The sexualisation debate: innocence versus sexual agency

article-0-0D74C32000000578-383_468x5841

There is no question that the pervasiveness of the media affects us all—regardless of age, race, and privilege—but the question of how much it impacts the developing brain of a child—particularly when it comes to their emotional and sexual development—and what the long-term consequences of this might be, is such a diverse and complex area of study that definitive conclusions have yet to be drawn. Millions of children are being subjected to marketing-driven media every day, much of it containing sexual overtones, whilst we look on with no real knowledge of how this will affect them ten, twenty, or thirty years down the road. Are we affecting our children’s self-esteem and their ability to be healthily intimate one day, merely for the sake of profit?

Several countries now ban advertising to children altogether in an effort to control the media; Sweden, Norway, Greece, and the Canadian province of Quebec have all instituted a ban on advertising to children under twelve in any way, shape or form, and a rising chorus of voices in the UK is calling for a similar ban. A recent petition letter (leaveourkidsalone.org), which was circulated by Jonathan Kent, writer and broadcaster, and Rupert Read, reader in philosophy at the University of East Anglia and chairman of Green House think tank —and subsequently signed by more than 50 authors, journalists, renowned academics, and leading childcare experts— implicates marketing to youngsters in a host of national ills, such as high rates of teenage pregnancy and underage drinking. Among other things, the aggressively sexual subtext in advertisements is seen as a powerful and insidious encouragement to engage in destructive and risky behaviours—an alluring voice that infiltrates the media to make partying and having sex seem “cool” to innocent young minds.

The letter claims that such marketing is “Designed to manipulate adult emotions and desires onto children as young as two or three”, a strong nod to the adult themes, such as sexuality, that are present in many advertisements. The letter also claims that marketing to youth, on the whole, makes them “harder to control” by turning them into little adults who demand what they want, when they want it, and aren’t afraid to express themselves verbally, physically, or sexually.

On the other hand, critics depict this move as a moral panic and argue that the commercial interests behind broadcasting aimed at children would make problematic, if not entirely unfeasible, a total ban on advertising to kids: a measure which would undoubtedly shake the whole foundations of children programming. One can easily imagine how the main stakeholders holding strong financial interests on the outcome of this debate – broadcasters and children products industries – are lobbying to make their voices heard.

Like in any important socio-economic issue there is always a political side to it. The issue of KGOY (acronym used for “kids growing older younger”) is often attributed to the increasingly strong influence of media on children’s mind, but I agree with Jackson (2006:251) that this line of thinking is not necessarily helpful to young people as they are based on notions of childhood as innocent and powerless, rather than acknowledging or seeking to increase children’s abilities to understand their world (for example, by enhancing their critical skills through media literacy interventions). Critical observers have questioned whether these experts truly seek to restore children’s agency and protect their ‘innocence’, or whether they seek to limit their free will and access to media in an effort to control social problems that would be better addressed by the government, for example by providing more useful and thorough social welfare programs (all of which are presently facing a decline in the UK).

Said need for critical examination is especially evident when one considers that in Canadian provinces like Ontario, where advertising to children under twelve is perfectly legal (and the media is, overall, little different to what it is in the UK), the rates of issues supposedly tied to early sexualisation—such as teenage pregnancy—remain relatively low (as do abortion rates, despite Canada’s notable lack of restrictions on abortion). And yet, across the border in the United States, where much of Ontario’s consumed media originates from, issues like teenage pregnancy are much more prevalent. When one weighs this information, the clear link between the media, early exposure to sexual content, and the “too much, too soon”social ills suggested by the team of English experts grows more tremulous.

This does not mean, however, that concern about the impacts of marketing and the media on children’s developing sexuality is mere moral panic, and nothing more. Statistics, at the end of the day, tell us little about the actual people behind them, and there is no denying that across the western world, overt sexuality is being displayed by young people—particularly young women—more often, more blatantly, and earlier on that at any other time over the past century (and perhaps much longer).

