Children are growing up too fast. They are growing up in a toxic atmosphere of consumerism, media overexposure, and aggressive marketing. Cyberrevolution offers free communication and uninhibited visuals that sexualize and objectify children at a young age. Body image and appearance become the main focus. Long before they understand what it is to be sexual beings, sexual behavior is internalized.
Researchers in Britain claim that boys and girls reach puberty before the age of 8. Their findings showed that 1 in 6 girls menstruate before the age of 8. Fifty years ago, I in 100 girls started menstruating at that age. Children also reach adolescence between the ages of 12 and 13.
Precocious puberty has its dangers. The rush of hormones in puberty can cause boys to have sex at a young age. Teen pregnancies are on the rise. The irony of this is that although they are physically capable, they are emotionally immature and ill-equipped to handle the consequences of their behavior. 40% of 13-15 year olds are no longer virgins.
Children’s websites like Missbimbo.com encourage children around the world to enjoy Bimboland. Here, the images of curvy, bulging-eyed girls are projected as if they are in fashion. You can create your own bimbo and become a fashion star.
Nuts.co.uk has an absorbing game in which 230 photos of topless girls can be combined with any of 10,000 breasts in a game called “Assess My Breasts”.
At the beginning of January of this year, two new plastic surgery applications were launched on the market. They are called “Plastic Surgery”, “Plastic Doctor and Plastic Hospital Office for the versions of Barbie”. The instruction reads: “This unfortunate girl has so much extra weight that no diet can help her. At our clinic she can undergo surgery called liposuction that will make her slim and beautiful. Suck on the extra fat. Will your doctor operate?” “Although the general public shows their outrage on Twitter, the number of visitors to the site tracks its popularity.
The “pinkification of childhood” or the color coding of children’s merchandise is another way of portraying girls as purely decorative, pleasing to the eye, and delightful.
The hypersexualized images to which children are exposed and the easy availability of pornography are turning children into precocious mini-adults. The loss of innocence comes too soon. They grow up with a distorted image of the body and human sexuality. Linda Papadopaulos a psychologist calls it the “pornification of society” due to the mainstreaming of the sex industry.
A permissive family atmosphere is another reason that children are prematurely sexualized. Parents should be good role models and not shirk their responsibilities. A mother dragging her 5- or 6-year-old to a beauty salon for facials, lipstick, eyebrow plucking, and hair styling is encouraging the child to believe that the only thing that matters it is appearances. Mothers even compete with each other to have the best-dressed and best-groomed daughters. There was a time when children wanted to be doctors, nurses, or teachers. Today, their goal is to be fashion models or movie stars.
Lack of supervision is a growing problem when both parents are working. There is no one to control what they see on the network or television or who their friends are. Parents have no control over who they meet on Facebook or other social media, and what kind of interaction occurs. Exposure to pornography is rampant.
Parents with busy schedules buy themselves out of overindulgence. Too much pocket money or even the use of credit cards is a way to pamper them. While girls search for fashionable clothes and accessories, boys buy expensive computer games, videos, or gadgets. Children absorb consumer tendencies. The impact of brands is so great that they want to dress up as their favorite characters and wear only the brands they promote. Girls want to strut and twirl like Miley Cyrus or Beyonce and boys want to imitate Sharook Khan or Brad Pitt. Their “power of annoyance,” the ability to influence parents to buy what they like, increases.
Bad effects of sexualization:
1. Promiscuity. This can lead to casual flirting, posting sexy photos online, experimenting with sex even though they have little sexual knowledge.
2. Drugs and alcohol become part of your lifestyle, leading to irresponsible behavior and health risks.
3. Unwanted pregnancies.
4. Dropout from school
5. Social problems.
6. Anorexia due to your desire to lose weight.
7. Juvenile offenses, including rape committed by children between the ages of 7 and 12.
8. Victims of pedophiles.
9. Attracted to act in porn videos.
10. Anxiety and depression. Suicide many times.
How to protect your children:
• Provide a stable family environment. Children who grow up in such a home develop self-esteem and social confidence. Basic rules and guidelines should be established regarding behavior, i.e. when can a girl wear adult clothing and makeup? At what age are dating allowed? There must be open communication between parents and children. Talking to them will encourage them to discuss their problems. Parents also have the responsibility to monitor children’s use of computers, iPads, phones and to crack down on suspicious activities.
• Sex education by teachers and parents. Children are curious. Teachers must be trained to communicate on the sensitive topic of sex. They should have the right resources to teach about body image and wellness. Sex education should start at 7 or 8 years old. Children should be taught to focus on healthy bodies rather than beautiful bodies. The need for a healthy diet, hygienic habits, regular exercise, and outdoor activities should be emphasized. Parents should not be ashamed to talk to their children about their bodies. They should pay attention to the questions asked and give honest answers. When a child reports a disturbing event, it must be investigated. You must be sure that you will support him against the abuser. Children should also be educated about the dangers of viewing pornography, sexting, revealing too much personal information online, or uploading too many photos.
• It is important to teach children to recognize sexual abuse. They must know how to distinguish between ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’ and be bold enough to reject the latter. Both parents and teachers need to explain what wrong behavior is and how to avoid it.
• The media must be self-regulatory.
• Mini-talent contests should be prohibited. In September 2013, France voted to ban pageants for girls under the age of 16, in an attempt to stop the hypersexualization of boys. “Let’s not allow our girls to believe that their only value is their appearance,” said Chantal Jouanno, a former sports minister in Nicholas Sarkozy’s government. “Let’s not allow commercial interests to outweigh social interests.” Those who flaunted the rule were punished with two years in prison and a fine of 30,000 euros.
• Severe punishment for pedophiles and child traffickers.
• Politicians and industrialists must also share the responsibility to make the world a safe place for our children.
All children need help and encouragement to learn to take responsibility for themselves. Self-respect, the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, and resourcefulness are what will give you the confidence to grow up as stable individuals in a world that flaunts harmful lifestyles.