Explicit music videos made by stars such as Rihanna, Beyoncé and Madonna would be given 18 certificates and subject to greater restrictions to protect children, under plans being looked at by David Cameron.
It is understood the Prime Minister is considering new rules that would oblige websites hosting such videos to introduce robust age verification systems similar to those used to safeguard children online gambling.
Music videos are currently exempt from classification under the Video Recordings Act 1984 and 2010, which means that – unlike films – there are no restrictions on children buying any but the most graphic music videos.
There are currently no legal restrictions on children downloading music videos of any kind.
The Prime Minister is understood to be “disappointed” with the music video industry’s response to a Government report that warned of the greater “sexualisation of childhood”. The study highlighted the corrupting influence of such short films.
Mr Cameron is to summon leading figures in the music video and social media world to Downing Street for a summit next month and threaten tough new laws if more is not done to protect children.
Campaigners say there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of sexual content and explicit language in music videos which can be accessed by very young children on computers and mobile phones.
Around 200 million videos are watched each month on Vevo, a music video website popular amongst the young. Although MTV, and other television channels, tone done sexual content before the 9pm watershed the same is not true for video-sharing websites.
Music videos were singled out for strong criticism in Let Children be Children, a Downing Street commissioned report written by Reg Bailey, the head of the Mothers Union, the Church of England pressure group.
The report said: “Concerns focused on sexual and violent nature of song lyrics; highly sexualised, verging on explicit, dance routines; and the stereotyped gender roles portrayed.
“Music videos were highlighted by some parents who responded to our call for evidence: they expressed concern that these videos were influencing their sons’ behaviour towards and perceptions of women in a negative way.”
Mr Bailey said: “Many of the industries mentioned in last year’s report have responded positively to our recommendations. I cannot say that has been the case with music videos.
“Age ratings should be introduced for music videos. There is also a clear case for age-verification for such sites.”
Although government has been impressed by the approach taken by high street retailers to the report, it also remains concerned by the style and promotion of so-called “Lads’ mags”, such as Loaded, FHM and Nuts. This industry is also set to be called in to Downing Street over the summer to be asked what steps they are taking to protect children.
Ofcom last year warned that a “highly sexualised” video produced by R&B singer Rihanna for her song S&M contained scenes of “sexual bondage, dominance and sadomasochism” and should not be aired before the watershed.
The regulator said that several of the scenes “could have potentially dangerous consequences if imitated by children”.
Although YouTube asks viewers to confirm they are aged of 18 before watching this video, Vevo does not do so. Rihanna’s S&M video has been viewed more than 37 million times on Vevo alone.
Skin, another Rihanna song with sexually explicit lyrics, can be heard uncensored on YouTube without any restrictions.
There is likely to be strong opposition to any tougher Government regulation on accessing music videos online. Rio Caraeff, the chief executive of Vevo, has said that age ratings are unnecessary and would be difficult to enforce.
Vevo has claimed the move would be “bad for business” and would cut the royalties earned by some acts.
Many high-profile stars may also oppose any clampdown. The singer Kelly Rowland recently told the BBC: “God gave us parents for a reason – what you want your children to watch, you should monitor that. It’s not up to the artist.”
However, Gary Barlow, the Take That singer who is now a father of three, last year said he was shocked by the sexual moves some teenage girls performed during auditions for X Factor, the TV talent show he judges.
“Music videos are so sexual these days,” he said. “It all filters down. We had girls auditioning for the X Factor and you wouldn’t believe the kind of moves they were doing. I sat there and thought, Jesus Christ.”
The Duchess of Cornwall has also spoken out against such videos. “A lot of those videos are terrifying,” the Duchess said while visiting a charity. “I am sure they trigger a response in some of the young people. I can never understand how they can get away with making those things.”
The Duchess’s attention was drawn towards Video Phone, a music video by Beyoncé, in which the singer wears an array of revealed – and at times bizarre – outfits.