NSPCC asks parents to talk PANTS

The NSPCC has launched a new campaign, Talk PANTS, encouraging parents to talk to their children about sexual abuse.

The NSPCC has launched a new campaign, Talk PANTS, encouraging parents to talk to their children about sexual abuse.

Video and radio ads, an animated app and a series of downloadable guides call for parents to discuss the underwear rule – the idea that no-one should touch a child in places covered by underwear – using the anagram P.A.N.T.S., which stands for:

Privates are private

Always remember your body belongs to you

No means no

Talk about secrets that upset you

and Speak up, someone can help.

According to NSPCC research, 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims are abused by someone they know, yet – understandably – many parents don’t discuss abuse with their children because they don’t know what to say.

“The Council of Europe had developed the basic principle of the underwear rule a few years back – but this doesn’t go far enough. We needed to help parents, and we needed something that would work like Stop, Look and Listen – a memorable phrase that covers a lot of detail, but that helps people remember important fundamentals and feels uncomplicated and unthreatening,” explains NSPCC joint creative director Mark Tobin.


The downloadable guides for parents and carers provide further details on how to address the subject of abuse and use bright and cheerful illustrations of smiling children, blue skies, birds and brightly coloured pants, as well as a specially commissioned hand drawn typeface.

“We looked at some off-the-shelf type, but none really worked. Using hand drawn lends our material the human touch that is so important to this campaign – it feels authentic, hand-crafted and therefore warmer and engaging,” explains Tobin.

The illustrations are designed to appeal to both adults and children and create a campaign that is light and approachable without being flippant or throwaway, he says.

“People already understand that child sexual abuse is horrific, so we didn’t need to represent that. We wanted to create something that felt positive and empowering so parents and carers feel confident that they have the ability to prevent abuse.”

The campaign took between two and three months to complete, says Tobin, and prototypes were tested on parents, child protection professionals and children.

“The central idea of Talk PANTS came about a third of the way through. It was a bit of a lightbulb moment while we were searching for something that was right for the target audience – parents of children aged between five and 11,” he adds.

It’s a visually engaging campaign and a sensitive way of addressing a hard to talk about subject. Earlier this year, children’s counselling service ChildLine also opted for using colourful illustrations to address sexual abuse in a four-minute animated film encouraging children to report it.

NSPCC’s campaign reflects the child protection charity’s changing approach to its communications, which Tobin says now take a more “positive, upbeat and emphatic” approach.

“I think people tend to associate our appeals with the TV ads that used to run several years ago. Like many charities, these tended to highlight the problems and the difficulties faced by the children we’re trying to help but increasingly, we want to foreground the solution and the outcome of the work we do with children and families.”

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