate study in the same year researchers found that violent computer games and too much television increased dangers of mental health in children and could drive children to have early sex.
Peer pressure, celebrity culture and advertising were highlighted as areas contributing to girls having sex as soon as they hit the age of consent.