Sinead Ryan: Bringing lads' mags to heel is a start in battle to protect our children
When I was a kid Mary Whitehouse used to pop up every so often like a demented granny and give out yards about disgusting programmes on the box and how children were being ruined by notions of sex and other revolting things. People used to laugh at and ignore her -- even pillory her, but as with most things, the older you get the more you realise there was a serious point to be made.
It's taken David Cameron until now, but I for one welcome the new recommendations brought in by a review group about the early sexualisation of children and hope that our own government follows suit forthwith. It's nothing about prudery, but all about children being allowed remain children for longer than we seem to want them to be now.
Whether it's music videos, raunchy singers, sexy magazine covers at eye level or cable television at any hour of the day, it seems to me that children simply cannot escape the message of sex. Full on, gyrating sex at that. If they are shielded by a careful mum and dad, then visiting the children's section of a chain store will find them staring at push up bras and knickers with a less than subtle message such as "Future Porn Star" on sale for seven-year-olds.
The UK report has said that lads magazines like Nuts and Zoo will soon have to at least have their covers shielded for small eyes. Euphemistically called "top-shelf" magazines, they are of course, available on any shelf. Right by your five-year-old's Bob the Builder comic.
Well, the review, carried out over months of research with the help of 2,000 adults and 500 young people, has asked that they be moved back to the actual top shelf.
The author of the research, Reg Bailey, has said the imagery and diet of sex at every street corner, television screen and newsagents' has provided an ever constant background to children's lives today and has even called for the almost soft-porn music videos by singers like Rihanna and Lady Gaga to be given age ratings like movies.
"Society has become increasingly full of sexualised imagery. This has created wallpaper to children's lives. Parents feel there is no escape and no clear space where children can be children," he said.
And for parents who do the right things, like monitoring internet activity, and saying no to age-inappropriate films, it's still hard to escape. You only have to open newspapers to find pictures of very small children -- like Jordan's daughter Princess Tiaamii in make-up and false eyelashes, or Katie Holmes with Suri Cruise dressed in high heels -- to despair. Even billboards for household products can become a message about sex.
And what's the point of making sure that your eight-year-old isn't being groomed on dangerous social networking sites when she can stick on the television in the middle of the afternoon and watch a writhing, almost naked "singer" instructing her how having great sex with a man will keep him?
Mary Whitehouse may be long dead, but we can give at least a hearing to parents worried that their kids are losing their innocence far too early. It may be an easy target to hit on men's magazines, but it's a start.