Cameron aims at 'excessive commercialisation' of childhood

By Nigel Morris,Deputy Political Editor
Thursday 18 February 2010 19:13

Companies that target children with sexually frank images will be banned for three years from bidding for Government advertising contracts by a Conservative Government, David Cameron has warned.

The Tory leader, who has two young children, set out plans to protect youngsters from the “inappropriate sexualisation” of childhood and excessive commercialisation by marketing firms.

He also disclosed he had told his own six-year-old daughter, Nancy, to stop listening to songs by Lily Allen because of the singer’s occasionally raunchy lyrics. But he admitted he did not always get his way - and said Nancy had once broken his iPod in a "tussle" with his wife Samantha over whether she could listen to Allen's music.

Mr Cameron has previously condemned the sale of children’s bedroom furniture marketed under the name Lolita and the sale of pole-dancing kits and push-up bras aimed at young girls.

Yesterday he highlighted research indicating that children - particularly those from poorer homes - are increasingly influenced by marketing messages encouraging them to buy expensive branded games and clothes.

Along with the ban on Whitehall contracts, he vowed to stop advertisers exploiting many youngsters’ prolific use of the internet.

The Tories would outlaw "peer-to-peer" marketing techniques aimed at children, such as viral film clips carrying advertising messages which are shared online and on mobile telephones.

They would also ban the recruitment of children as young as seven as "brand ambassadors" to promote products on social networking sites.

The Conservatives would introduce a new way for parents to complain online if they were alarmed over advertising campaigns encouraging children to grow up too quickly.

And the party promised to encourage head teachers to terminate contracts between schools and vending machine companies.

Mr Cameron said he wanted to make Britain “the most family-friendly country in the world” - and a key part of that would be “making sure that business is responsible in how it markets and advertises products to children”.

He told GMTV: “We all know as parents... that you do your best as parents but there is a lot of pester power going on.

“What we are saying is that you can't cut children off from the commercial world, of course you can't.

“But we should be able to help parents more in terms of trying to make sure that our children get a childhood and that they are not subject to unnecessary and inappropriate commercialisation and sexualisation too young.”

Ed Balls, the Children’s Secretary, said action to combat the commercialisation and sexualisation of children has been suggested in the Government’s Children’s Plan two years ago.

“We have already acted to protect children from the irresponsible advertising of a wide range of products, including tough new rules restricting the advertising of unhealthy foods to children and the use of celebrities and cartoon characters to market them," he said.

The Tory leader also confirmed his wife would continue to pursue her career if he becomes Prime Minister. He said she was "incredibly successful" as creative director of up-market stationers Smythson and would want to stay in the post.

Mrs Cameron has been head of the company for more than a decade and is credited with the success of items such as the Nancy bag, which was named after the couple's daughter.

She is reported to earn considerably more than her husband and last year benefited from a share in the £18 million sale of the company, which first started in 1887 and has supplied Queen Victoria, Grace Kelly and Madonna.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments