Editorial: Cameron must not bow to lobby group pressure

One thing that the inquiry being established by the Conservative Party leader, David Cameron, into the commercialisation of childhood won't be short of is people telling it what its opinion should be.

You can see the voluminous files being compiled by the lobby groups for inspection by the inquiry's members. And you can bet the conclusion within them is that advertising is the cause of all this lost innocence, so let's tighten the screws on it even more.

Cameron should not be seduced by these siren voices and their talk about a "toxic childhood" (whatever that is). In doing so, he risks jumping aboard a bandwagon that will take him nowhere, and certainly not to the society based on tolerance and responsibility that he talks of achieving.

He has called on advertisers to ask themselves if they are acting responsibly in the way they present themselves to children. The overwhelming majority do. Not least because it would be commercial suicide not to. It's also worth remembering that advertisers, and the agency strategists who work for them, are parents, too.

Cameron also asks if the marketing aimed at children turns them into premature adults. There is little evidence it does. Indeed, the fact that the Advertising Standards Authority has upheld just three complaints in the past five years against ads accused of sexualising children suggests it is an area marketers prefer to steer clear of. The danger, though, is that by investigating advertising and marketing for culpability in forcing children to grow up too fast, Cameron's inquiry will look in the wrong place.

Better perhaps to be asking questions about the explicit editorial content of some magazines read by pre-teens, or the worrying proliferation of X-rated lyrics in music. And, as for the internet, the opportunities to manipulate impressionable young minds are endless. The truth is that the sexualisation of children will not stop while shops sell T-shirts for small girls that declare: "So many boys, so little time." Or while there are parents stupid enough to buy them.

Is Cameron prepared to practice what he preaches about individuals having a duty to society by pointing out to those parents (and potential Tory voters) the error of their ways?