Young Australians - including those of primary school age - should be involved in the public debate about how they are represented in the media and what type of information they have access to, according to a leading media studies researcher from UNSW.
In a public lecture on young people and new media, Professor Catharine Lumby, the Director of the Journalism and Media Research Centre also called for an overhaul of the framework for making complaints about the media.
The address Too much, too young? Young people and new media was part of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences' So, what? Public lecture series.
"A common concern about the regulation of media content is that many individuals find it difficult to navigate a complaints system that is so diverse," Professor Lumby said.
"There are so many different bodies involved that the system resembles a bowl of spaghetti. Consumers often feel powerless.
"We need a one-stop shop where people can make their complaints and be directed to the right complaints process," she said.
"Government and industry need to work together to create an online site which could act as forum that allows parents and others to register their concerns about media content and technology and its impact on young people.
"If industry is serious about self-regulation they need to put more resources into encouraging public participation and public education."
Professor Lumby also called for the Federal Government to coordinate a national age-appropriate sex education in schools that includes a discussion of media material dealing with love, sexuality, gender and relationships.
The protection of young people needs to be based in evidence about how they relate to and consume media, she said.
"We need to go beyond a constant debate about what the media might be doing to them and start talking to young people about what they are doing with it," said Professor Lumby.
"We also need to be very careful not to treat young teenagers as if they are the same as six year olds. Popular and online media can be a very important resource for young people.
"We need to take this into account when considering the media they watch and enjoy," she said.
During the talk, Professor Lumby presented some of the material she submitted to a Senate Standing Committee Inquiry into the sexualisation of children in the contemporary media environment.
Professor Lumby has also written an opinion piece on the subject for the Sydney Morning Herald.