Saturday, December 14, 2013

Are We Encouraging Our Kids To Grow Up Too Fast?

Yesterday morning I was watching the Today Show and they had a segment on companies who are designing high heeled and wedge shoes for little girls. It got me thinking; "Are we encouraging our children to grow up too fast?" As mentioned on the show, most little girls at one time or another put their mother's heels on and teeter around playing dress-up. It isn't uncommon for girls to pretend to be grown ups, playing mommy and baby, wearing someones dresses, shoes and jewelry, dreaming of what it is like to be an adult. It seems that nowadays, we are letting our innocent young children become "grown ups", or at least look like them, far too early.

Take the recent controversy over Victoria's Secret's 'Bright Young Things' line of lingerie that had many parents up in arms. The company claims it was targeting college-age spring breakers with its neon colors and sparkly, girly embellishments. This may be, but apparently the company's "Chief Financial Officer Stuart Burgdoerfer made it clear when asked about Victoria’s Secret’s PINK lingerie line that they are trying to reach a teen audience. “When somebody’s 15 or 16 years old, what do they want to be? They want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college, and that’s part of the magic of what we do at PINK,” said Burgdoerfer." When did we go from dressing up in our mother's clothes to allowing our children to wear thongs with "Call Me" on the crotch?

Between us, hubby and I have 4 girls - 5-month-old, 8-year-old and and 9-year-old twins. The 8 and 9-year-old girls play all the typical girly games; Barbies, baby dolls, dress-up. They put lip gloss and scented body lotion on. They love getting their nails done and are always trying to do something with their hair. I try not to encourage the older style clothes, but between TV shows with kids dressed like 20-somethings, the other kids at school, and the limited clothing inventory at the popular stores, it is hard to get them to agree to the knee-length shorts and regular t-shirts over the skimpy spaghetti straps and cootchie cutters that everyone else seems to be wearing.

Now, I am no prude by any stretch of the imagination. I don't expect them to walk around in floor length, burlap sacks. We do live in Florida and bikinis and flip flops are an acceptable dress code at most places. I wonder though, if there is too much emphasis on being pretty, older and stylish and not enough on just being a kid. What happened to playing outside all day and only watching cartoons on a Saturday morning? Times are different than when we were children. I have a rule in our house that the TV is not to be on all day and has parental controls set so that they cannot watch anything over PG. They can play on the computer for 30 minutes each day on websites with games that are approved my me first. 

Even with all the limitations I have set, there are still kids channels that have shows like Victorious, iCarly and Sam and Cat, that feature tweens dressed as though they were in college, talking about boys, kissing and are usually involved in various other activities that may or may not be appropriate for young audiences. There is typically the popular main character and his/her sidekick, who is oftentimes not portrayed as the brightest crayon in the box. After sitting through a 30-minute episode of one of these kids shows I literally feel like I lost more brain cells than I did throughout my entire college career. All the drugs and booze in Tallahassee ain't got nothin' on the mind numbing qualities of what kids these days find entertaining.

Whatever happened to The Flintstones, Tom and Jerry and The Looney Tunes? They have been replaced by kids trying to look older than they are talking about things that are too mature for their age. It isn't just the shows themselves. What about the commercials advertising hair styling products, fake tanning companies and make up? Why are those playing on children's television stations? Why does ABC Family advertise shows like Pretty Little Liars and Twisted when 6, 8 and 9-year-old kids are watching a PG rated movie on a Friday night? Half the time the hubby and I feel like we have to mute the TV. 

So what do we do? Encase our babies in bubble wrap and not let them out of their rooms until they are 35? Of course not. Let's just take time to help them be kids. Be silly, make them play outside, build forts and run through the sprinklers. Shut off the TV's, iPads, tablets, video game consoles and smartphones. Read books, plant flowers, go for walks. Allow them run through mud puddles, slide on their knees in the grass and drip ice-cream down their faces in the hot sun. Teach them that life is about more than who has the coolest clothes, prettiest hair and highest heels.

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