A few months ago, a friend sent me this link to Youtube clip showing a group of girls at a talent contest doing a routine to ‘run the world’ by Beyonce. My initial reaction was to think nothing much of it. It looked to me like girls having fun. But as I watched these 8 year olds walk onto the stage scantily dressed, performing a sexually provocative number that would put the diva to shame, I felt a slight cringe and asked myself is this normal.
I’m not trying to be prude or out of touch. I understand perfectly well that children will emulate what they see on TV from watching pop music videos and whatever program is showing. However, when content that is popular with very young girls become more adult themed – I believe that should be cause for concern. Sadly, reality TV shows have started adding toddlers to their list.
Beauty Pageant Mania
Toddlers and Tiaras (TLC), a beauty pageant show in the US, which began in 2009, pulled in 1.3 million viewers a week. Its success spawned off other similar shows such as ‘Dance Moms’ and ‘Here comes Honey Boo Boo’, a reality TV show about a 6 year pageant contestant.
The show was such a smash hit that it pulled in over 2.8 million viewers in its season finale, just a thousand more than viewers of prime-time shows! It doesn’t stop there; marketers for children reality TV shows are setting a standard of ‘beauty’ through these programs and bombarding toddlers with adult imagery as opposed to promoting high quality educational content that will develop their cognitive and social emotional skills.
Fashion companies are also cashing in, promoting children lingerie lines such as Jours Apres Lunes and two piece Bikinis styled by Abercrombie & Fitch for girls as young as 3. I’m not a parent, but as an adult, I would find this a very disturbing and unhealthy social message to send to girls of that age.
Some may argue that the social rabble over young girl’s exposure to sexual content is unmerited. After all, no parent wants their girl to be the ‘ugly betty’ of the group, but there is a danger of overlooking the huge impact early exposure to adult content can have on a child’s social development.
So what is the solution?
Corporate media, fashion companies and music celebrities must realize their moral obligation to their younger fans. Sure their prime objective is to make profit, follow trends, and balance stockholder interests, but this does not prevent them from being positive influencers.
Parents can play their part by educating their daughter’s on media literacy from an early age. Helping them understand what content is within the ‘safe zone’ by pointing out to them imagery that is positive and negative is crucial for them to develop an understanding of the content that is being marketed to them. I’m not saying that you should bubble wrap your little angels but arming them with the knowledge of what is appropriate will help them to wade through the sea of such content that is out there.