new life fellowship

serving jesus christ the king

Growing up too fast

Over the last number of years the demarcation line between what is ok for a twenty-something, a teenager and a pre-teen has become increasingly non-existent. Liz Hurley turned out at some event wearing a t-shirt with “Porn Star in Training” emblazoned across it, only for a chain of shops to market the same sloganed t-shirts at pre-teen girls.

And now things have dropped to a much lower age category. Shoe company Heelarious are producing miniature high heels in pink satin with a choice of diamante or leopardskin trim. They’re aimed, not even at toddlers, but at babies up to six months.

It doesn’t end there. Apparently you can also get miniature biker jackets, tiny Ray-Bans and baby designer handbags.

Whether it is dress (or lack of it), or make-up or accessories, there is an increasing sexualisation of children. Of course that’s not what mothers and retailers are aiming for; they see it all as harmless fun, turning the kids into little mini-me’s. What little girl hasn’t wanted to dress up like their mother, or put on mummy’s make-up? That’s always been part of growing up, but it was always part of fantasy, of dressing up and playing—not part of getting ready to go to the shops, or to next door’s birthday party.

This sexualisation of children—witness the extreme examples of pole-dancing kits for preteen High School Musical fans and Etam’s thongs for nine-year-olds—is staggeringly naïve. If someone abducted a child and made them dress like that and perform pole-dancing for him we would castigate him for being a sick weirdo, and demand that he be put on some sort of offenders register. But it seems acceptable if parents do it, or marketing gurus dream it up.

At the same time that we are increasingly conscious of strangers looking at our children, we appear to be increasingly foolish in how we let our children appear and act.

And what are we saying to our kids—that they aren’t acceptable unless they have this stuff, or look a certain way? That we’d prefer it if they were grown up rather than letting them be little children? That they are really just another one of our toys for us to play with?

We mourn the loss of innocence, the hurry to have a boyfriend/girlfriend, the rise in teenage pregnancy, the increase of sexually transmitted diseases. Now I’m not laying all that at the door of a pair of miniature high heels for babies, but rather at the mindset that produces them, and at the mindset that buys them and the host of other things mentioned.

Children are a precious gift and we need to be wise stewards in how we bring them up. We need to pay greater heed to what is aimed at them, and guard them from growing up in paths we don’t want them to start down.