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Age-appropriate marketing tackled

Retailers may face a code of conduct on "age appropriate" marketing as part of a bid to halt the sale of sexualised products to young children.

A Government inquiry being launched on Monday will examine whether new rules are needed to prevent the marketing of items like "porn star" T-shirts, lap-dancing kits and padded bras to pre-teens.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said he was shocked to find "Lolita" beds for six-year-olds on sale, and the coalition agreement in May promised "action to protect children from excessive commercialisation and premature sexualisation".

Reg Bailey, chief executive of the Mothers' Union, has been appointed to lead the inquiry, which will have a free hand to make recommendations on whether there should be restrictions on sale, a watchdog or a Government-funded website for worried parents.

Children's minister Sarah Teather told the Sunday Times: "There are huge pressures on children to grow up too quickly and to buy stuff, some of which is completely unsuitable.

"I know when I walk down the high street there is one shop after another marketing highly sexualised clothes to young children: short, tight dresses; T-shirts with unsuitable slogans.

"Parents are under a tidal wave of pressure. There are all sorts of messages that bombard children and make them grow up quicker than parents want them to, and it's difficult for parents to protect their children because of music videos, because of what happens in the playground, what they see in shops, online, and because of the messages they get in teen magazines."

Mr Bailey called on parents to send him examples of products which concerned them.

"It's about the tone and the style of the way things are marketed to children," he said. "When you are so bombarded by marketing and sexualised imagery, it almost becomes wallpaper."

Katherine Rake, chief executive of the Family and Parenting Institute, welcomed the inquiry. saying: "Mothers and fathers regularly tell us that they don't want to see childhood disappearing. Confronting this issue is vital if we are to move closer to a family friendly society. We look forward to seeing progress made."

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