Today's children are 'over-sexualised'

March 13, 2010, 3:29 AM GMT+0

David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, was recently widely quoted as saying that the media put ‘concerning’ pressures on children, who now see ‘too much, too young’. It seems that he is not alone in his views; the overwhelming majority of British people feel very similar.

82% agreed that companies were sexually exploiting children with clothing, reading material, or other age-inappropriate materials, in a survey for the Sunday Times. Further research by YouGov also found that people are worried about the effects that sexualised media are having on children.

74% of Brits agree that children are under pressure to behave in a more sexualized way nowadays than when they themselves were young. Of those who regularly care of children, 76% also agree that this is the case. Similarly, nearly three quarters of those who regularly care for children are concerned about the effects that sexualised media and sexual peer pressure will have on children now and in the future

Interestingly, of adults who have children or care for them, 67% are surprised at how sexualised they think their child /children’s peers are, given their age; but the same is not true when asked of the children they are regularly in contact with. Of these, only a third (34%) agree that they are regularly surprised by the extent of their child/children’s own sexualisation, given their age. Nearly a quarter (23%) disagree that that their child /children are often surprisingly sexualised. Could this possibly be wishful thinking?

The survey results beg the question: whose responsibility is it to stop companies and media from using overly sexual imagery and themes to attract young people? The Sunday Times survey reveals that half of the British public feels that it should be the Government who protects children from these pressures (52%) and over a third (37%) feel that it should be left to parents. But with these findings hinting that parents and carers often remain unaware of their own children’s sexualisation, one may wonder what, if anything, they may choose to do about it.

For survey details and full results, please click here