How young is too young?

In recent research into the role the media plays in conveying the issue of body image in children, I was constantly drawn to websites and articles mentioning the ‘sexualisation of children’ in magazines and Reality Television, to name a few. It’s somewhat off topic as one would not usually link body image to the sexualisation of children. However it is extremely important and must not be overlooked, considering the impact it has on children and society today.

For years the fashion industry has come under criticism whether it be too thin, too fat, too tall, too short, too old, too young. However the issue of sexualisation of children through media has hit a new high (or should that be a new low), during a controversial French vogue photo shoot in 2011. Girls aged as young as 6 are named ‘sex vixens’ by Xeni Jardin in his article on

The media constantly bombards consumers with misleading facts to represent their debate, as Xeni Jardin mistakes a 10 year old for a 6 year old, naming her with inappropriate remarks such as “whore”.  Nonetheless the photographs are boarder-line ‘sexy’.  However the word sexy and 6 year old should never be used in the same sentence. EVER. It is just wrong. The controversy behind the French spread further emphasised the medias ability to manipulate content, as the intent of the photo shoot does not come through when reading misleading titles, claiming the children are whores and hookers.  Conversely when one is shown the correct facts the irony can be clearly appreciated (the irony being solely to mock America’s extensive sexualisation of children through beauty pageants).

The media have represented ‘Cadeaux’ in such a negative light there is no wonder controversy has surfaced. Here we can consider the public sphere and its relationship with the media conveying the photo shoot in a negative way. If everyone is naming them sexy then why should you believe otherwise? Well I’m here to tell you. (In my opinion) the children are playing dress ups, wearing their mothers clothing and heels that are obviously too big. Wearing bracelets as anklets and playing with mummy’s makeup. There is no common notion that sexy, in any way relates to dress ups. If you display a photo of your daughter playing ‘dress ups’, do we automatically think she’s a hooker, as this article states? NO and this is what the media is persuading us to believe.

A recent article in The Sydney Morning Herald shows great emphasis of the media’s impact on society today.”Social media is spreading these images further and we’re seeing various health problems with kids, things like eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression.” The government is considering implementing tougher legislation to protect the health of our children by sheltering them from sexualized and other inappropriate images. However where is the line drawn? As we can see from the examples I have discussed earlier, the media controls that line and is drawing it for us.

About Nicola Salter

Nicola. 21. UOW Graduate
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