Senate inquiry into sexualisation of children

I wrote a post back in 2006 about some of the concerns surrounding what is perceived to be the growing sexualisation in the portrayal of children in advertising and elsewhere in the media.  The issue has now been sent to the Senate’s Environment, Communications and the Arts Committee for an inquiry, which is due to report by 23 June, 2008. I’m Deputy Chair of this Committee, but I’m also involved in separate Committees inquiring into housing affordability and compensation proposals for the Stolen Generations, all of which are due to report in June, which will make it hard for me to participate fully in all of them.

Submissions to the inquiry on sexualisation of children close on 18th April. The terms of reference are as follows:

The sexualisation of children in the contemporary media environment, including radio and television, children’s magazines, other print and advertising material and the Internet.
In undertaking the inquiry, the committee is to in particular:

a. examine the sources and beneficiaries of premature sexualisation of children in the media;

b. review the evidence on the short- and long-term effects of viewing or buying sexualising and objectifying images and products and their influence on cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality, attitudes and beliefs; and

c. examine strategies to prevent and/or reduce the sexualisation of children in the media and the effectiveness of different approaches in ameliorating its effects, including the role of school-based sexuality and reproductive health education and change in media and advertising regulation such as the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice and the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice.

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  1. Togret:

    I would refer you to the comments I made to Jean Louise (Comment #43); and I send the same message to you. The family members who perpetrated the abuse on you had no right to do what they did. The non-family members who ‘innocently’ colluded with those who abused you, were most likely trusting of family relationships or may have feared intervening if they had any idea. I would encourage you not to use the term ‘my abusers’ as it is taking ownership of the abusers and can in some cases keep the pain of your experience almost ‘alive’ and ‘close’, when I would encourage you, if you have not already, to deal with any issues as my post to Jean Louise.

    I agree with empowering children to say ‘No’ to adults, but I also believe some children are being brought up in homes where pornography, nudity, violence, alcohol and drug abuse are considered by the parents to be the norm; and what a child learns in the home at a young age is what they grow to consider to be the norm. And a child will not say ‘no’ to something they consider normal. The answer partly lies in the education of parents, children and other stakeholders.

    There are victims who are still in the victim cycle, and who are now victimising their children, friends’ children and in cases where some have never married due to their abuse, they have jobs which places them in close contact with children they can victimise. Yes let’s educate everyone we can, but that will need to include not only those mentioned above but also those who are in advertising, designing, manufacturing. It is a big job, each person needs to do their part.

  2. PowerPuff:

    Above all, the government needs to do its part – like placing a ban on the disgusting rubbish portrayed on television and in the movies – whether it is directed at adults or children.

    I don’t think it is always the case that what children learn in the home is what they consider to be the norm.

    I have raised children across 2 generations. The “societal norm” is what children learn more than anything. My older children learnt the societal norm, which was generally the same thing we taught at home.

    When I had the third child many years later, the “societal norm” had changed markedly.

    As children get older and spend more time with other (these days grossly overempowered) children, the “societal norm” comes back to your home, whether you like it or not.

    A poor standard of “societal norm” is also taught in the schools, often by default.

    Here’s a piece of news from the USA only yesterday. When a teacher tried to send a child to the “time out” table, she was physically attacked by 9 students.

    BTW in most cases of sexual abuse, most adults do what is easiest for them – blaming the victim, or nothing.

  3. Here’s another piece of news, in 999 other cases teachers who sent kids to the time out circle were obeyed by the kids – can we try hard to not extrapolate the particualr to the genral on almost every comment we make.

    Oh thast right its not understadning the breadth of issues – I forgot.

    In many cases of child sexual abuse, as a former Child Porotection worker I’ve actually investigatesd, charged, removed and or orgasnied other services for both children and abusers, not just hypothesised. Many times no one is aware other than the abuser and the child until she dislcoses, then oftne the same dysfucntional family realtionshiups that lead to the abuse force her (its generally the poor female partner) into silence.

    Not at all out of indiffernce or collusion but out of the same powerlessness and despair she oftne felt as a child herself.

  4. Ken, while I agree with what you say in some cases, I wonder why anyone would remark on the welts on a neighbour kid’s legs (caused by beating with an electrical extension cord) and then do/say nothing? This happened in the golden days of the 1960s, as some see them.

    While it’s true that one of the abusers in this case was abused herself, neighbours and other relatives who knew were not.

