I am here today to talk to you about the very controversial issue of sexualization of children and to ask- are we, as a global society dealing with this issue appropriately? Sexualization can be defined as ‘when a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behaviour, to the exclusion of other characteristics’ or in simpler terms ‘ when a person is portrayed purely as a sex object. This shockingly, is what is happening in this day and age, and even more shockingly, to your younger sisters, cousins, relatives or even friends.
It’s called the sexualization of children. Many Australians have already voiced their concern that children’s freedom to develop at their own pace and in their own ways is under threat from heavily sexualised advertising and marketing, and the influence of parents. But are we going to the right measures to stop this? No, we are not. This social phenomenon blurs the line between adult and child, making it obvious to all to opose this trend. However, it is not being dealt with correctly on not just one, but many levels within society. We are all responsible in some way.
As everyone would know, the first level of responsibility of a child lies with family, but mainly parents. It is a parent’s job in life to lead and encourage critical opinions when exposed to the commercialization of sex. So why are they not doing this? Consciously or not, each parent promotes values to their children both good and unfortunately sometimes bad. There is a strong feeling thought by a minority of parents that during childhood, and certainly during the pre-teen years, children should be free to develop at their own pace, in their own ways.
Yes, it’s true that children should be able to learn and mature from doing things on their own and learning from mistakes, but since when has letting a child matture on their own included dressing them in clothes for years above they’re age? These ‘parents’ believe we are ‘infantilizing’ our younger generations. These ‘parents’ have serious issues if they think that not allowing a 6 year old to wear a bra is ‘not allowing them to grow’. Parents must take a stand regarding this issue and stop conforming to the latest social norm. We then come to the corporate companies, including the media, which target young children.
These days, children are getting more and more amounts of pocket money. A perfect target for money makers. So what do these companies do? Entice these young girls with things that they want most- to be grown up. From selling sexualized bratz dolls, make up for toddlers to padded bras for 6 year olds! Is it wonder that children these days are acting far beyond their years? Some companies say that it is a parents responsibility to protect their children if need b. This is true. However, how can parents stop children from wanting what every other child has?
And how is it possible for parents to distract their children from the media that is advertising this sex, when we are confronted with it daily, even hourly. With giant billboards advertising ‘longer lasting sex’ and music programs on during children’s hours showing every little girls favourite, Miley Cyrus, dancing around provocatively in hardly any clothes. Each month twenty per cent of six-year-old girls and almost half of ten- and eleven year- old girls read at least one of the most popular girls’ magazines – Barbie Magazine, Total Girl and Disney Girl.
These magazines teach young readers to dance in sexually provocative ways, to idolise highly sexualised young women such as Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson and Lindsay Lohan, and to have crushes on adult male Celebrities – all while they are still in primary school. The media must accept that, as an influential part of today’s culture, it is responsible for these harmful messages being distributed and as a result of this, they must do something about it. Then we get faced with these beauty pageants. The latest craze that’s happening right now in America.
Let’s be honest here, these pageants are unnerving and they are unnatural. Seeing girls as young as 4 having their faces painted like grown women, fake teeth, hair, lashes, nails and tan, all added together to make them look older then a lot of us in this room. Then to top it off, they’re pushed on stage, in tiny costumes and made to dance in front of the crowd. Is it any wonder that these pageants attract pedophiles? How can parents be shocked when these pageants are nicknamed ‘meat markets for pedophiles? to make things worse, these pageants are now being aired on TV for the whole world to see, making it appear socially acceptable for these shows to continue, resulting in harmful effects on the young girls watching. The American psychologist association reported that magazines, television, video games and music videos all the harmful effects on young children. The report tells that the exposure to sexualized marketing and advertisement impede healthy development of a girl. To the degree that children focus on sexualising themselves rather than pursuing other more age-appropriate developmental activities.
Undermining confidence, making them feel dissatisfied with their body, depression and eating disorders are just a few of the consequences resulting because of this. Dr Zurbriggen from the psychological association said ‘ we have ample evidence to conclude that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains including cognitive function, physical and mental health and healthy sexual development’. This proves that because of our lack of making a stand to stop this phenomenon, there are multiple serious and sometimes threatening consequences happening to young girls.
Globally, society is not dealing with this current phenomenon of sexualizing children appropriately, resulting in far too many serious consequences on both physical and mental health. We call on members of the community, parents, teaches, health professionals, even you girls here with younger female siblings or relatives, to look out for the impact that sexual images might be having on girls under our care. Globally, it is everyone’s responsibility to deal with this latest craze appropriately. And it must start now.
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