It is a regular lament of parents today, that their children seem to be growing up before their time, and that the years of innocence are no longer what they used to be.
The sort of images that the media is constantly throwing at growing children, the sort of toys that kids today play with, the kind of video games they have access to, all create and add to this problem or early sexualization of children.
Consider the sort of toys that are available today – there are super heroes and action figures with guns for the boys, and there are Barbies, and faux make up kits for the girls.
If you had the chance to observe an 8 year old girl playing with an inevitable Barbie doll this is typically what you may see – she is likely playing dress up aided by Barbie’s ‘wardrobe’ her ‘make up’ her other accessories and so on.
She is perhaps planning a date with her boyfriend Ken, or perhaps she is going shopping for more clothes and planning a trip to the mall.
This kind of role play is not equipping a young girl or giving her any tools for life; it is teaching her nothing; in fact it is giving her potentially negative ideas about clothes and make up and dating being what is important in life, reinforcing a dangerous attachment to and yearning for material things.
Girls as young as 9 want padded bras, or thongs, tweens want their arms and legs waxed; it is what psychologists are referring to as “Too sexy too soon”.
This is the sort of thing that kids do under peer pressure and other societal expectations that is robbing kids, and young girls in particular of their childhood.
There can be very real consequences of this kind of sexualization of children because directly or indirectly it could lead to anxiety, poor self esteem, eating disorders and even depression.
There is a need for us as parents to check this slide into sexualization that so many our children face. Don’t let expensive toys be a substitute for time spent with children and be carefully selective about the kind of toys you buy. The Let Girls be Girls campaign from Mumsnet is a timely reminder for us to prevent the commercialization and sexualization of childhood.
This way, girls grow up valuing themselves for what they are, and not how attractive they are to boys; with the idea that being female is not about pleasing others but in being a strong, confident and beautiful person – from the inside out.