Sexualisation Of Childhood: Facebook And Padded Bras Worry 90% Of Parents

Targeting children on Facebook and selling and inappropriate products, such as padded bras, concerns almost 90% of parents, a study has revealed.

Nine in 10 parents (90%) still think there are problems with the way some companies advertise to children and 85% are unaware of the dedicated complaints and advice website ParentPort, according to a poll for the Chartered Institute of
Marketing (CIM).

The survey comes a year after the report by Mothers’ Union chief executive Reg Bailey, entitled Letting Children Be Children, which called on businesses and broadcasters to play their part in protecting young people from the “increasingly sexualised wallpaper surrounding them”.

Parents remain most concerned about sexually explicit outdoor advertising, marketing during children’s TV programmes and inappropriate products for children, such as padded bras, the poll says.

Targeting children on Facebook and in stores are other significant concerns.
The CIM is calling on the Government to work directly with the marketing industry to “deal with these pressing issues once and for all”.

David Thorp, director of CIM research, said: “It’s clear that parents still have very real concerns about the way some companies try to sell to children. The marketing profession needs to address these concerns but we also want a dialogue between parents, the Government and industry bodies to ensure that our solutions are lasting and effective.

“The advertising that parents see and worry about is only the visible tip of the iceberg. Marketing runs much deeper and touches on every part of product development, buying and placement.

“Our research shows parents trust and respect the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) as a regulatory body but the ASA is only able to tackle part of the problem. By looking at the often-invisible marketing decisions which lead to the creation of products like padded bras for children, we can treat the cause of the problem, not just the symptoms.

“We need to ensure that every decision that companies take about marketing to children is responsible and appropriate. Parents should never have to react to inappropriate marketing.

“The Chartered Institute of Marketing wants to sit down with the Government to provide clarity and leadership for the marketing profession.”

The ASA said: “The work that regulators, including the ASA, continue to undertake in responding positively to the recommendations in the Bailey review (Letting Children Be Children) has been welcomed by government as well as family and parenting groups.

“ParentPort is a valued resource amongst parents but raising awareness is an ongoing process. We’d be delighted if CIM and its members would like to support ParentPort with their expertise and resources.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Reg Bailey’s recommendations have already prompted swift action from industry and regulators. Setting up the Parent Port website is just one of the steps they have taken. We want parents to use the website to give feedback, make complaints and learn more about media regulation, online safety and other aspects of the commercial world, like retailing, that have an impact on children.

“We look forward to working with the Chartered Institute of Marketing in exploring what more can be done to tackle the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood.”

:: Censuswide polled 1,000 adults and children online on May 16-18.