Parental Guidance

Kathy McGuinness, Editor of Local Mums Online, reflects on David Cameron's response this week that it is the parents' responsibility to protect children from sexual content.

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It's been a great week for the
Child's Eye Line campaign. The Girl Guides, the UK's largest organisation of young women and girls, voted to back the campaign for an end to topless pictures of women in The Sun, marking what is arguably the beginning of the end to casual sexism in the British press.

However, while celebrating the Girl Guides' decision, our Prime Minister David Cameron deflected any conclusion that sexual images in newspapers should be yesterday's news with the comment: 'It's the parents' responsibility to protect children.' Pontius Pilate said something similar just before Jesus was taken up to Golgotha.

The same defense often comes up when people ask for internet pornography to be regulated.†In an ideal world all parents would stop their children viewing pornographic clips on their friends' smart phones but in reality, that's impossible.†

By the same token, it would be lovely if no child had to be dragged around a supermarket with their mother while she searched for tonight's dinner, too busy packing her shopping to notice them staring at the picture taken up a woman's skirt displayed vertically at child-height on the newspaper stand beside the checkout.

It would be great if no child ever accompanied their father into the newsagent to pick up a pint of milk and had to wait patiently beside a rack of women's breasts and bottoms while their dad chatted with the shop owner.

It would be fantastic if children didn't have to see the pile of papers with a woman bending over in suspenders right next to their favourite Moshi Monsters magazine when their Granny takes them into their local shop to buy them a treat.

Wouldn't it be lovely if no school girl ever had to get the bus home from school, sitting next to a man staring at Page 3 beside her?

What a wonderful world it would be where a mother could take her four-year-old son to a cafe without him opening today's Sun, left on the table, and asking his mummy "Why the lady has no clothes on?"

It would be nice for a teenager, stopping off at the library to do her homework after school, not to have to sit opposite a man looking at a picture of a young woman in a G-string.

It would be a very pleasant world indeed where a morning school run did not routinely involve children stepping over pictures of teenage girls in their knickers, lying on the pavement after someone's reading material has blown out of a nearby bin and littered the road.

Sadly, most children don't live in that kind of a world. The only people who live in that kind of world are perhaps the children of David Cameron and his friends. In their ivory tower, very privileged children may never be taken to a supermarket or newsagent, where fresh pornographic images of girls and women are on display at toddler-height every day.†

They may never get the bus to school and sit next to a man perusing the merits of Courtney, 19, from Plymouth's bare breasts. It's unlikely they will ever stand in line at a checkout wondering why the headline on the 'newspapers' says things like 'Child-killing bastard stabbed me 27 times' (The Sun last week) or 'We'll have sex at our kids' graves' (The Mirror).

So while it's very easy for David Cameron to say 'it's the parents' responsibility' to protect their children from this media, safe in the knowledge that little Florence is securely at home with the Nanny and not being dragged around a supermarket or on a bus, thousands of children are not. Thousands of children have no choice about being exposed to these images and nor do their parents.†

These images are in children's eye line in our shops, our supermarkets, our cafes, our libraries, our children's play areas, littering our public transport. Just as we regulate television to protect our children, we need to regulate what is on display in our public spaces. And we shouldn't let one over-privileged out-of-touch politician stop this from happening.

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