So Long, Wonder Years This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

February 25, 2009
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“I want fabulous, that is my simple request. All things fabulous, bigger and better and best. Fetch me my Jimmy Choo flip-flops. Where is my pink Prada tote? I need my Tiffany hair band. And then I can go for a float.”

I can’t tell you how many times I have witnessed a live karaoke version of this “High School Musical 2” song performed by the three little girls I babysit. It took only one of their shows for me to realize what the media is doing to the youth of our nation. The first few lyrics are already teaching young girls to ­demand a perfect life and boss whoever is nearest to “fetch” their materialistic fashion products.

And it’s not just these girls who have been sucked into the brainwashing wave – it’s our little sisters, cousins, nieces, and neighbors too. Everywhere I go I see little girls dressed in super low-riding shorts, perfectly matching sparkly Hannah Montana belly shirts that bring out their glittery blue eye ­shadow. And with this I shed a tear and bid adieu to what we used to know as childhood, for it seems to me that the media in America today is causing adolescents, specifically females, to grow up much too fast and in the wrong way.

There are many “role models” for girls today who perhaps aren’t doing such a great job. One of the little girls I babysit is a big fan of a Disney star. She even dressed up as her for Halloween. I can imagine this 10-year-old, and many others, wanting to decorate her school binder with pictures and searching for her in Google Images. Terrifying but true: the very first picture that comes up is of this star in her underwear. This isn’t just one bad egg in the carton; in the next one she’s actually nude though thankfully blacked out in the appropriate (or should I say ­inappropriate) areas, and multiple pictures follow of the same variety. I’m really glad that young people are dressing like that for Halloween. Trick-or-treat, Grandma, the times are a-changing!

This is truly saddening because these celebrity role models actually do make an impression on our youth. A study by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute found that 40 percent of 9- and 10-year-old girls were trying to lose weight. Research into Saturday morning toy commercials noted that 50 percent of those aimed at girls spoke about physical attractiveness. But it’s not just these stars and commercials that are setting bad examples. Disney released “High School Musical” underwear for little girls with the words “Dive In” printed on the front. There is no way Disney could manufacture those without someone saying, “Hey, maybe people won’t think we mean dive into the swimming pool …” I think Walt just flipped over in his grave.

I’m not saying that we should lock up the children and throw away all ­televisions and computers. It’s healthy to see what the real world is like through the media to a certain extent. Some parents who shelter their children go too far at times, in my opinion. An online article ­reported that in one scene of Hannah Montana’s 3-D concert movie, she wasn’t wearing a seat belt. The article goes on to say that 65 percent of 13- to 15-year-olds killed in auto accidents in 2006 weren’t wearing seat belts. The blame for that cannot be placed on Hannah Montana; that’s going overboard, even if she did slip up.

Our world is quickly changing, and it may seem impossible to make an impact if you aren’t involved in the media, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Parents and other positive adult influences can really make a difference by talking to young people and ­letting them know that they are beautiful just the way they are. Show them a couple of Dove commercials to boost morale and pop in an episode of “Ed, Edd n Eddy” or “Recess” to show them that they can still be a kid and be themselves.

Sometimes we need to take a step back and think about what helped shape us. That’s why next time I babysit those singing and dancing girls, I’m going to bring along an Elton John CD to show them what music really is, and a copy of “Peter Pan,” who taught us to never grow up. If you know a young lady who is influenced by this type of media, step up and show her what manners, humility, and a little bit of fashion decency really look like. I can only hope that someday if I have a daughter, she’ll think Jimmy Choo is a type of bubble gum.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 194 comments. Post your own now!

PurpleFeather said...
Apr. 14, 2010 at 4:21 pm
Excellent! I have the same exact opinions, but everyone seems to think I'm crazy. They act like it's okay to be indecent. I think the media is desensitizing us. You did a really great job with this.
thejokerlaughsatyou replied...
Apr. 14, 2010 at 5:44 pm
I definitely agree with this article. Though I was never the typical little girl who liked to dress up my Barbies (I made them into action heroes instead), I babysit children who sound just like the three little girls mentioned in this article. Is it so hard for their parents to let them watch Robin Hood or Aladdin, or some movie that won't try to teach them that beauty is everything?
laptoploser1220 said...
Apr. 14, 2010 at 6:52 am
Oh my god, I love this article. You did an amazing job (:
S-Chique00 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Apr. 14, 2010 at 1:52 pm
absolutely brilliant, you perfectly conveyed a message which i have been proclaiming for years! excellent work :)
the_Horsegirl This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 13, 2010 at 3:06 pm
Wonderful essay, I was blown away by it.
quinsha_klose said...
Mar. 29, 2010 at 10:38 am

huft, speechless when i read it.

