WESTERN AUSTRALIA by Gillian GonzalezNews Weekly
New report on the sexualisation of children
, August 2, 2014
The aftermath of a 2008 Senate inquiry into the sexualisation of children in the contemporary media did little to allay parental concerns, as few of the inquiry’s proposals to protect children were acted upon.
It is hoped, therefore, that a long-awaited 117-page report on the sexualisation of children, produced by the Western Australian Commissioner for Children and Young People, will be different.
However, WA parents may have to wait a while to find out the outcome, as the committee has recently announced that it is “not able to pursue this research, so has decided to refer the report to the WA Attorney General for his consideration”.
The report, by Michelle Scott, former WA Commissioner for Children and Young people, proposes a range of possible initiatives for further research and action.
There is copious evidence from child behaviourists, sociologists, psychologists, teachers and parents, that children suffer long-term harm from exposure to inappropriate material.
However, Ms Scott has expressed her belief that “there is not yet any direct evidence that sexualised media and advertising [are] harmful to the well-being of children and young people”, while conceding that “the potential risks to healthy childhood development should not be ignored”.
One of the report’s proposals, for example, is for “more research to examine whether exposure to sexualised media and advertising content [are] influencing the behaviours and attitudes of children and young people (such as earlier onset of sexual activity; changes in sexual behaviour and attitudes towards sex; changes in attitudes towards relationships with peers and members of the opposite sex; and body dissatisfaction, eating disorders and mental health issues)”.
The report calls for “broad health and sexual education”. Yet many parents consider that today’s sex education for youngsters is already far too broad and that this type of education is better left to parents.
Since the Australian Family Association (AFA) of WA has campaigned vigorously against the introduction of an R18+ rating for computer/video games, it welcomes the report’s proposals to:
• prohibit the sale, supply, demonstration, possession or advertisement of a R18+ computer game in Western Australia; and/or
• provide that it is an offence for any person to supply a R18+ computer game to a minor; and/or
• provide that it is an offence for any person to supply a R18+ film to a minor.
The report has also recommended that a review of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Enforcement Act 1996 (WA) be referred to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) of WA for it to examine whether the current regime adequately protects children and young people from harm caused by exposure to adult or inappropriate content and, further, to consider WA’s position in relation to the current National Classification Scheme as well as the proposed new national scheme as recommended by the ALRC.
The AFA (WA) applauds proposals to provide that it is an offence for any person to supply a Category 1 Restricted publication to a minor and to use children in sexually-provocative advertising.
Also proposed in the report is a review of the classification scheme for music videos. The report calls for a careful examination of the Commonwealth government’s response to the recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to determine whether any proposed classification process for music videos adequately reflects community concerns about the impact of music videos on children and young people.
Proposal 13 of the report stops short of calling for meaningful government regulation of children’s products. Instead it calls for more voluntary regulation of codes of conduct for retailers and for further consultation to take place with relevant industry bodies, parents and children and young people regarding the necessity for voluntary guidelines or codes of practice for children’s products.
However, in the past, such voluntary regulation have been ineffective.
Other proposals in the report are for:
• A comprehensive approach to the provision of practical and universally accessible information and support for parents.
• An audit to be conducted to assess the uptake of effective cyber-safety education strategies in all WA schools.
• The monitoring of the recommendations of the Victorian parliamentary law reform committee inquiry into “sexting”.
• The findings of this inquiry into sexting to be examined to determine if there are any strategies or options to reduce the negative impact of sexting on children and young people in WA, both generally and in relation to the sexualisation of children and young people.
The report also contains strategies that the AFA (WA) and many others concerned organisations have put forward in submissions over many years in order to combat the sexualisation of children.
It is to be hoped that, this time around, at least some of the proposals will indeed be implemented.