Bye Buy Childhood: the Campaign goes on

Mothers Union event at the Church of England Synod

The Mothers’ Union have just published a report showcasing new research about the impact of the Bailey Review of 2011 into the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood. I had the privilege of helping launch it at General Synod along with Alison McClean, MU member and parent, Rachel Aston, Social Policy Manager of the MU, and Ian Barber from the Advertising Association. Pictured above: photo courtesy MU.

The report is at Its bottom line is that parental concern is actually higher now than it was in 2010; so even though good work has been done, the campaign starts again now.

Concluding the session I reminded those present of the story of Solomon and the Two Mothers – when the bogus mum did the ultimate in objectifying and commercialising the child she wanted, happy to have half of it dead if she couldn’t have all of it alive.

Every Child Matters – even when it doesn’t matter to us, because Every Child Matters to God. That’s the wisdom we need. And to see it turn into policy and practice, we need Protection for our children (Lords Spiritual and MPs take note..); Pester Power of the right sort – as we advocate for children in the public realm (Bishops and other teachers have a job to do); and Practical support for kids and families to cope with these challenging times (three cheers for parents and carers everywhere).

There are six key recommendations (see below the fold):

Recommendation one: We recommend that Parliament continues to address the impact of the commercial world on children. It is important that this issue continues to receive cross-party support.

Recommendation two: We recommend that existing practices are monitored and scrutinised to ensure that existing regulation is working.

It is important that industry adheres to best practice as well as regulation so that children are not exposed to inappropriate advertising. We believe that the UK should continue to strive to be an example of best practice in its approach to the commercialisation of childhood. Mothers’ Union strongly believes that when the impact of commercialisation on children is under consideration or being provided for, it is important that the standards set go above and beyond the minimum.

Recommendation three: We recommend that Government and regulators strengthen wording in the regulation of marketing and selling in relation to children so that it is harder to comply with the letter while avoiding the spirit of regulation.

Government needs to consider why parents are still concerned about the commercialisation of childhood and work to ensure that children are not exposed to inappropriate advertising and marketing. Whilst regulations on advertising to children and the display of sexualised content in the media have been tightened since the Bailey Review, there is evidence that a few companies are still repeatedly pushing the boundaries.

Recommendation four: We recommend that Government reviews whether current sanctions offer sufficient disincentive and, with the regulatory bodies, consider stiffer penalties after a certain number of complaints have been upheld.

Parents need to be better equipped to deal with the commercial world through increased awareness and more support. Whilst information is available, it is either not being accessed by parents or is not helping enough parents. Parents need information which is easily accessible and easy to understand.

Recommendation five: We recommend that Government puts into place incentives, measures and funding to increase parental engagement, with the energy that was shown with the introduction of ‘active choice’, in line with recommendation 10 of the Bailey Review; as well as investing in long-term monitoring and evaluation of such measures, including the numbers of parents reached and also the impact on parental awareness and understanding.

Developing resilience is critical to empowering and equipping children to withstand the pressures of the commercial world. Understanding the commercial world and preparing children to know how to interact with and behave in it is a critical part of ensuring protection against and resilience to commercialisation.

Recommendation six: We recommend that Government evaluates the media literacy resources aimed at children and whether they have developed greater resilience in children, in line with recommendation 11 of the Bailey Review; and provides the long term necessary investment to do so.

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