Letting kids be kids

It’s nice to know that America is not alone when it comes to concerns about media influence on children. For years, the United States, along with organizations such as the Parents Television Council and Focus on the Family, as well as professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, have not only been conducting their own research, but also calling for change in the amount of violent and sexual content on TV, in music lyrics and in the overall media climate. In addition to calling on advertisers and media outlets to stop targeting young consumers, these groups encourage parents to take important steps in the home regarding media usage.  

Now, our allies in Great Britain have come forward with their own marching orders for the mass media, government leaders and families.  

Earlier this month, Britain issued a 108-page report titled, “Letting Children be Children: Report of an Independent Review of the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood.” The report was led by a charity, Mothers’ Union, and it included a survey of more than 1,000 parents with children ages 5 to 16 and more than 500 children and young people. The study also contains written evidence regarding media influence, presented by 120 organizations. 

The head of Mothers’ Union, Reg Bailey, was appointed by Great Britain’s secretary of state for education to lead the independent review.  

The study identified four key themes that concern parents and the public in their country as well as ours: the “wallpaper” of children’s lives, which refers to young people growing up in an increasingly sexualized culture; clothing products and services for children; children as consumers; and letting parents’ voices be heard. 

The research is similar to what we’re seeing in the United States in terms of an increase of sexualized images, violent content and aggressive marketing toward tweens and teens. In his opening statement, Bailey expressed what many Americans feel: the need to be taken seriously when they raise concerns about the media. 

“Whilst many businesses and broadcasters are doing a good job in working with parents and only selling things for and to children that are appropriate for them, there are those who are not. ... When it comes to inappropriate advertising and marketing, I want all businesses to play fair when selling to children and not take advantage of gaps in the regulation, especially regarding new media. It seems to me that there is enough goodwill for this to happen without legislation.” 

The recommendations are helpful whether you are a parent, educator or just fed up with what you’re seeing and hearing:  

◗ Providing parents with one website to make it easier to complain about programs, commercials and products. 

◗ Restricting outdoor advertisements containing sexualized imagery where large numbers of children are likely to see them.

◗ Banning the employment of children under 16 as brand ambassadors and in peer-to-peer marketing. 

◗ Improving parents’ awareness of advertising and marketing techniques aimed at children. 

You can download the study at www.education.gov.uk (Click on the “Bailey Review” link). The site also has a number of related video interviews. 

Our brother and sister Brits feel our pain when it comes to a culture that seems to have gone crazy. 

After all, some things just strike at the hearts of human beings everywhere, even those thousands of miles apart. 

Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.