Let children be children

I have been sucked in by the American reality television show Dance Moms. I’m not proud of the fact. It showcases everything vile about reality television and each episode makes me weep for the human condition. But it’s so addictive. The show follows a group of mothers and their children (aged six to fourteen) as the kids get ready to compete at a big national dance competition. The dance coach is abusive, manipulative and a prime example of the saying ‘those who can’t do, teach’. The mums sit in a little fishbowl room above the studio and watch her yell at their kids for eight hours straight each day.

I have been sucked in by the American reality television show Dance Moms. I’m not proud of the fact. It showcases everything vile about reality television and each episode makes me weep for the human condition. But it’s so addictive. The show follows a group of mothers and their children (aged six to fourteen) as the kids get ready to compete at a big national dance competition. The dance coach is abusive, manipulative and a prime example of the saying ‘those who can’t do, teach’. The mums sit in a little fishbowl room above the studio and watch her yell at their kids for eight hours straight each day.

The episode I watched last night, however, was a different story. The kids trotted onto the stage at a dance competition in a predominantly Amish area wearing next to nothing. What they did have on was strappy, leather and beyond inappropriate. The dance was even worse. Open legs, suggestive looks, a seven year old slapping her bum at the audience.

And at the end of the debacle? Every one the mums who had sat by and let this dance teacher degrade, humiliate and abuse their children (and paid handsomely for the privileging) was up in arms. They were furious. And very, very articulate about exactly how unhappy they were. Why the sudden change?

Because there is something truly awful about the premature sexualisation of children. It’s just not okay. It’s not an issue with wriggle room, you can’t justify it or explain it away. It’s just wrong. And any adult who allows or actively facilitates children being seen in a highly sexualised manner is entirely abusing the duty of care placed upon them by society. And that’s what these dance mums were saying. We’re the adults. It’s our responsibility to teach our kids what’s okay.

The Australian Medical Association’s call for an inquiry into the premature sexualisation of children in marketing and advertising is a good wake up call, and it adds one more layer to the issue. No longer is it just not okay on a moral level, it is now clear that advertising which targets young people using sexualised images of children is damaging to the mental health and self-esteem of our kids.

So next time I see an advertisement with a skimpily dressed child I’m not just going to shrug it off. I’m going to add my complaint to the pile, in the hopes that one more letter will make the difference to what the advertising watchdog deems appropriate.

More information

To read the full story about the AMA’s call for an inquiry read the YOURLifeChoices news article Children sexualised in advertising.

Is the sexualisation of young-looking people acceptable if the model is actually over 18 years of age?

Yes
No
 



Have your say
Do you agree with Rachel’s point of view? Or is she completely overreacting? Comment below with your opinion, or give Rachel and our other subscribers some pointers on how they might object to inappropriate advertising material.



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    COMMENTS

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    PlanB
    4th Apr 2012
    12:32pm
    Yes I do agree with Rachel, I think it is dreadful to see these children put forward in this way--some VERY young and dressed like whores and IMO they also look ridiculous and it is way out of line. Their parents should be down right ashamed. Let them be kids !!
    Nan Norma
    4th Apr 2012
    1:15pm
    Have you noticed how it is only the little girls that are being sexualised? Who benefits from all this? Certainly not the child. There are men out there, not necessarily pedophiles that will start to look upon these little girls in a different light than they would wearing age appropriate clothes. That is the danger. Lots be honest, it's all about making money, and of course satisfying a mother need for attention.

    4th Apr 2012
    1:47pm
    Very sad, and parents living through their children. Let the children have a normal childhood.
    juliejay14
    4th Apr 2012
    3:19pm
    Most advertising with children involved is totally appropriate...just look at catalogues from the major retailers and brands and they use children in those ads in a perfectly acceptable way e.g. Myer, Target, KMart, Country Road, Pumpkin Patch etc. So parents need to be more discerning in what they allow their children to participate in and some companies need to employ advertising people with integrity. You can all vote with your feet when you see companies advertising in inappropriate ways as well. So everyone has a responsibility to protect our children. Nevertheless, children in households where parents just simply can't be bothered being parents, will be exposed to other corrupting media, such as raunchy video clips, song lyrics etc from a range of sources, so there's a multitude of ways a child's life can be exposed to inappropriate material causing them to be "grown-up" well before their time.
    Peaceful
    4th Apr 2012
    3:30pm
    I agree with much of what's already been expressed - especially from 'JulieJay14' - we have to be aware that the sexualisation of children is overtly found in many other arenas. For example:
    I attended an event at the weekend at the Macarthur Centre for Sustainability at Mt Annan, and was horrified to see on a stage - a group of very young girls 'dancing' , using what I would consider as provocative moves and poses.
    I expressed my concerns to the Centre's Co-ordinator, but she said it was the responsibility of the School of dance.
    I believe we, as adults, all have a responsibility to speak up about our concerns on these kinds of issues.
    Nan Norma
    4th Apr 2012
    3:38pm
    The centre's coordinator was wrong. As the centre's coordinator she/he was responsible for approving the enertainmant. Had a group of naked men gone on stage they would have been stopped immediatly.Everybody wants to pass the buck.
    Peaceful
    4th Apr 2012
    4:51pm
    Yes, I do know that - I was merely mentioning what her response to me was!! And that is so typical I find here - as you quite rightly say - everyone passes the buck.
    Nan Norma
    4th Apr 2012
    8:43pm
    Irealize you knew, I was just agreeing with what you said.
    Actual Cat
    4th Apr 2012
    7:54pm
    My sister took her boy out of a state school in kindergarten because of the sexualised 'dancing' that was going on at concerts - this was 25 years ago and it's obviously worse now. Children learn from adults the rights and wrongs of things. I'm dismayed at seeing little children dressed up as young adults and more particularly, little girls dressed up and dancing in suggestive ways - totally inappropriate and hopefully the AMA will conduct an enquiry. Kids deserve to have the healthy fun of childhood.
    Peaceful
    5th Apr 2012
    10:25am
    I was asked to sing at a Christmas event last Dec. at a childrens' indoor play venue in SW Sydney - and again was horrified at the young perfomers both by the style of dance, and choice of songs. Just as disturbing were the 'proud' parents taking photos of their little darlings - they just don't get it!!!
    Actual Cat
    5th Apr 2012
    10:44am
    That's right Peaceful. I can assume we are all over 50, which means we were little in the 1950s and before. Remember those times? Sexuality wasn't flaunted publicly by adults, on television or in movies, let alone in the exploitation of children. Now, even kids' movies have sexual undertones - it's ridiculous! I am heartily sick of sexual innuendo in so much that we see and hear these days.
    Peaceful
    5th Apr 2012
    11:19am
    Yes, I am over 60 actually, Actual Cat! And I do agree with your sentiments wholeheartedly!! Even on early morning news programmes, such as on Ch. 9 - I have recently emailed my disgust at the puerile , so-called 'humour' , and blatant sexually-orientated moves by Karl Stefanovic - that has all become 'par for the course' these days!
    Maggie
    5th Apr 2012
    3:13pm
    What's wrong with cute as a concept for young kids and not sexy. Kids will experiment on their own terms with mum's lipstick and high heels as dress up items and don't need to be flaunted as mini sex objects to gratify thier parents'
    warped sense of showing off their children.


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