August 17th, 2011

Too Sexy Too Soon

USA Today

Kids these days truly are growing up faster than ever. Given the explosion of technology and resulting societal changes of the past two decades, they’re exposed to adult images and information much earlier in their lives than previous generations. Pop culture showcases young singers and actresses in highly suggestive clothing and poses. Their influence on kids is nearly impossible to ignore or escape.

Which bring us to the controversy over photographs of a 10-year-old-girl posing in French Vogue magazine. She wore heavy makeup, a plunging neckline and posed in way that was more appropriate for a woman at least 10years older. This provocative photo shoot calls attention to a child in a way that is sexualized and inappropriate. I worry about kids working in the modeling industry at that age for a variety of reasons, but one significant reason is because a 10-year-old is just beginning to develop, inside and out. To place so much hyper-focus on looks and appearance at such a young age is unhealthy. I also see how images like this affect “regular” girls who want to look and be like her. A message is sent to young girls that if you want attention, you should dress and look more grown up than your years.

Girls – and even boys – are starting to develop eating disorders at earlier ages than ever before. Body image problems are cropping up in grade-school children. Just as alarming, girls who look too sexy or too provocative for their age attract attention from men when they aren’t emotionally or physically equipped to handle it. Feeling pressure to look – and act – like an adult can lead to kids becoming sexually active at an early age, being promiscuous, suffering from eating disorders and struggling with low self-esteem or even depression.
As the start of a new school year approaches, parents everywhere brace for one of the most common and heated battles they will face throughout adolescence: the way their children — particularly daughters — want to look and/or dress.

As parents, it is our job to look out for our children and make decisions for their benefit and well-being… even when they don’t like them. To me, the issue here for parents is about more than the latest outrageous set of photos in the media. It’s about the message we send to children. I believe that message should be that jeans and a tank top or T-shirt and a bare face are attractive, and kids look great naturally, just as they are. Heavy makeup and revealing clothes are not the way to get attention as a preteen. Let’s teach our kids that beauty comes from the inside, and there’s no hurry to grow up fast or to look or act sexy or provocative in order to feel good about yourself.

Study after study has proven that parents are a child’s greatest influence and their best role models. If you’re not parenting and monitoring your child’s appearance, actions and experiences then your kids will likely emulate what they’re seeing out there on TV, in music videos, in magazines, from their friends. At its heart, it’s our job as parents to send a clear message that success and happiness come from hard work, healthy living, good behavior, kindness to others, etc… not from wearing crop tops, short shorts or taking risqué photographs laying on a bed or animal skin rug.

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