“Lads’ mags” should carry an age warning and music videos with sexual posing should not be shown until late in the evening to help combat the sexualization of children, a report commissioned by the British government said on Friday.
The report also said video games consoles and mobile phones should be sold with parental controls already switched on, and that an online “one-stop-shop” should be set up for the public to voice concerns about irresponsible marketing.
Psychologist Linda Papadopoulos, the report’s author, said children and young people were exposed to growing amounts of “hyper-sexualised images” and were also sold the idea they had to look “hot” and “sexy.”
“As such, they are facing pressures that children in the past simply did not have to face,” the report said.
“While sexualised images have featured in advertising and communications since mass media first emerged, what we are seeing now is an unprecedented rise in both the volume and the extent to which these images are impinging on everyday life,” it said.
This had an impact on young people’s “mental and physical health, attitudes and beliefs” and led some children suffering poor self-esteem and eating disorders, it said.
The report, which forms part of the government’s strategy to tackle violence against women, comes a week after the opposition Conservatives said they would take action against companies guilty of sexualizing children.
Conservative leader David Cameron said his party would bring in measures to tackle irresponsible marketing practices aimed at children and companies that breached advertising guidelines.
The theme is likely to become a major issue for the major parties in Britain’s upcoming general election.
“We know that parents are concerned about the pressure their children are under at a much younger age, which is why we have already committed to a number of the recommendations in this report,” Home Secretary Alan Johnson said.
The study highlighted magazines as an issue, saying there was a trend of dressing children provocatively and showing sexualized ideals of young, thin beauty.
“A dominant theme in magazines seems to be the need for girls to present themselves as sexually desirable in order to attract male attention,” it said.
Publications aimed at young men, — so-called lads’ mags — were also a problem.
“Lads’ mags contain a high degree of highly sexualised images of women that blur the lines between pornography and mainstream media,” the report said. “The predominant message for boys is to be sexually dominant and to objectify the female body.”
The report’s 36 recommendations included setting up a ratings system for photographs to show the extent to which they have been digitally altered; only showing music videos with sexual posing or sexually aggressive lyrics after a 9pm “watershed”; and marking lads’ magazines as recommended for sale to only those aged 15 and over.