The issue of whether or not these young women have knowledge about and access to birth control (and the right socio-economic reasons to use it) tells us nothing of the emotional consequences they may be suffering as a result of possibly premature sexualisation and self-objectification. How do they feel about themselves? Is their body image suffering under the pressure of increasingly unrealistic beauty standards portrayed in the media and in the effort to be sexually appealing? Are young girls too willing to be intimate with any man that desires them, having been taught that they are simply objects for this desire? Are they able to be properly intimate with young men who have also been raised in today’s culture? Or, conversely, are young women finally being taught that female sexuality is not a ‘sin’, a dirty secret, but rather something to be reclaimed and expressed while also striving towards a successful career? Is ‘girls power’, as a feminist-inspired discourse absorbed by popular culture and challenging the idealisation of girlhood in our culture as repository of purity (based on the rhetoric of girls’ vulnerability and need for protection), leading to increased girls’ self-determination and agency?

In short, are we creating something revolutionary—acceptance of the sexual agency of young women —or are we setting girls up to be passive targets of exploitation, while pushing young men to aggressively exploit?

These are the main questions of the “pleasure vs danger” debate, which I will address in my next blog post. So far, I have tried to adopt a sitting-on-the-fence stance in the attempt to present more objectively the different sides of the argument. In a third article I will also be keen to clarify my own position on these issues. In the meantime, I am asking my readers to chime in and let me know their own perspective on things. 😉

 

Main References
1. Jackson, Carolyn (2006). "Wild" girls? An exploration of "ladette" cultures in secondary schools, Gender and Education, Vol.18 (4): 339-360
2. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9984366/Ban-advertising-aimed-at-primary-school-children.html
3. http://www.economist.com/node/4649
4. Currie D, Kelly D M, Pomerantz S (2009) Girl Power': Girls Reinventing Girlhood. Peter Lang Publ.

36 thoughts on “The sexualisation debate: innocence versus sexual agency

    • Hi Elizabethe, I know her work already quite well and will be definetly discussing many points from her and Renold’s research – particularly with reference to girls’ sexual agency – in my next blogpost 😉 Thanks anyway for pointing this out.

  1. I feel a debate like this could go on forever. What affects one child will not affect another child the same way. It’s all based on (in my opinion) the child’s home life growing up, and how the person(s) responsible for them are as their caretaker, protector, etc.
    I’ve always been of the opinion that if you do not like what is seen on the television screen… turn it off. Same with books, magazines, etc. Don’t buy them, or if you do because YOU enjoy them, then have the common sense to not keep them out in the open if you do not want your child seeing them. Internet as well. There are filters on computers and televisions for folks to use to prevent their child from seeing various things they do not want them seeing. Generally, I’m not at all a fan of banning and restrictions constantly being placed, or being told what a parent can or can’t do (or expose them to in this case) based on one group’s opinions, etc. Whether I think it’s wrong or right does not matter – I’m not in charge of another person’s child’s upbringing. THEY are.
    That being said, I know fully well it’s impossible for us to be with our child 24-7 due to work, or while they’re at school, etc., and they will be exposed in some way at some point. You would hope there is at least some healthy communication at home, healthy emotional support, etc., that a child would be comfortable with asking questions, and generally talking to their guardian about things. Let the parent be the parent to the best of their ability.
    (Unfortunately, not all children’s homes have a healthy environment though, so yes… it is a complicated issue in general.)

    • I agree 100% Samantha. I believe that this debate can go on forever as well. There are just too many factors that go into influencing how a child turns out as they grow older. I think the difference in rates of teen pregnancy in Ontario and the U.S. demonstrates that it isn’t just the media and early exposure to sexual content. When you look at individual behavior there are so many different reasons why each individual performs the same act/behavior. For example, three people might be overweight but one is because they are lonely and depressed so they eat to make themselves feel better, another might be overweight because he/she drinks too much beer every night, and the other could be overweight because they love their wife’s food which may be fattening and unhealthy. It’s another very complicated issue and I am not a fan of banning or restricting things.

    • I would have to agree with Samantha on this. Every child is different and depending on their upbringing and the morals that they have, the sexual agency that is pushed onto them through media will affect them differently.

      There are ways around letting your children view media. You can either educate them against it, bring them up with proper morals, or cut it out completely. There is censorship and as a parent you can have a good grasp on what needs to be monitored. In my opinion a strict parent on these things is only going to make a child want to explore it more. So the route I would take is to make sure you educate them in the right way. Make sure that they know that sexual agency and the ability to act on it does not take hold until you are old enough and responsible enough to truly understand it, what it means, and the consequences it has.

