A consumer watchdog has hit out at children’s clothes and toys which ‘normalise’ sex and pornography.
Ed Mayo, Chief Executive of Consumer Focus warned that retailers are selling t-shirts with slogans such as “sex kitten” and “flirt!” for girls as young as six.
Mr Mayo also criticised magazines aimed at young girls which have been caught running modelling competitions, and online ‘rate my body’ contests for girls aged 13 to 14.
He disclosed that the stationery giant W H Smith has responded to the watchdog’s advice to stop selling Playboy-themed merchandise for schoolgirls.
Mr Mayo said: “Children’s products, such as the Playboy range, help to make sex and pornography normal.”
He warns: “This is a clear case of too much, too young. The effects of early sexualisation for girls include emotional distress, anxiety, low self-esteem, eating disorders, disrupted school life and depression.
“Boys who are affected end up with an image of girls as sexual objects, which can jeopardise their ability to form and maintain intimate relationships.”
His comments come a week after the Children’s Society released an alarming report warning of the dangers of the sexualisation of children.
Mr Mayo said exposure to sexual images comes mainly from mainstream advertising, where up to half of women shown are partly dressed or undressed.
There have been a number of incidents recently where parents have expressed outrage at inappropriate products aimed at children.
In November mothers expressed dismay at high heels for babies maintaining that “Parents should let babies be babies.” A children’s charity also commented claiming the product was “ludicrous”.
In October the leading stationery giant Ryman withdrew all Playboy products after complaints by parents they were being promoted to children.
In July a report by The Mental Health Foundation and Girlguiding UK found that the mental health of young girls was at risk because of pressure to wear adult clothes and engage in early sexual activity.
The report said: “Sexual advances from boys, pressure to wear clothes that make them look too old and magazines and websites directly targeting younger girls to lose weight or consider plastic surgery were identified as taking a particular toll.”
It concluded that “premature sexualisation and pressure to grow up too quickly” was affecting young girls’ mental health.