The Huffington Post featured an article today by Colleen Perry focusing upon the impact of early exposure to sexual themes on children. For decades, evidence has been mounting of earlier onset body dissatisfaction, the high level of importance of body image on self-esteem and the increase of disordered eating at strikingly young ages. Additionally, these issues do not discriminate between sex, race, age, socioeconomic status, etc. Statistics are growing rapidly in every subgroup. Earlier exposure to sexual themes is becoming more and more the norm and is one of the factors that buoys these statistics.
Beauty pageants began in 1921 and Little Miss America began in the 1960’s. It wasn’t until JonBenét Ramsey’s 1996 murder that the spotlight seemed to shift onto the world of child glam. In 2009, TLC premiered a reality series entitled Toddlers & Tiaras that featured the world of child beauty pageants. The series shows toddlers being pushed, pulled and coiffed into looking like mini sexy adults and then pitted against one another and judged on the basis of beauty, talent and garb. Since then, the show has received much criticism and controversy.
In May of this year, news broke that a mother was injecting her 8-year-old daughter with Botox once she entered the world of beauty pageants. The 8-year-old was quoted to say, “I just, like, don’t, like, think wrinkles are nice on little girls.” Within days of the report, she was removed from the custody of her mother.
While this may spark a larger issue of what it means for these parents to introduce their children to pageantry and that perhaps, parents are displacing their own internal pressures onto their children, what will happen if we continue to entrench our kids in the world of princesses and glam? What if we continue to teach that makeup and lavish dresses are requirements for beauty?
Even if children are not actually a part of the world of pageants, the pressure is escalating. You as a parent, a sibling, a friend, a relative, a role model, have the power to send a different and deliberate message stating otherwise. A message that encourages a true, authentic sense of self to emerge that does not need to be dressed up to be accepted. Be conscious and be clear in your delivery of this message and it will be heard louder and with more of an impact because it comes from you, a trusted source.