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.

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?


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.