    More generally, I believe in the approach taken by kids at the school supported by Father Chris Riley in Sydeny, for abused and homeless kids. They add on parenting and relationship skills for kids who have not learned them elsewhere.

    I advocate such teaching in every school, for kids in the mandated school years. Those kids who also get it at home are not wasting their time – there are always other ways to look at relationship issues, and their acceptance and validisation of what they already know by the kids with less troubled lives will help those who desperately need those skills. You can learn maths and science, language and history at any age, but to get kids while they are still at school and give them a chance to break out of a cycle of despair and powerlessness would be a big boost for kids like I was.

    This would have a completely different result from that feared by Lorikeet – such kids would have the skills to deal competently with anger and frustration, but also the understanding of what is wrong with the sort of conduct she and I both deplore.

  5. I suggest that some people who no longer have any children need to get out into the schools to find out what actually goes on there, and what is taught there, in the 21st century.

    The Triple P Parenting Program is taught to both teachers and parents in primary schools. I consider that a lot of it is a crock that doesn’t work.

    There’s no point telling children anything, if you don’t have the power to enforce what you say.

    The parents who turn up to education programs in schools tend to be effective parents already. The people who need to be there don’t come.

    Here is something more general for the benefit of Ken. The performance of our schools is getting worse and worse because of the disempowerment of teachers, and poorly disciplined students who disrupt classrooms.

    We have gone backwards against all of the OECD countries in recent times.

    I would certainly not agree that 99.9% of students obey their teachers. An idea like that must be coming from the Nirvana School for the Perfect.

    I think nearly everyone turns a blind eye to sexual abuse. I could quote many instances of people blaming the victim, or doing nothing.

    Here is one from my own extended family. A 15-year-old girl was almost raped by her boss in his office. Luckily he had left the intercom switched on. A secretary heard the girl’s screams and came running to unlock the door.

    Did this older married man get reprimanded or fired? No. When the girl went home and told her parents, did they phone the big boss and complain? No. Did they go to the police? No. It was far easier for them to blame the girl for “playing up” to him.


    There aren’t many kids who actually care about others any more. Looking out for your friends is programmed out of them at an early age by our “mind your own business” society.

    The few kids who do care are told not to stick up for anyone for legal reasons.

    Bullies are treated far better than victims or peacemakers.

  6. Lorikeet- you really don’t seem to mix with a very nice class of kids. I see primary and high school kids every day – I work with them every day. They do care about and support each other – while I admit that a few live down to the sterotype you are pushing. Of course, the kids I work with are mainly aboriginal kids, though there are mainstream and migrant kids as well. What a shame that you have such a bleak view of the world. I suppose it protects you from making the effort of trying, though.

  7. Lorikeet – Again a couple of points for accuracy.

    1.There is no one who has been a parent that no longer has any children – even iof deceased they stilll have children.
    2. All my children are still at school, two still in primary, I spend many horus at the school or around kids, and generally agree with tagret
    2. Schools don’t perform, children within them either do or don’t. Can you provide any evidence at all (other than msn polls, specious conversations/gossip, family anecdote or unsourced newspaper articles) that substantiates the clima that powerless teacehrs and poorly disciplined children is positively corrlated to educational perofrmance.
    3. I agree 99.9% of children dont obey their teachers al of the time, the point was illustrative, however I do belive the majority do.
    4. Child sexual assault is vastly different in perpetrator and vicitm and process than the situaltioanl sexual assault you describe. The two are not comparable, apart from being equally repugnant.

  8. Goodbye Democrats:

    I’d like to know why they’re not applying the ban to all children under 16.


    I will try to ignore your demeaning comment. I am also not pushing a stereotype.


    I know lots of teachers. I have been told what school life is like for them.

    These days, teachers have to spend a lot of time just getting the children to settle down to their work, which cuts into education time.

    Kids who disrupt classes are generally poorly disciplined, and ruin other people’s chances of learning, especially in the high schools.

    I suggest you get your hands on the latest OECD figures.

    By the end of primary school, a very large number of students are still innumerate and illiterate. The bar just keeps getting lowered to cover it.

    Only last week, I was speaking with a friend of mine who is a retired primary school principal. He is now making a lot of money from tutoring high school students in Maths.

    We can’t get many good teachers into the high schools any more, because of disciplinary problems.

    The comparison I was trying to make (your point 4.) was in relation to people who turn a blind eye.

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