      As for the media in Canada, I live in Ontario, Canada and never had an issue with media with regards to sexuality. Perhaps I grew up to late, although I wouldn’t think so as I am only 23, so media was a very real thing to me. I had a television in my room, a gaming console and television shows every night with commercials. And personally when reflecting back on it, the only thing I take away from media is the skewed perspective that all women need to be skinny or wear makeup to be beautiful. These things have affected me more than I wish to say, and am constantly in a learning battle against it. But for sexuality I viewed it as a thing that should be expressed at the appropriate age. In so long as the teenagers are aware of the consequences, are well educated and know the risks that they take when they were provocative clothing or permit those sexual invitations, then it is what it is. The job of the parent through the ages of 10-16 is to make sure their children are aware of what sexuality is, what it does, and how it effects those around you. If a parent can’t properly censor, teach morals or education their children, then the child needs to have access to the proper information and NOT from the media alone.

      As for abortion in Canada, it is legal. For the guidelines and rules, I am pretty sure the rules are standardized. Perhaps other countries are more strict, yes, but I honestly don’t think Canada is out of line or not strict enough with the guidelines. The way I view it is that if you are going to be uneducated and make mistakes then it is up to the woman and her body and what she will do with it. But this is a whole other debate.

    • Of everything you said, the most true was your last comment about not all children’s homes being a healthy environment. Even in the best of homes, we see problems arise that the parents turn a blind eye to. Whether they are too busy with work or can’t believe that their child could do such a thing, the problems still exist and they don’t just get better. A good home life with effective parenting can help fight this sexuality plague caused by the media.

  2. I think this all comes down to the parents and making sure what their children see isn’t ‘dirty’- in the sense of too sexually explicit – in any way. Of course it’s not that easy, with parents working long hours, and having a hard time monitoring children when there’s so many ways to see media these days.

    Many kids are impressionable, they see something and they want to follow that. I’ve seen many young girls dressing up like super models and it’s sad. I would never let a future daughter of mine dress in such a way and the same goes for a future son. My nieces are growing up fast, but they are well taken care of by my big sister, who makes sure not to allow them to see anything inappropriate for their age. They’re both smart girls and I have faith they’ll grow up to be great young women, but, they’ve yet to hit their teen years and we don’t know what they may do at that point of their life.

    I just think we all have to bring our children up in a good way. Make sure they don’t see anything bad, but when they do, we need to know what to tell them about what they saw, I think explaining the way the world works, could teach them not to follow that route. At least that’s what I hope to accomplish whenever I become a father.

  3. I think countries should ban advertising to young children altogether. I’ve always wondered why little girls love baby dolls so much: it’s because of advertising and because of how every other girl came up. They had those baby dolls. It’s as if they’re being trained to be a mother. But with boys, they get action figures, Batman, Spider-Man, wrestling figures and so on.

    Now to the point of girls dressing like adults. It’s because of what they see on TV, the movies and so on. The parents should not allow a girl go out in a skimpy dress or makeup. They should also not get their child into a beauty pageant at all. I think it promotes “looks” as a competition. Let children find out about things on their own. Don’t let them watch Teen dramas, don’t let them see PG13 rated movies and up and so on.

    I’m not saying shield a persons daughter, but let them grow up without so much TV and entertainment. Bring the kids to the beach, get them into a sporting, maybe get them to play a sport.

    I know I kind of went all over the place with this comment, but there’s so much I want to say and I don’t want to clog your comment section!!

  4. I find “sexy” advertising to children really depressing. Have you read the article “Why do they let them dress like that?” (I think that’s the name) in the NYT about how young girls are dressing much sexier now? Honestly, I think there should be regulations about this stuff, but I also think that it comes down to parent choices for their children, at least while the children are young. Don’t let your daughters watch shows and programs with that type of advertising. Encourage non TV activities. Etc…

  5. I am a stay at home mum in the UK. I agree that it is of course the parents’ responsibility to control what their children see and if they do see something unsuitable then they must explain it…..

