Young people are being damaged by an increase in adult themes such as rape, murder, alcoholism and prostitution being broadcast before 9pm, it is claimed.
Amanda Hulme, head of Claypool Primary School, Bolton, also criticised reality TV shows such as Britain’s Got Talent which recently aired a performance of a song featuring explicit lyrics to a mass audience.
In a speech to the National Association of Head Teachers’ annual conference in Birmingham, she said she was “genuinely concerned” that childhood was being cut short.
A recent survey found that childhood now ends at age 12 but she said: “I would suggest that it’s even lower than that for some children.”
She added: “The toxic combination of sophisticated marketing, the media ratings war and added peer pressure linked to social media, means that not only are out children being put under pressure to conform to idealistic nonsense but they are also being subjected to adult themes at a much younger age.”
Addressing delegates, Mrs Hulme said “completely inappropriate” adult themes have been shown on TV before the 9pm watershed over the last 12 months which no person “with an ounce of morality” would want their child to see.
She said the media were introducing “themes to our children that are completely inappropriate – rape, murder, domestic abuse, child abuse, self-harming, bulimia, alcoholism, prostitution, drug abuse – all on television in the last 12 months and all before the watershed.
“Surely an easy way to judge if a theme is appropriate would be to ask the question: ‘Is this something I would like my child to know about?’,” she said.
“I can guarantee that any person with an ounce of morality would reply no to all of the above.”
Mrs Hulme rounded on Britain’s Got Talent – shown to a primetime Saturday night audience on ITV1.
She questioned the wisdom of allowing a woman on television “at 8.10pm” last week to sing a song which she claimed featured the chorus “kiss my arse”.
“The producers of Britain’s Got Talent obviously think it’s ok! They made a conscious decision to air that performance before the watershed last Saturday,” she said.
In the episode, a 71-year-old singer, Sandra Broadbent from Rochdale, who performs under the name Kelly Fox, sang the track Kiss My Ass Baby although she tempered the expletives from the original song.
The show has previously been accused of featuring inappropriate material with earlier editions of this series including an 11-year-old singing about a one-night stand and a lap-dancing performance.
Mrs Hulme said: “The pace of modern life is fast enough and there’s plenty of time to be an adult and I don’t want our children to stop being children too soon.”
Delegates at the conference passed a resolution which called for the union to work with the Government and parents to ensure that childhood is “valued in its own right” and to highlight the detrimental effect that exposure to adult themes before the watershed has on children.