Sexualisation of children in advertising

Sexualisation of children in advertising
The sexualisation of children and young people – particularly in advertising – is an issue the
Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian has long spoken out against.
Over the past decade, the fashion industry has started using younger models and now commonly
portrays 12 year-old girls as if they were women. Camera angles (where the model is often looking up),
averted eyes, wounded facial expressions, and vulnerable poses mimic the visual images common in
pornographic media

. By sexualising children, advertisers may be suggesting to adults that children are
interested in and ready for sex.
It is known that paedophiles use not only child pornography but also more innocent photos of children,
such as those in store catalogues, for sexual gratification. Former University of Melbourne psychiatrist,
Bill Glaser, says paedophiles see the sexualisation of children as legitimating their desire and notes
convicted paedophiles believe that, if children are sexualised in advertising, it must be okay to think
sexual thoughts about them (La Nauze and Rush 2006b). One report based on 11 case studies of
paedophiles concluded that offenders generate their own erotic materials from relatively innocent
sources such as television advertisements, clothing catalogues featuring children modelling underwear,
and similar sources (La Nauze and Rush 2006a).
A marketing culture, which displays children in varying degrees of undress with ‘come-hither’ looks
and ‘bedroom eyes’ in order to sell products, is irresponsible
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. If children perceive being sexy as an
important part of their lives, they may miss out on activities that better foster physical and cognitive
development, such as sports, problem-solving games and imaginative play and, as a result, aspects of
their physical and cognitive development are likely to suffer
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. We should be asking why, as a society, we
believe girls should behave or dress in a certain way
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.
The sexualisation of children is of great concern to some members of society because it reduces
the sexual distinction between adults and children and could play a role in ‘grooming’ children for
paedophiles – preparing children for sexual interaction (La Nauze and Rush 2006a). The risks this may
pose in encouraging children either to initiate sexual experimentation or to agree to an experiment
initiated by an older person, before they fully understand the potential consequences, must be taken
very seriously.
Images of children and young people in advertising should be respectful, reflect positive, healthy
lifestyle choices and show realistic images of what it is like to be young. Adult ideals should not be
imposed on children and young people for corporate benefit.

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