A Wollongong child psychologist has lodged a complaint with the publications watchdog over a poster that depicts two scantily clad teens, claiming the ad sexualised children and could incite "deviant behaviour by adults".
The poster features a shirtless teen boy and a girl with a bare midriff and low-riding skirt and advertises a photo-model search by the stock photo library business ModelKids Australia.
ModelKids provides photos of child models to businesses for use in advertising and marketing campaigns.
Dr Gerard Stoyles, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Wollongong and a registered child and adolescent clinical psychologist, said the teens' clothing and the way they stood suggested "sexual overtones".
"These are children that are adopting an adult posture that is normally seen or understood as being sexual," he said.
"Why is there a need for an organisation to select this type of image? They could have picked another image with kids who are normally dressed, happy-go-lucky, and that would have been perfectly acceptable."
Dr Stoyles said his work with children who had been abused had shaped his opinions on the sexualisation of children.
"In a sense the images in the poster are just benign ... but if somebody's turned on by those kids, is there a guarantee they won't act on those feelings with a child?
"I guess I might sound a bit oversensitive around this issue, but when a kid's been abused there's no way to reverse that."
Dr Stoyles wrote to the Australian Classification Board on Thursday after he saw the poster at a ModelKids Australia booth inside Westfield Warrawong, near the entrance to Coles supermarket.
Asked if his complaint could be considered futile - or late - in an age where "sexy selfies" and teen twerking were common, Dr Stoyles said the issue deserved continued public debate.
"Is this not a horse - even though it's bolted - that's still worth chasing around the paddock?
"There's a psychological issue here of normalising.
"If nothing is said about it and nothing is done to prevent it, this type of behaviour becomes socially acceptable."
The Mercury contacted ModelKids Australia yesterday. The person who answered the phone identified himself as the owner of the company and said he could not comment until he had heard about any complaint from the Australian Classification Board.
Westfield spokeswoman Julia Clarke said the ModelKids promotion had been running during the school holidays and had received a "very good uptake for entrants in the competition".
The promotion is due to finish tomorrow, but Ms Clarke said yesterday that Westfield would immediately review the artwork in the posters.