13 Going On 21

Image by Sydney Helland

Sex sells. We all know it and we all witness it. Beautiful women are used in advertising, TAG commercials focus on sexual activity. Pop culture icons dress in ways that leave little to the imagination. We are supposed to be media literate even as these blatant notions of sexuality are exposed to us countless times each day. We should be old enough now to realize that the image projected to us is not always moral. We understand that sex sells, and may even buy into that type of advertising.

For the most part, our age group understands that the beautiful skinny model is only one type of person and seeing her does not alter our perception and acceptance of our own bodies. Children do not. In today’s world, more and more children are unhappy with their bodies. Little girls are dieting because they are not as thin as Paris Hilton. Ten year olds are wearing tighter and more provocative clothes because that is what the Pussycat Dolls wear. Young girls often get caught up in the sexualized image of our world, and as a result they grow up too fast.

When walking into a typical children’s clothing store aimed for girls aged 5-10, spaghetti strap tank tops, slinky shirts, plaid miniskirts and short shorts are everywhere in view. Girls gravitate towards these looks. Gone are the days of huge yellow sweaters with kittens on them. Girls can look like their favourite singer or movie star. When presented with a miniskirt or a pair of cords, the choice is obvious for a child.

This new clothing style also has huge implications for a child’s body image. 80 percent of children in grades 3-6 are upset with their body and wish that they could change it in some way. The most common change? To be thinner. When shown pictures of women with various body types, these young girls often said that the average healthy woman at an acceptable Lose Weight Exercise was too “fat” and needed to shed some pounds. Girls in grade three should not be worried about their Lose Weight Exercise. They should be dreaming of ponies, playing sports, making friends, and of course being fearful of cooties. The odds don’t get better as age increases. Forty percent of nine and ten year olds are on a diet. Many young girls equate skinniness with happiness.

This new way of dressing has caused an increase in sexual activity. 2 out of 5 girls between the ages of 13 and 15 have had sex. The statistics are even higher for oral sex. This has led to an increase in sexually transmitted diseases as most girls at this age do not talk to their parents about their sex life, and are too nervous to ask for condoms. Those who engage in earlier sexual activity have a higher instance of experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

Youth have become overly sexualized. Negative body images plague young girls, a desire to be skinny is wished by many. Preteen sex is becoming more and more common, and with it comes the increase of STDs. What can we do to stop this phenomenon? Talk with children, brothers and sisters , nieces and nephews. Portray a positive body image and explain the birds and the bees at an appropriate age. Oh, and before I forget, do I look fat in this?