    However, in reality a lot of the messages conveyed in advertising to little ones can really stick no matter how much you discuss what they have seen. I absolutely agree with other European countries that ban all advertising to children. I see it as completely unnecessary and can’t really understand why anyone (except the advertising companies) would object to that.

    I know what my children like and don’t need advertising to tell me what to buy for them. Likewise when they are in a toy shop they can quite easily chose what they would like without relying on adverts to have told them. The advertising companies target adverts to children relying on the fact that the children will beg their parents to buy these things.

    So when your daughter asks for make-up, heeled shoes or shorts with a slogan written across the posterior – because ‘all my friends have them’ or ‘the girl on the tv looks sooo cool’ I can explain to her all day about how not to be a sheep and how some things aren’t suitable until you are older – if no one else’s parents do and she ends up truly the only one without these things she will be sad. I then have to really hold my nerve!!! Well, that’s what I do and I never go back on what I say but sometimes….when we’ve finished discussing it I still feel heavy of heart that she won’t understand until she’s older!

  6. The image you’ve used in this post is from a campaign for a French brand of lingerie aimed for girls between 4-12 years. Yes, some of them might be age appropriate but that doesn’t make it okay when they use child models to try and stuff their lingerie down customers’ throats.
    Milana Kurnikova , Thylane Blondeau, these are just some names that really put this matter into spotlight and should make parents more aware of what being a child model implies. Your kid will be glamorized, sexified, objectified, all these only because big brands want to SELL their products!

  7. I would support an advertising ban on campaigns that “manipulate adult emotions” or position children (particularly, little girls) as being little adults over here in the US. If media produced and encouraged messages were supporting a more balanced view of human sexuality then I could believe that young women would be able to be properly intimate with young men who have also been raised in today’s culture. But as it is now, the portrayals are very unbalanced and definitely not encouraging a healthy sexuality…

  8. This is an interesting perspective, Francesca. I haven’t considered “pleasure vs danger” debate before coming to your post. Initially, I feel like I’m on the fence, too. However, when I give a little thought to it, I feel like media more often than not tells girls that being overtly sexual woman (either in the way we dress or behave) is normal and desirable.

  9. I think peer pressure works far harder at influencing children and parents than media, or maybe media works on the few and it is them that add peer pressure. One 13 year old girl may wear lots of makeup and have acrylic nails and then so she can be popular and trendy, she influences her friends to carry on the trend.
    I bring my girls up with the motto “Classy not trashy” and I do hope they live by that. I feel it is as important as any other life lesson, that we teach our girls how to dress different ways. I mean show them how smart they can look or let them look tomboyish etc if they wish. If my daughter looks a bit sexy, I am not going to tell her to cover up, why should she if she is not being lewd? I don’t want to teach her to be ashamed of her body. If she looks a mess, I will suggest her clothes don’t match.
    As far as the expensive part of it, I always teach my children when they are being driven to the store by their wallets and show them how to get a look they want with out being robbed blind for it.

    Why can’t my daughters dress how they wish if they choose to look “sexy”? Is it in case anything happens to them? If the answer to anyone reading that is yes, then I feel that proves my own thought that we live in a society that looks at the wrong end of a crime. It is NOT because of what someone wears.

  10. I believe that TV programming that are focused around children (such as PBS), should not advertise adult themed commercials. There is just no reason for it, plain and simple. Children should not be a target for any ad, period.

    Obviously this debate can go on forever. However, studies have shown that media and advertisements do have an affect on a child. Sure, we can turn off the TV or not buy certain things; we can educate our children, we can do everything in our power to teach them the right way. However, media is strong and I don’t think many people fully grasp how strong it can be, especially on young brains.

    I agree with you, Emma. Our daughters SHOULD be able to wear whatever they want to wear. Nothing wrong with wanting to look “sexy” once in awhile. However, the issue ISN’T with our daughters. The issue is with the world in general. Yes, you most CERTAINLY have to fear your daughter going out dressed in certain ways, because unfortunately, this world is cruel. Anything can happen on the outside. People take advantage of young girls. I’m not saying that any young girl should go out wearing garbs or cover themselves from head to toe, but until they become strong enough to be able to defend themselves, their should be a limit to what they wear. Shorts and a tank top is fine, but I’ve seen some young girls wearing skirts so short that you can see EVERYTHING. Does that not make them bait? Of course it does!

