Dangerous to portray children as "sexual objects": Centacare

The community should never allow commercial agencies to treat children as commodities and to sexualise them in a search for profit, says a Sydney Centacare manager, responding to concerns over children in advertising.

Virginia Banks, manager of Centacare's school counselling program told the Catholic Weekly that it is dangerous to portray children as "sexual objects" because there are adults who see children that way.

"In this day and age of the internet and television advertising, we can't take away our children's innocence.

"We can't afford to do anything that does that or portrays them in any other way except as children."

Ms Banks was responding to a report written by Australia Institute researcher Dr Emma Rush, Corporate Paedophilia, which attacked corporate Australia over the "sexualisation" of children.

Ms Banks says children are "vulnerable" when it comes to advertising.

"Kids see someone posing a particular way or using a particular product, and that is what they relate to," she said.

"If that lip gloss makes me look like that then I should use it.

"Girls from about 10 are conscious about their body image which reflects what they see and read."

She added: "Parents have to know what their kids are watching and remember they are vulnerable.

Chris Meney, director of the Marriage and Family Office of the archdiocese of Sydney, said: "Childhood is a precious time.

"It is a time in the life of a person when they can feel relaxed and affirmed about who they are and experience the value of unconditional love from their parents and family.

"Young children should not have this period of their lives disrupted by engagement with experiences which prematurely sexualise them.

"Quite aside from the violation that it causes, having to confront such realities at a time well before they are able to adequately deal with them makes children particularly prone to abuse by predatory adults.

He added: "We need to protect children by being much more diligent in our responses to those electronic and tabloid portrayals of sexuality that are highly inappropriate.

"This is not prudishness. It is simply adults taking action to grow a culture that values and protects children.

"Sexuality is a powerful and wonderful gift that needs to be gently and lovingly explained to children by their parents.

"We should never allow commercial agencies to treat children as commodities and to sexualise them in a search for profit," Mr Meney concluded.

Don't let children be sexual objects (Catholic Weekly, 22/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
The Australia Institute
Centacare Sydney

19 Oct 2006