The Sexualization of Early Childhood

Surprisingly the topic of sexualization did not surprise me at all because the children in this generation is growing up a lot faster than they did when I was a child. Children as young as 2 and 3 are listening, rapping and singing songs about sex, drugs, violence,
murder, and guns all because the parents expose them to this type of music and genre. “Many industries make an obscene amount of money using sex and violence to market their products to children. Whatever their race, ethnic group, economic status, or gender, and whether they can afford to buy a lot or very few of these products, children are deeply affected” (Levin & Kilbourne, 2009, p. 2). Children imitate things that they see and hear adults and older children say and do. According to Levine and Kilbourne (2009) “… children who are learning to look and act in ways that disturb and even shock many adults. But these children are acting in ways that make perfect sense given the sexualized environment that surrounds them” (p. 2). In this day and time nothing is off limits as to what children say, do, or even wear because it is the norm for their generation. It seems like everything is acceptable in their generation.

I have a six-year-old son and he has gotten in trouble for saying something about a picture of a woman. He had a video game booklet that had pictures of the animated men and women. Well one woman in particular was dressed provocatively and he saw the picture. Upon him getting on his after-school van, a teacher overheard him say “she is hot as f***” and he was written up for that. I could not figure out where he learned how to say that because I do not talk like that and I screen what he watches on television and his tablet. I fail to realize that he is surrounded by other children and adults when he is in school and at other family members’ houses. How quickly was I reminded that children are like sponges, soaking in all they observe in their surroundings. As a professional, I have little girls in my classroom that dress inappropriately for their ages. They wear short shorts, tight pants or leggings, spaghetti string shirts or belly shirts.  I do not like when they come in dressed that way because I would not dress my daughter that way because there are a lot of pedophiles around and young boys should not be exposed to that at their ages either. But what can one expect when the parents dress that way themselves? Some of my boys come in with “wife beaters” on and with their pants sagging and they are 4 and 5 years of age. Just the other day, one of my little 7-year-old girls told me that my son was her boyfriend and that when they get older they are going to get married and be husband and wife. I kindly told her that she was too young to be talking about a boyfriend and getting married. I told her that my son does not have a girlfriend and that his education comes first.

Regardless of how much exposure, whether big or little, children encounter in a sexualized childhood it will have a negative impact on their healthy development. Levin and Kilbourne (2009) claim “violence and sexualization that saturate marketing and media… limit opportunities for children to develop as whole people and undermine the very foundation necessary for children to actualize their full potential and to value and respect themselves and others” (p. 6). When children are exposed to these messages, the foundation for understanding and being able to form healthy relationships when they are older will cause confusion. Girls will grow up thinking that they will have to dress inappropriately like the women in the music videos or television show. Girls perceive themselves as objects, and center their self-worth on how striking they are, using the media to compare themselves to the awareness of the so called “ideal” beauty.  The boys will be impacted as well from the messages in regards in viewing girls or women. Boys grow up confused when they hear songs that call women derogatory names, and see women dressed in little to no clothing.  Sooner or later boys learn that girls are objects, and will see them through the same media scope. “Both girls and boys, but especially girls, are pushed into precocious sexuality in appearance and behavior long before they understand the deeper meaning of relationships or the sexual behavior they’re imitating” (Levin & Kilbourne, 2009, p. 3).  One way to minimize the negative impact on children is that an early childhood professional could work with families to create home environments that limit children’s exposure to inappropriate media/experiences. The best way to fight this problem is to support the parents without putting the blame on them.  In creating a close relationship with families, the teacher will be aware when these issues arise.  It is our responsibility to help parents work through the problems without judging and blaming (Levin & Kilbourne, 2009).

In learning about sexualization on this week it has really raised my awareness of the sexualization of early childhood. I had no realization as to how young children are so influenced by sexualization. I thought that it would have a more negative imp
act on the old
er children but in reality it is starting at younger ages. Most efforts to restrain
sexualization is focused on adolescent girls, despite the groundwork being started in the early childhood years, and that boys are equally affected (Levin & Kilbourne, 2009). To make an observable impact on young children’s development, we as educators must start earlier than adolescence, and focus on both genders to truly make a difference. With the help of intervention of parents, educators, and the community it is imperative to regain control of the sexualized environment that continue to demoralize children’s healthy sexual development.

Reference

Levin, D.E., & Kilbourne, J. (2009).  [Introduction]. So sexy so soon: The new sexualized childhood and what parents can do to protect their kids (pp. 1-8). New York: Baltimore Books. Retrieved from: http://dianeelevin.com/sosexysosoon/introduction.pdf

 

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3 thoughts on “The Sexualization of Early Childhood

  1. Dionna,
    I’m really concerned with the sexually exploitation and violence in today’s music. CBC News (2009) reports that teens spend an average of two hours a day listening to music. Songs that objectify woman are sending a negative message to our girls but to the boys as well. Like you mentioned, when boys see this type of sexual degradation of woman they are confused. Many pediatric groups have warned that children who listen to these types of music are more likely to be aggressive, promiscuous and anti-social(CBC News, 2009). The Popular culture/media is quick to point out that there is no proven link between listening to this type of music and acting on it.

    Reference

    CBC News, (2009). Explicit lyrics tied to changes in kids’ behaviour – Technology & Science – CBC News. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/explicit-lyrics-tied-to-changes-in-kids-behaviour-1.795656

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  2. Dionna, I really enjoyed your post and the pictures where so vivid. I feel that the media has taken control of our children. No matter how we try to protect them and monitor what they see or do, they will still learn these behavior. A lot of children, learn from their peers and they do things because they think it is cool. We as educator must correct and respond to the behavior immediately so that we can help correct the behavior.

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  3. Dionna,
    Your post was great ! I was born in the early 80s and I have to agree with you that our children are exposed to way more that what we were when we were coming up. I am reminded of my Godsister who before she was 2 years old and could say her ABCs she could rap a whole rap song word for word. Everyday I see children walking down the halls singing and dancing to inappropriate songs while at the same time they are struggling with reading and math. Although as parents, teachers, and educators we cannot control everything our children are exposed to we have to do our best to discuss what is appropriate and inappropriate. I have a 16 year old daughter who I often discuss what is and is not age appropriate. I can only hope that what I teach her sticks when I am not around and that is the same for the children in our classroom, centers, and schools.

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