    Media sends out the wrong messages in general, for the most part. I know a lot of people may disagree me, but that’s just how I feel.

  11. I really wish that they would ban advertising to children in the USA also. It was bad enough when I was a kid and I am now in my 30’s. I remember being 12 years old and constantly being hit on by grown men of all ages. I used to read all kinds of magazines full of glamorous models and celebrities on tv or in movies etc. Girls constantly compare themselves to other girls and it is a big competition to see who can be the prettiest and the most in shape/ sexy/ attractive… It absolutely affects self-esteem because many girls want to be this perfect “ideal woman” and it is something really not attainable because how your body turns out has a whole lot to do with genetics so lots of ladies end up feeling inferior and that they will never be like the girls we see in the media.

    I have two young daughters and my five year old throws around words like “sexy” like it’s no big thing at all. I don’t think she really understands what it means at this point but language and the things you see on tv these days proves that censorship is becoming less and less important. I also can not believe what kinds of skimpy and “sexy” clothing they are making for little kids so that they can dress like their celebrity idols. It is just wrong to see elementary school kids wearing this kind of stuff.

    Aside from sexuality I wish there was less marketing for things like toys for kids on tv. They want it all and it drives parents to insanity and being broke. What ever happened to playing outside and using your imagination? I think parents would be able to provide an even better childhood for their kids if they could save their money on more useful things like education or paying the bills. Kids get bored of the new toys usually pretty quickly and put them aside but will cry and get all upset when you want to get rid of some of them. Having some toys and maybe a bicycle are good things but I can’t think of one toy on any commercial that my kids didn’t want, like, ask for or beg for.

  12. I think another part of this issue, which is often overlooked, is the impact the media has on the young men of society (mine being American/Western culture). I am not disagreeing with the fact that advertisements and the media tend target young girls and steer them towards unhealthy sexual attitudes, but we don’t often think about the impact those same images and advertisements have on boys and men. The awful truth is, not only are young girls impacted negatively by this type of marketing, but the young boys are also seeing the same images and also believing that this is “truth” of what girls are/should be. Then those young boys grow up to be the same men contribute to the same media and marketing. It just becomes an unending cycle.

    I also heartily agree that the home environment has probably one of the biggest impacts on a child’s sexual development. My heart breaks for children whose parents encourage their children to act and live a life that aligns itself with what advertisements and the media portrays.

    When it comes down to it, the truth is most people (especially media/advertisers) are driven by greed and don’t really care about the vast repercussions of their means to make money.

  13. I think that this is a great article in its efforts to determine whether the social media’s affects on young children are completely negative. Is it worth our while to ban all media directed at children, and will this help to improve their self-esteem and values or will it suppress their voice in the nature of their evolving environment? We don’t know how children will be impacted in future years by the media environment they have been raised in, and all we can do is speculate. It’s interesting that nations that have less bans on child media like Canada can be so much more successful in limiting teenage sex than the United States, which would seem to have a pretty similar culture for children. There must be other factors at play, and these should be studied. I like how this article acknowledges the thought processes of children, rather than just discarding them as innocent bystanders to the medias reign of power. Children have their own thought process, yes it’s different from that of adults, but it is still complex and they are able to comprehend and form opinions on many subjects we wouldn’t always give them credit for. Parents and teachers are often too afraid to have conversations with their children about these issues. We need to have more faith in our children’s reasoning and decision-making abilities, because the best way we can intervene in the media’s influence of our children is by helping our children think for themselves and make informed decisions. I think this is a very important issue that should be talked about more.

  14. Maybe I’m naive in thinking that the advertising that is given to our children needs to be in some ways moderated by our parents. They need to tell our kids that they are worth more, deserve more than what is being fed them by the advertising agencies. I saw a 4 year old who was totally horrified by the blue/pink line in advertising. Obviously her parents have taught her what is right and wrong. Black and white. And pink/blue! If we tell our kids what we feel is right then they can choose, and if they choose the other side, then it’s their choice. (Sorry, I feel like I’m rambling a bit.)

