Frankie says relaxThe recent report on the media’s sexualisation of children, commissioned by the Home Office, recommends “selling games consoles with parental controls already switched on and that adult content should be filtered out by default on ‘child friendly’ computers and mobile phones”.

Author of the report, psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, concluded that the  sexualisation of children in the media can lead to teenage girls suffering from low self esteem, lack of confidence with their bodies, depression and eating disorders . Dr Papadopoulos’ remedy is to recommend  more stringent regulation of sexual imagery in advertising and a ban on selling lads’ mags to under-16s.

Identifying the source of the problem is the easy bit. Finding a practical solution is nigh on impossible. The main problems cited in the report are television advertising, music videos, music lyrics, magazines,  films, video games and the internet.  Although theoretically television, films and magazines could be regulated more rigorously, it is difficult to see how music could be controlled, not least because the internet is more or less unpoliced and unregulated. The internet to all intents and purposes is the modern day equivalent of “The Wild West”!!  Even if it could be achieved, censorship doesn’t work and just drives a movement underground! And there is nothing that teenage kids like more than a surreptitious and furtive underground movement!!

Those of a certain vintage will recall that the BBC’s blanket ban on the playing of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s song “Relax” didn’t stop it becoming the best selling single of 1984. The BBC’s stand was undermined and rendered futile by Channel Four, who’s radical and controversial flagship music programme “The Tube” championed the band and the song every week. The remit of the show merely reflected the raison d’etre of the music world – namely to shock, challenge, and stimulate debate.

The fact of the matter is that Frankie goes to Hollywood created a watershed and defining moment with the release of “Relax”. Up until that point, there had been songs of a sexual nature, but they were wrapped up in euphemism – Serge Gainsborough / Jane Birkin’s 1969 No1 “Je t’aime” and Johnny Bristol’s 1974 Top 3 hit “Hang on in there Baby”  immediately spring to mind!! Once Frankie stepped over that line, despite the BBC’s best efforts, there was no going back. If you asked Lily Allen to sanitise her lyrics, and exorcise all sexual references, her witty observations on life, love and relationships would be eradicated.

And more to the point, who is going to stop Lily Allen writing her incisive lyrics? Certainly not the record companies!  Even if there was an effective way of banning her more raunchy lyrics, do we really want to live in a world of cultural censorship?!! Artistry and creativity is all about freedom of expression.

Parents can effectively police their children’s access to the internet and television at home, but the simple truth is that once teenage kids step out of the family home, and are socialising with their peer groups, they have access to the internet and music via their iPhones and mp3 players .  Where there’s a will, there is a way – teenagers are wilful, and will always find a way to rebel, and by doing so articulate and express their freedom to make their own choices!!