Teachers union attacks stores for ‘sexualisation’ of children

Supermarkets and advertisers were yesterday accused of deliberately targeting children and “infiltrating” their lives with sexually provocative clothing, toys and slogans.

The National Union of Teachers claimed education and enjoyment of childhood were being undermined by the “sexualisation” of prepubescent and adolescent girls through “inappropriate” lingerie and T-shirts and the selling of dolls that “reinforce the notion that image and fashion are everything”.

The allegations were the most eye-catching in a broadside against some of the country’s most famous commercial names for the ways they promoted food, clothes, toys and even expensive electrical gadgets to children whose families could least afford them.

The union’s new charter on commercialism, called Growing Up in a Material World, called on the government to set up a commission which could make industry “far more socially responsible” by extending advertising restrictions on television and introducing new controls over marketing elsewhere, including sponsorship, celebrity endorsement, mobile phone messaging and over the internet.

The union called for a ban on all marketing and advertising in schools, including voucher schemes.

The document, released on the eve of the NUT’s annual conference in Harrogate, said there was a trend for pre-teenage girls to wear “inappropriate and sexually provocative clothes”. It attacked Tesco for marketing a pole-dancing kit on the toys and games section of its website. It also raised examples such as Asda, which had been forced to remove from sale pink and black lace lingerie; Next, which took off sale T-shirts which had been on sale for girls as young as six with a slogan “so many boys, so little time”; and BHS for selling padded bras embellished with a “Little Miss Naughty” logo. Bratz dolls were described as examples of toys reinforcing children’s concerns over body image.

The union’s charter said: “An important aspect of education is to prepare pupils for adult life and that involves developing their abilities to think critically and draw their own conclusions.” It is concerned that advertising infiltration of children’s lives is undermining schools’ ability to carry out this role.

Asda said it had withdrawn the pink and black knickers about five years ago. Tesco denied its pole dancing kit was sexually oriented. It reflected “an exercise craze”.



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