  15. I don’t see banning advertising during children’s television programs as the answer to this. I agree that it will result in a decrease in funding for future children’s programs, although having said that, a whole lot of children’s programming is not educational at all and some programs are silly and pointless.
    Product placement is also a problem. Video clips by famous singers usually always now feature product placement. This is where a product is seen being used by the famous person in the video. This is a lot of times luxury items or alcohol or jewelry.
    Kids are always going to see things and want them. It’s their nature. It’s really up to the parents to be strong enough to say ‘no’ to unnecessary things. My child asks for things all the time, I simply say no if it’s not appropriate.
    I am concerned with the way little girls dress these days, but it seems to be that they take after their mothers. If a mother dresses in short dresses then it’s likely the daughter will follow suit. Lead by example works most of the time.

    • I agree with you Jacinta. You can ban the Media during children programming but does that truly help with the issue at hand? To me it all points back to the child’s environment and how they are being raised and their daily life.

      Having the Media hold up their end of the deal and not produce the type of commercials they normally produce may help the situation in a sense but the child still has to go to school and deal with the public and will see things in their life. If they do not have the correct parental guidance to help them understand while they grow up you fall into some serious problems. Everything points back to the parents for me. I don’t know, maybe it is my frame of mind tonight, it would be wonderful to have sweet and innocent Media but will that ever happen?

  16. I try to engage in conversation with my stepdaughter about various subject matter as they come up. Katy Perry talking about kissing a girl, Britney and Madonna kissing, among many of the sexual overtones imposed upon our youth these days. Charlie Sheen’s tv shows are played on TV in my household and he usually has escorts, strippers and strong sexual themes in his shows, I also try to engage her in conversation about these topics.

    As one girl in a household of brothers I’ve seen a LOT more than I ever wanted to of what guys look at, what they talk about and what they expect from girls. My discussion with my step-daughter are along the lines of what is trendy and sells advertising, and what is realistic. I express to her that these sexual overtones are not love, loving, and not what the first encounters are to be about, that she is never expected to do these things and that in the real world women just don’t do those things. Controversy and shock-value sells and keeps peoples attention, but in no way shape or form is to define what she is to be comfortable with. She knows that boys her age are looking at porn on their smartphones, so we talked about that too. It’s no longer a one-dimensional exchange of a guy looking at a magazine he keeps stashed under the bed, but rather a full on smorgasbord of any color, shape, number, and position of his personal tastes are now at his fingertips and that “influence” into his pleasure zones impacts his expectations. I explained to her that these are not love and it is not her duty to live up to those “acts” that boys may impose on her.

    It’s a sticky conversation to say the least, but one I think is critical. Girls can start an online profile in a heartbeat and sell themselves with not one guardian having the slightest knowledge of it – until its much too late. So many people are afraid to have these conversations with their kids, just hoping that it will be a non-issue, that it doesn’t affect their kids, but it does. I’m scanning the horizon daily for the female role models that aren’t putting their sexuality ahead of their brains – and the landscape is a desert.. We have to have conversations, we have to be present in their lives and be rational beacons of light.

  17. I would like to know how these European countries went about banning advertising to children – I’m assuming this actually means advertising aimed at children, and why aren’t we doing it? Is there some giant advertising lobby that holds sway with congress? I think that aside from the advertisers themselves, everyone would be happy to enact this ban. How do we go about it?
    As it stands, media has a huge affect on our choices, not to mention their parents. It’s sad when you see young children setting off to school decked out in belly shirts and miniskirts. What are their parents thinking? “Oh she looks so cute, just like a little Jessica Simpson???”
    As always, we need to use common sense when helping children deal with media messages. Whether it’s inappropriate books, magazines, or television, if something is adversely affecting our child, remove the source. And since we unfortunately can’t be with our children 24/7 we need to develop the type of relationship that allows them to come to us with their questions or confusions.

