Buckingham, David; Willett, Rebekah; Bragg, Sara and Russell, Rachel
Sexualised goods aimed at children: a report to the Scottish Parliament Equal Opportunities Committee.
Scottish Parliament Equal Opportunities Committee, Edinburgh, UK.
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This project was commissioned in response to concerns raised in the Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee about the prevalence of sexualised goods and products marketed to children. In the past few years, this issue has become a key area of public concern, although it is one that often invokes much broader emotions and anxieties, and has been the subject of some sensationalised coverage in the media. The project set out to provide concrete empirical evidence on the marketing of such goods, and to provide some in-depth analysis of the perspectives of children and parents, in the interest of promoting a more informed debate.
The study had three main aims. Firstly, it sought to provide a clear framework for understanding the nature and characteristics of 'sexualised' goods (the definition of which is by no means obvious) and supplying some reliable empirical evidence of their prevalence and distribution. Secondly, it attempted to assess the views of children on these issues. This is particularly important as debates in this area rarely include the perspectives of children themselves, or take account of their understanding of the potential sexual connotations of the goods they consume.
Finally, it aimed to explore parents' views. Here again, there is a need to move beyond immediate responses, and to gain a more in-depth understanding of how parents negotiate the demands of consumer culture with their children in practice.
The project began with a review of the literature, exploring the nature of the debate on this issue and the available evidence from previous research. This was followed by a survey of the range of products available in high street shops, starting with a broad overview and then analysing particular 'sexualised' goods more closely. We then undertook a range of qualitative research activities designed to access the views of children and parents. In the case of the children in particular, we used innovative methods chosen specifically because of the sensitive nature of the topic and the difficulties of accessing feelings, experiences and understandings on the issue. The study followed published ethical guidelines, specifically those of the British Educational Research Association (2004).
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