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Sexual messages harming NZ children - studies

By Diane Cordemans

The Epoch Times
October 29
, 2007

 

Toys, clothes, music and celebrities promoting sexual messages are harming New Zealand children, says the National Council of Women of New Zealand (NCWNZ).

Studies in New Zealand and overseas have indicated that the increasing sexualisation of children is harming both their mental and physical development.

The evidence suggests that children who are exposed to sexual images suffer depression, eating disorders and lower self-esteem later in life.

With Christmas fast approaching the council are advising parents to buy age-appropriate items for their children and ignore the pressure from media and advertising campaigns.

NCWNZ national president Christine Low said they are concerned that the production, marketing, and retailing of children's products are leading to the sexualisation of children.

Letters to Telecomīs Santa online site before Christmas last year showed fashion and image concerns among primary school children. Girls as young as six, asked Santa for clothes, necklaces, earrings, and wedge shoes.

According to Times Online , dolls and toys bought 10 years ago for the 8-10 year age bracket are now being sold to children under six, and older children now prefer items previously sold to adolescents and teenagers.

The Bratz doll series, New Zealandīs top selling doll, are marketed to girls as young as four.

The pouty-lipped doll – some of which come dressed in provocative clothing including fishnet stockings, lingerie, leather, boa feathers, and in sexually suggestive poses - have been slammed by parents and child advocacy groups worldwide.

The council believes that Bratz dolls and celebrity stars such as Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, and pop group Pussycat Dolls have encouraged and popularized sexualized clothing.

T-shirts with suggestive slogans such as 'So many boys, so little time', crop tops, mini skirts, lingerie are being made and sold to girls as young as five-years-old.

"The increasing trend of sexualisation of children is detrimental to the well being of New Zealand's future generation of young people.

"Children, especially young girls, are now being bombarded and encouraged by magazines, television, the Internet and music videos to imitate the look of celebrities," Ms Low said.

Parents need to take a firm stance at a time when even eight-year-old girls are commonly seen wearing make up and inappropriate clothing, she said.

The wellbeing of their children should override any concerns they may have of being labelled "anti-fun" or over-protective, she said.

In Australia, lobbying by psychologists and child advocacy groups has prompted an inquiry by the Australian government into the increasing amount of sexually provocative advertising to children.

"Media and advertising agencies are turning kids, particularly young girls, into commodities, and the effect is devastating," Victorian Democrat Senator Lyn Allison said.

A report by the American Psychological Association points to the dangers when sexualisation leads to girls viewing themselves as objects.

"Studies on the cognitive and physical aspects associated with self-objectivisation may function to keep girls 'in their place' as objects of sexual attraction and beauty - limiting their free thinking and movement in the world."

"Girls' preoccupation with appearance ties up cognitive resources and will leave less time and mental energy for other pursuits."

Canterbury University Masters student Lorie Clark told The Press that children no longer have the chance to be children. She said pervasive media advertising is persuading children to grow up faster than they would otherwise.

But good parenting has a greater influence on girls in the 8–11 age group than do friends or the media, she said.

In England, parental groups have been very aggressive in opposing the distribution of sexualised toys.

Campaigners have compiled a list of the seven most offensively sexualised toys and have blacklisted and picketed retailers selling those products.

 

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