Sexualisation taking an 'insidious toll' on children

Health professionals speak out about the increasing sexualisation of children in this article from the Sydney Morning Herald. Includes mention of Collective Shout campaigns and comments from co-founder Melinda Tankard Reist.

When are you too young to be the butt of a dirty joke? A baby's jumpsuit emblazoned with the slogan ''All Daddy Really Wanted was a Blow Job'' was for sale on the mainstream retail site Amazon.com this week. Sized for ages three months to 18 months, it was priced at a bargain $18. A few clicks away, the online world of T-shirt Hell encourages customers to send in photos of themselves or family members wearing the company's products. Among the montage of images posted on the website were sweet-faced infants and toddlers wearing shirts branded with jokes like ''Hung like a Pony'' or ''Hung like a Five Year Old''.

But what is the price when kids become props for seedy jokes among adults?
Many health professionals argue that a sex-soaked culture is taking an insidious toll on the emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing of children and young adolescents.

'It's not only about other, older children reading messages like that [on the jumpsuit]; it's also about what the parent is doing by placing their child in a sexualised space,'' says the Sydney Children's Hospital psychiatrist Jennifer Harris. ''You are putting two things together that don't go together. Babyhood should be about protection, nurturing and gentleness, not adult humour and cynicism.''

The effect of the combined onslaught of round-the-clock social media, obsession with body image and constant bombardment of sexual messaging in everything from music videos to cartoons, games, films, TV, magazines, advertising and the online world is worrying increasing numbers of child health experts here and overseas.

A report commissioned for the British Department of Education in 2011 describes it as the ''wallpaper'' of children's lives.

''We are all living in an increasingly sexual and sexualised culture, although it is far from clear how we arrived at this point,'' says the report, titled Letting Children Be Children. Click here to read more at the SMH


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