Britain’s advertising watchdog has taken on board concerns about the exposure of children to sexual imagery and will be taking a firmer line on outdoor ads in response to complaints.
The Advertising Standards Authority has issued a statement to the advertising industry, saying that “protection of children from inappropriate or harmful material sits at the heart of our work and the Advertising Codes”. It says it is responding to public opinion and to a government commissioned report on the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood, published in June.
The ASA, a government agency headed by peer Lord Smith, says it will take a “two-tiered, case-by-case approach to sexualised images”:
1. we will consider carefully what is likely to be acceptable in outdoor advertising, informed by the new evidence of the public’s view of outdoor images, tightening up where that is justified and
2. we will, in addition, focus on images in locations of particular relevance to children with a view to applying a placement restriction where appropriate. That will allow us to act proportionately, limiting children’s exposure to outdoor advertising that contains, for example, sexually suggestive imagery, which is not so overtly sexual that it warrants a complete outdoor ban.
When considering complaints the ASA will take into account:
* the nature of the product advertised
* the context of the ad and its location
* the medium in which the ad appears, including the size of the advertisement
* the audience and
* the likely response of that audience.
The ASA will also take into account the ability of advertisers to restrict the placement of their outdoor advertising, for example within 100m of schools.
It gives examples of images of varying degrees of sexual impact — the last of which are “unlikely to be acceptable in outdoor advertising generally”.
Well, it’s something. Not much, perhaps, when you consider that children tend to circulate freely these days, with or without their parents, and that there is a broad sphere of media (television, internet, mobile phones, magazines) and shops in which sexual images abound. But it’s a start in responding to the concerns not only of parents but professionals who see the harm in children “growing up too soon”.
“Grown up” is, of course, hardly the term for the dehumanised outlook behind the so called “adult” sector. To avoid getting diverted there children need to grow up fast in one area at least. They need parents and other adults who can teach them self-control — not to look, even when they notice the images are out there.
Thanks to Bryan Bradley for this tip.