  18. As an American and a Libertarian, I would not support a ban on advertising geared toward children–implementation and legal interpretation would be troublesome in a free society. (Although once the line is crossed into child porn or contributing to delinquency, I will advocate the most harsh punishments.) That said, I certainly use my freedom to combat the sexualization of girls in many ways:

    1. I don’t buy sexy products for my girls, nor does my family buy from stores with near-pornographic ads. Girls and boys are designed to spend childhood engaged in outdoor play, creative arts and music, sports, caring for pets, and learning to read, write, think and compute. They are not supposed to be sexy.
    2. I raised a large family of 3 boys and 3 girls. The men in my family set a high standard for how men behave and my young women won’t settle for less. My husband & I have always encouraged our kids to treat the opposite sex like a brother or sister (until married , of course, then the spouse naturally gets to be more than that!)
    3. We talk and read together in our family, and we talk about important things like jobs, God, world poverty, excellent art and literature, popular culture….In fact, my children often make astute remarks about the inappropriateness of an ad or show before I have a chance to do so myself!
    4. Both our girls and boys were expected to take school seriously and value what good things they could do with their minds and bodies: solve a calculus problem, bake a cake, run 10 miles, play the flute, etc. We also taught them from our faith that they have value because they are created by God, not because they have certain clothes or makeup or jewelry.

  19. I have a thirteen-year-old niece whose parents allow her to dress in a very provocative fashion, the likes of which sometimes make me cringe. She is the poster child of sorts for the dream of every marketing executive.

    She is not alone; it seems that every other girl in her class is somehow programmed by the media and television commercials to be obsessed with certain things. Specifically, certain brands, styles, and even buying accessories and related things from certain chain stores. Lately she has been flat-out obsessed with Clare’s Accessories, and dressing as if she is older. This also includes makeup.

    I’m concerned about what the media and modern society is teaching our young people, especially our daughters. They are being taught that it is more important to fit in, to be popular, and to be attractive than to focus on their school work and education. I see it as a trend that is quickly getting out of control.

  20. I am somewhat concerned about what is portrayed in the media to young children, however, I do think that parenting is the bigger issue. As the parent you can limit what your kids are exposed to, what tv shows they watch and who they hang out with. They might not like you for it now but they will thank you for it later!

  21. I had no idea about the Quebec advertising law – and I’m a Canadian, lol! That’s really interesting. I definitely have noticed a difference in the media and how it caters to children than when I was a child, for better or for worse.

    I agree with Stephanie Engel above – even though I do feel advertising to children and the earlier sexualization of children in media is bad for society, I think parents have to be the start. I grew up during the reign of the Spice Girls and early Britney Spears. My mom didn’t let me watch their music videos, among other things. It didn’t bother me that much as a kid, but now I think I know myself a lot better and I didn’t have that early interest in being sexual that I see some kids have nowadays!

  22. I want to share something I didn’t get until a few years ago when I was remembering what I grew up watching and listening to. The music I liked from 5 on was very sexual and degrading. The movies and cartoons I watched always showed beautiful people being “good” and ugly people being “bad”. When I thought back to all the struggles I had as a teen… It stemmed from what I was surrounded with. Pressure. The pressure to be thin, beautiful, smart, appealing to men, funny, outgoing, a great dresser… all of that stuff! I can’t even imagine how bad it is today for kids. If I ever have one, they will not be allowed to watch TV until they are old enough to understand what it can do to them.

  23. This topic is actually one of the ones which worries me most… how can a child of 4-5 yo for example understand what SEXY means ? How can you hear children in pre school wanting extensions and parents already trying to straighten their hair or accepting to wear a little makeup because it wouldnt cause any harm… Obviously it would ! I watch sometimes those tv show of pageants like “Toddlers and Tiaras” and each time I am appalled by the way these little girls look… acting like crazy brats, already understanding that without makeup or fancy dresses or lots of other superficial items they just look common… and common is not good apparently. Sexualising children is really wrong no matter what the purpose is, it has to stop ! A child should keep its innocence as long as he/she can.

  24. Everything affects children differently, it just depends on the particular child. I think that parents should know their children and in a way, study there behavior after being exposed to certain tv shows, movies, books, etc. and judge from there. Some kids know better than to “act out” based off what they see in the media, while others are more impressionable. I feel that many people want one solid answer that works for all kids, but the truth is that all individuals are different. What influences one child may not affect another child in the least.