only one sentence, like this article.

firstsnowfalls This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 23, 2010 at 8:48 pm
Completely agreed! Thanks so much for writing.
Boulangere said...
Mar. 23, 2010 at 8:26 pm
You have a lot of great points in this article. Great job babysitting- I babysit a little boy and I don't know WHAT all is going into his head. It's so sad to see the changes going on over the last decade.
Phantom_Girl This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 8, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I know what you mean. I got a job babysitting a little boy. I thought I would have my hands full-taking him to the park, playing tag, all that good stuff. I didn't do anything...he sat on the couch and played video games the whole time. He didn't even budge when I suggested that we go play on the swings. What on earth? When I was a kid, you didn't even get to finish the word swing before I was out the door. You got out "SWI" before I was screaming like a banshee and pulling my sneakers on.more »)

artist-on-the-loose said...
Mar. 23, 2010 at 2:01 pm
Thank you, those girls are very lucky to have you.
I agree with other commenters that "Fabulous", while dreadful, is not so bad in message when taken in context. The writer may not have seen High School Musical I & II and only heard the song. I saw it in 5th grade (I was never a fan), and I can tell you that a) Sharpay was not admirable, but b) to me, she was the most interesting character because she wasn't all sugar cookies and rainbows...but maybe that was just me.more »)
crazyandshort said...
Mar. 18, 2010 at 11:34 am
Oh my gosh, I totally agree with you! I used to be a HUGE fan of Britney Spears, and then all the scandals started and I went "OH, geez, maybe I shouldn't look up to her. She shaved almost all her hair off! That's smart! NOT!" I think we should educate the younger persuasion they need to look out and realize that not everything they see their favorite stars do is glamorous and great.
ZadaRox101 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 9, 2010 at 7:40 pm
I completely agree with your article, but I have to say, Fabulous is just a fun song and the point of the movie is to think of others instead of yourself. It shows how self absorbed Sharpay is and how she changes through the movie. But I definitely completely agree on how our youth is changing.
TuffGurl replied...
Oct. 29, 2010 at 2:15 pm
What I wonder (and you said that they should think about others than themselves), why is one of the songs in "High School Musical 2" called "All for One"?
BlackHoleHighAlumni This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Oct. 29, 2010 at 2:21 pm
Because part of thinking of others instead of yourself is working together. If you work together, there's no room for selfishness.
Phantom_Girl This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 8, 2010 at 1:58 pm

I gotta agree with you on that point. I like this article, but the song "Fabulous" is supposed to show how ridiculous Sharpay is in obsessing over everything fabulous. Granted, little girls could take that song out of context, but overall, it's pretty harmless.

Other than that, I completely agree with this article.

naturelover123 said...
Mar. 8, 2010 at 9:12 pm
Kids need to be carefree and like themselves for who they are. It seems like the media is telling them to grow up too fast these days and making them worry too much about looking hot.
Annirae said...
Mar. 1, 2010 at 8:21 pm
I think you did a really awesome job stating your opinion while still staying cool, calm, and collected and not throwing all the blame on one person or at one thing. I totally agree with you, although this has been happening for ages.
little-miss-sunshine said...
Mar. 1, 2010 at 5:57 pm
Oh... I wish I were a kid. I am a young teen so it's close, but it's not the same as being the young innocent carefree child I used to be. However when you tell kids things like that about enjoying your childhood, by being a child they scoff. This makes me sad. Wonderful article.
Dreamer5712 replied...
Apr. 8, 2010 at 7:09 pm
I know exactly what you mean. I remember when I was younger I used to always ask my mom stuff and all she'd tell me was "No. But, don't take it the wrong way. I just want to protect your innocence." I would just pout and find the answer to my question at school the next day. One of my friends works at a school where PRESCHOOLERS know more about drugs than she does. It's really sad to watch what's happening to our youth these days.
Vanessa C. said...
Feb. 7, 2010 at 7:36 pm
I think your wrong in saying that Disney Channel stars are influencing how fast children are growing up. I mean really? Just because girls like to sing "High School Musical 2" songs about having fabulous things doesn't necessarily mean they're going to grow up to be bratty tyrants expecting things. Honestly its up to someone's parents to teach them fact from fiction. What's so wrong with girls having a little girly fun. Besides there's plenty wrong with sit... (more »)
IzzieArtist replied...
Mar. 1, 2010 at 3:47 pm
Its plenty wrong for kids to sit in front of the TV period! I don't think you should be saying thats its fine to watch High School Musical and Hannah Montana and saying its stupid for kids to watch cartoons. Kids today surprisingly understand that a cartoon isn't real, but they think that Miley Cyrus's life is real. I really think you should give this article some more thought before you trash it down.
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