Childhood Hurried Along....
From Toddlerhood to High School Musical…it happens in a big hurry.
As a mother of a preschooler, I am shocked by the number of unhealthy images out there for our young girls. Despite the lip-service society plays on eating disorders, we continue to be bombarded with paper-thin images of preteens, teens and grown women. Not to mention the fact that pretend play in which children imagine their own heroes, heroines and make believe scenarios is disappearing and being replaced by themes that are either mass marketed, or highly structured activities as opposed to free play.
The commercialization of childhood has reached a very toxic point in our culture. When we think about it, girls are indoctrinated by the Disney Princesses at a much younger age than previous generations. Toddlers and preschoolers generally are the most infatuated with Ariel, Princess Aurora and the gang. Think about the romantic themes shown to a 2 and 3 year old that will shape their views of themselves at a very young and impressionable age. Girls understand early on that being pretty will win the heart of the prince and save the day. We quickly move on to High School Musical and Hannah Montana which is marketed on the heels of the princesses. Most girls have exposure to adolescent themes by the age of 5 and sometimes earlier. Hannah Montana and High School Musical have both been aggressively marketing to the highly-desirable “tween” market, long believed to have been a large untapped resource in the commercial arena. However, increasingly girls as young as 2 and 3 are being exposed to High School Musical. I question the wisdom as to why we want our daughters going to elementary school exposed to highly unrealistic, romantic themes that serve to reinforce the helplessness of a female who is not socially acceptable, pretty enough or thin enough. We must be popular, pretty and thin and maybe that high school football captain will look our way. When this is a form of entertainment, widely acceptable and barely questioned you have to wonder why.
Is it really harmless? I don’t think so when you factor in the increase in adolescent premature sexuality, teen pregnancy, teen suicide, teen violence (with violence among girls on the rise), depression, substance abuse and eating disorders. I also feel that among moms in general they often seem to promote these interests by either a lack of awareness of the affects of these stereotypes, or justifying it by saying “all the girls” love the Disney heroines or the Bratz. Mothers often seem reluctant to put the brakes on some of the programming for fear that their child will somehow not fit in, or will be exposed to it anyway in other forms. The latter of which may be true since you can easily purchase High School Musical, Bratz and Hannah Montana underwear in toddler sizes.