    The most important thing a parent can do to avoid their child acting a certain way is to teach them that they shouldn’t act that way or do those things, and if they get them to understand that, they will more likely carry that belief with them. Some kids may rebel more because of this, it all depends on the child specifically and how you raise the child. If they’re made to feel equal with you, they will probably listen, but if they feel like you’re trying to control them, they’re going to want to rebel.

  25. Wow, this topic bothers me so much because it’s one thing to teach sexual independence and it’s another thing to exploit young girls. I think exposing children too young to sexuality at all is dangerous. Doing it too soon before puberty is so dangerous because their minds is not able to process it yet. I think the exploitation is so obvious when you see the fashion choices now-a-days. There are 10 year-olds walking around in booty shorts and 2 inch skirts.
    Parents also need to monitor what their children watch, how they dress and the people they hang around. People don’t realize as parents how important it is to start early in telling their girls they’re beautiful and have no reason to be sexual so early. My mother talked to me about sexuality as soon as I started menstruation and before my friends along with the media got to me. It makes a difference. I really wish the media would put more importance on education rather than sexuality. Girls already graduate at a higher rate than boys, but it can never hurt to drive home that idea even more.

  26. I’m in almost complete agreement with the commenter Kimberly above.

    A few more thoughts I’d like to add as a mother of six girls and a boy from 3 to 18. The danger of promoting such mature issues to children and making them seem appealing and desirable is that children have no awareness of consequences. They see it, they want it, they tempt their friends with it, and the damage is done, but they might not even be aware of the damage. They might begin a long destructive pattern of behavior that leaves, at the very least, deep scars, life-changing scars.

    Another thought on the debate between sheltering our children and trusting their intelligence and discernment: I liken this to seedlings. If we thrust our seedlings outside before they are ready, they will suffer. Period. If we gradually prepare our children for the real world, teaching them discernment instead of thrusting them prematurely into situations that demand discernment, their chances of emerging unscathed increase dramatically.

    It would also be helpful if purity and fidelity weren’t looked at condescendingly. In teaching our children healthy sexual boundaries, we counter the damaging potential of the see-it-take-it approach to mature issues that marketing companies promote, along with all the collateral damage that goes with it.

    Establishing a moral boundary, letting your children witness you shutting off a show that crosses the line, limiting their unnecessary premature exposure to mature topics, and discussing EVERYTHING can only help. Much of this falls in the laps of parents. We cannot drop the ball. The government can’t protect our kids; we can, however, teach them what they need to know to protect themselves.

  27. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t remember an add like the one depicted here in this post. I don’t know if in Bulgaria this is not such a common event, or it’s just that I have not noticed…. However, here,in my country, we have a big problem with little girls and boys trying to grow all too fast, wearing make-up and tattoos and getting pregnant.
    In my opinion, the advertisement is not the biggest perpetrator. I think that the movies and the games full of violence, the all too easy access to information are much worst. We try to guard the children of inappropriate adds, but we let them play games like sims, where one can have sex and dress like a hooker.
    We let our kids to be educated by media and facebook and we want them to be healthy. If a parent is always present with the kid while he/she is watching TV or playing, like my parents were, then we would not have this kind of problems. I know it’s hard, and time-consuming, but if one wants his or her child to become something good, some efforts are needed.

  28. I think the biggest issue in today’s society and culture is that the parent(s) are working more than one job now or working longer hours. Though we all need money, the time not being spent with the children are having a major impact. Even though you may hire a nanny or babysitter, most of the time they will just let you child do anything they wish…as long as it’s within reason just so they are happy. With children now having more access to unsuitable material, it’s no wonder why girls and boys are exploring more with their bodies, and intimating what the see, hear, and read more and more these days.

    One solution, just keep a better eye on the child, and put up LOTS of restrictions, yes they may be exposed elsewhere, but it doesn’t have to be within your home. You’re home should be a safe haven from all the corruptness within this world, at least that’s in my opinion.

  29. I’ve thought about this too before when I saw my girls watching such advertisements and being hooked at the idea of teenage models. The media has a very strong effect on how our kids see sexuality and how it empowers them. The problem is that this doesn’t have the same effects on everyone and it may be up to parents to make their children understand how they should take it. The way people markets their products using teens is a concern but I’m just saying that the blame is not all on them.

Leave a Reply