Media is everywhere. Increasingly children are directly targeted and marketed to by media and advertising who are projecting images that are age inappropriate. The sexualisation of children by the media can be seen in adult style clothing for young girls, sexual references on clothing for boys and girls, music videos, billboards and magazines.

Melinda Tankard Reist, author and Generation Next speaker doesn’t think that:

it should be acceptable to objectify women to flog stuff. We believe it contributes to a de-valuing of women, when they are reduced to being decorative objects, conveying a message that it is in the baring of female flesh and attracting sexual attention that women derive value and worth. We see this as an issue of equality and human rights.

Research has found that parents are concerned about the impact this type of marketing and media has on children and young people’s wellbeing, including its influence on their mental health and the way they view their bodies.*

How to fight back – top online resources to help build positive body images

Headroom has a range of health and wellbeing information for children, young people and their parents. The body image section of this site provides ideas for both boys and girls about how to reduce the impact of media on their body image.

The Raising Children Network and the Centre for Adolescent Health (Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne) provides plenty of information for parents about body image.

The Australian Psychological Society is concerned that “values implicit in the images are that physical appearance and beauty are intrinsic to self-esteem and social worth, and that sexual attractiveness is a part of childhood experience.” They have great resources to help girls develop positive self image.

ReachOut has produced a couple of articles which tackle this difficult issue; Body image: love the skin you’re in and Body image + blokes. 

The Australian Council on Children and the Media has published a fact sheet and a parent brochure which looks at body image problems and media messages.

The Commissioner for Children and Young People and Child Guardian in Queensland has a fact sheet, Children and young people in advertising, available at

Don’t be shy – how to confidently complain
Anyone who is even slightly concerned or disturbed by content they see in the media has the right to complain. Recently Melinda Tankard Reist and Collective Shout were successful in getting Bookworld to withdraw several fiction titles featuring incest. So here are some guidelines on how to complain and win.

Television, radio and online content (not advertising)
If a television or radio station do now take your complain seriously you can contact the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Classification of films, publications or computer games
The Australian Classification Board is responsible for classifying films, some publications and computer games according to the National Classification Scheme.  They have information about classifications and how to make a complaint.

Newspapers and magazines
Although the print media is self-regulated, the Australian Press Council has information about how to complain and will accept complaints.

Advertising
Concerns about advertising can be referred to the Advertising Standards Bureau. They will let you know the type of complaints they can take and how to lodge a complaint. Complaints about advertising that appears in children’s C-classified programs can be directed to the Australian Media and Communications Authority.

For more information about how to make a complaint, also go to the Australian Council on Children and Media and Kids Free 2B Kids.

Melinda Tankard Reist will be speaking at the Generation Next Mental Health and Wellbeing of Young People seminars that are being held throughout Australia during 2013. To register or find out more information go to Generation Next.

* Commissioner for Children and Young People WA 2012, Sexualisation of children, Issues paper 8

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: Kidsmatter. Commissioner for children and Young people WA. Headroom. Melinda Tankard Reist