I for one wholeheartedly welcome the recommendations given in the Bailey Review. In case you are unfamiliar with it, the Bailey Review is a recently published report by Reg Bailey, chief executive of the Mother’s Union, regarding the constant bombardment of sexualised content aimed at children.
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has also backed the report, referring to it as a “giant step forward for protecting childhood to making Britain more family-friendly”.
Indeed, the changes the report recommends are welcome. However, changes such as a website where a parent can complain about inappropriate material isn’t enough. What we need is compliance from the creators and advertisers of such material, and regulatory bodies that aren’t afraid to… well, regulate. Enough of so-called watersheds that only exist in theory. We need watersheds that are applied in practice.
The report covers four main themes, stated on the Mother’s Union site as being “the wallpaper of children’s lives: clothing products and services for children: children as consumers and making parents voices heard”.
The press release lists recommendations such as “introducing age ratings on music videos; ensure the Watershed is not pushed to the limits; and the requirement that retailers of internet enabled devices will ask customers to opt in to adult rated content at point of sale”.
Yes, I agree with all of these.
The fourteen recommendations have my backing.
But I have a fifteenth recommendation.
Six year old girls do not have the money to purchase their own clothes, or their own cd’s, or to pay for MTV channels. They are six.
So who is it who buys their tracksuit bottoms with “Hooker” emblazoned across the backside or their padded bras? Who buys their CD’s with “Parental Guidance” stickers on the case? Who pays for the MTV channels which teaches them to dance like pole dancers in a strip joint?
If the parents don’t buy the provocative clothing that twenty-somethings might wear in a nightclub but just isn’t appropriate for six year old girls then the manufacturers have lost their market. What six year old needs a padded bra anyhow? If the parents don’t purchase the CD’s with explicit lyrics, then the little ears won’t hear them. If the parents don’t buy the Sky or Cable TV package, or at least don’t use the parental controls on the channels that six year old eyes shouldn’t be watching, then they won’t be able to see stuff they shouldn’t be seeing.
We are parents and it is our job to protect our children. The responsibility lies with us, first and foremost.
When they are young what they see, what they hear, what they wear and what they are influenced by can all be controlled much easier by parents who are actually aware of what their children are seeing, hearing, wearing and being influenced by.
We turned the TV off a long time ago now. We don’t let our children watch – well, anything we haven’t okayed first. Disney films are ok. Certain films, certain dvd’s are fine. But we make sure they’re fine. We make sure there isn’t anything there shouldn’t be or anything that we feel isn’t appropriate for our children. We learnt the hard way that it’s far more difficult to stop a 15 year old trying to emulate someone on MTV, or to behave like the latest popular good-cos-they’re-so-bad soap character because they’ve already been exposed to it for weeks, months, years. The damage has been done. Even children’s programmes are filled with innuendos and double entendres. Is that the place for them? Really?! It’s easier to take control and take notice of what is going into your children’s brains through their ears and eyes when they are young.
Then hopefully, as they grow, they can start making their decisions on what they deem to be appropriate or not. One example that comes straight to my mind is when my 11 year old daughter told us she didn’t want a pile of books by a popular children’s author because the characters all had bad attitudes and she didn’t feel they portrayed a good example of what young girls should be like. She gave them to the local library. She made her own decision on that. She came across something she decided she didn’t agree with and made the decision not to hold onto it just because the books are popular and the characters, made into TV programmes too, were popular. She concluded that although something is popular does not necessarily make it something which is acceptable. She decided on her own standards of acceptability and the books didn’t reach them. That doesn’t mean I would leave her to start watching programmes or films we know nothing about. She’s still only 11 and she still needs to be guided. But she’s developing her own ideas of right and wrong and not what her peers or society or the media is telling her is ok. In a few years she’ll be making all of her own decisions. Some will be right, some will be wrong but hopefully the groundwork will have been made and her roots will be well enough grounded that she’ll be comfortable and secure in her own beliefs of what she’s happy to consider appropriate or not despite what peers/media/society says.
I want my kids to be kids. I want them to retain their innocence for as long as they can. I want them to be ignorant of what the world deems acceptable for them to wear, watch, hear and look up to. Because what the world now deems to be acceptable is frighteningly unacceptable. I don’t want my younger daughter to think that to be popular she needs to let it all hang out and strut her stuff like a prostitute on the street corner. I don’t want my sons to grow up calling women “whores” and “bitches”. I want my children to be respectful of themselves and of others. How will that happen if, from a young age, they’ve been taught anything but?
The buck stops with us. The parents. We are trusted to make our children’s decisions for them when they are too young to make responsible decisions for themselves. It is all well and good demanding tighter watersheds, tougher regulators and greater control over advertisements, videos and programmes, and yes, we do need support for the things that we cannot have any control over such as where adverts with sexualised images are displayed, stopping the kids magazines being sold next to the lads mags and the overall increasingly explicit content within the media. But if we as parents don’t take responsibility ourselves for what our children see, hear, wear and do when they are young then there is no hope left. We need to stop passing the buck to others and stop to look at ourselves as well. Because if we don’t do what we can ourselves and the question regarding the over-sexualisation of our children is, where will it end?
It’s a frightening thought to me. If you’re a parent you should be frightened too.