Submission to the Parliament of NSW Committee on Children and Young People Inquiry into sexualisation of children and young people

Submission summary

Children and young people are growing up in a high-tech culture steeped in relentlessly sexualised, sexualising and sexist messaging from media, advertising and popular culture which conditions them from a young age to view themselves and others in terms of their appearance and sexual currency. While women and girls are primarily the subjects of hyper-sexualised media representation, these messages also play a crucial part in socialising men and boys to see the sexual objectification of women and girls as normal.

Many adults are overwhelmed by the task of protecting and equipping children as they navigate the contemporary media and social landscape. The current legislative and regulatory environment is piecemeal, confusing for the community to navigate, and tends to serve the commercial advantage of corporate and marketing interests to the detriment of the community - children and young people in particular. Despite a number of state and federal inquiries demonstrating the need for systemic reform, media classification and self-regulatory schemes have failed to halt or even slow the proliferation of imagery and messaging through electronic, print and social media and marketing that demeans women, reduces them to sexual objects, fosters a culture which condones sexual violence, and pressures young girls to act in prematurely sexual ways.

Collective Shout is critical of the self-regulatory system currently favoured in media and advertising, which allows free rein to marketers while placing the burden of action on those most at risk of exploitation and harm. In particular, we are concerned about the lack of effective incentive or enforcement to deter those who are making a profit from the sexualisation of children and young people. Media and advertising interests have had ample opportunity to hear and act on community concerns but have instead have chosen to protect their vested interests. It is time for government to step in and act on behalf of children and young people.

Recommendations from Collective Shout in this submission include:

Recognition of the harms of sexualisation as a public health crisis requiring swift and decisive action on behalf of children and young people.

The restructuring of the current regulatory environment to bring the regulation of all media and marketing together under one encompassing independent federal regulator, including a division with the primary responsibility of protecting the interests of children and young people, addressing both the direct and indirect sexualisation of children in all media modes from a child-rights basis.

Equipping parents and carers with the appropriate media literacy tool and institutional supports, to raise children who have the ability to be critical consumers and creators of media.

The evaluation and implementation of appropriate school-based education programs to educate children and young people about the harms of sexualisation, and funding to help schools secure these resources.

For a child-rights based approach to addressing the harms of media hypersexualisation, including respect for the voices and points of view of children and young people.

That the prevalence of sexualised images of women in our society be recognised as a significant underlying contributor to violence against women and girls.

The commissioning of comprehensive research to establish the extent of the exposure of children and young people in NSW to sexualising media content. However, this research should not preclude swift government action on the basis of the evidence that already exists.

Collective Shout's Nicole Jameson was able to present at the hearing on April 7 2016 in New South Wales


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