Children and adolescents are unavoidably exposed to heavily sexualised advertising What this commercial sexualisation of children via the media does, is expose children to sexualised behaviours, dress, conversations or activities The sexualisation of children can occur from an early age… if a child is exposed to sexually provocative media, whether it’s a music video on TV or a (picture in a magazine), they can learn distorted concepts about themselves, affecting their self-image and development throughout the most crucial stage of life and growth.
“Childhood is meant to be a time of playfulness, learning and fun. Children are entitled to develop at their own pace, without pressure from developmentally inappropriate marketing and advertising. Such material has the potential to have a negative impact on children’s self-image, (self-esteem) and life expectations” (GWA, 2010). If children begin to heavily focus on sexualising themselves rather than pursuing other more age-appropriate developmental activities, all aspects of their development may be affected (Rush & La Nauze, 2006).
When you were a child what do you remember playing with? Toys like play tea sets and Lego? Or real mobile phones and lipstick? These days, often you will see a Barbie Doll that comes with lipstick for her to use and you! What does this say about our society? What are they turning young children into?
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” adolescents are generally reading Girlfriend and Dolly Magazines. Reading these magazines teach their young readers to dance in sexually provocative ways, to idolise highly sexualised young women such as Hilary Duff, Miley Cyrus and Lindsay Lohan, and to have crushes on adult male celebrities – all while they are still in primary school (Rush & La Nauze, 2006).
The magazines bear a great resemblance to magazines such as Cosmopolitan or Cleo (Women’s magazines, that feature an array of sexualised and provocative articles.)
On average, children aged five to eleven watch approximately twenty hours of television or videos each week The stars that young children see in these magazines and on the TV such as Hilary Duff, Lindsay Lohan and Taylor Momsen, who were once normal average children, have grown and transformed into these sexualised adults that all young children seem to look up to and want to become.
Being in children’s shows and movies makes them accessible for young children, however when they are portrayed in the media and advertising directed at adults, it is the young children that pick up on this. Most outdoor and television advertising sexualises adults, but children pick up the message that being sexy is the way to be successful and feel good about oneself”
Popular television shows for adolescents such as Gossip Girl, Slide, Home and Away and Vampire Diaries, show teenagers as young as 15 having sexual partners and encounters. What message does this send to young adolescents that are the same age as the characters but not at the same adult stage of sexuality? Ethically adult writers of the show should be aware of their audience and the reality of what their show portrays as the norm for the sake of a dramatic storyline.
Artists in the past such a Bill Henson have suggested, that there is a much larger underlying problem with sexualisation of children in society. Henson controversially implies that in fact society is obsessed with the prepubescent body figure. The image of beauty being a tall skinny model has uncanny similarities to the body image of say a 12 year old girl.
Both body types are prepubescent skinny. With no breasts, no extra fat for child bearing such as in the hips or on the arms. The constant pressure for adults and young adolescents to have a similar appearance to this unnatural image of beauty is one of the main factors leading to eating disorders and body abuse.
The popular television show toddlers and tiaras shocks audiences by showing pushy mothers doing whatever they can to have their daughter win the ultimate supreme title and crown. The show features children as young as two years old, not only having their hair and make up done, but performing sexualised dance routines, and dressing in inappropriate outfits to do this. Such as a school girl, or policewomen outfit. The contestants go through vigorous preparation of spending thousands of dollars on dresses, going on diets, being measured for teeth flips, getting hair extensions, wigs, fake tans and acrylic nails.
Although the show, is used to demonstrate the competitive side of American beauty pageants it is not far from the social norm in our society as adult materials and services are becoming more marketed to young children. Fake nails with Dora the Explorer on them, the use of bralettes for babies, bikinis for three years and up, Even eyebrow, Brazilian and bikini line waxing for 6 and 10 year olds “to deter future hair”! Young children have always played grown up, with mini handbags and pretend lipstick, but the age that children get their first mobile phone to go in that bag gets increasingly lower, where will our children be in 5- 10 years time?
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