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!

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 »)
Vanessa C. replied...
Mar. 2, 2010 at 5:16 pm
I'm not trashing the article I just disagree with the fact that by watching Hannah Montana or any other Disney program that someone's kid won't be able to discern the difference between real life and t.v. Why is it so surprising that kids understand that cartoons aren't real? Most kids learn that from a early age from picture books. So why wouldn't they know a sitcom isn't real? I think the real problem is that people are so afraid of traumatizing their kids min... (more »)
IzzieArtist replied...
Mar. 3, 2010 at 10:38 pm
What about them getting obsessed? Which all kids really have become crazed with HSM, and Hannah Montana. I mean really, HSM underwear? Saying "dive in"? Can't get more obsessed than that. What ever happened to Bear in the Big Blue House and I know everyone hates it now, but I learned a lot from Barney and Out of the Box. Kids have been brainwashed by disney channel's stupid shows that don't teach anything. All about being cool and fashionable and falling in love.
Vanessa C. replied...
Mar. 4, 2010 at 8:08 pm
Oh please! Like you weren't obsessed with some show as a kid. Most kids are like that. I was obsessed with Rugrats and God knows that wasn't too educational. But I didn't grow up to be a brat like Angelica. My parents taught me better. Plus you're acting as though HSM doesn't have any type of morals. The last time I checked those movies have all been about coming together to accomplish a common goal and being true to your who you are. You can't take one part of... (more »)
AsherJ replied...
Mar. 13, 2010 at 5:12 pm
I totally agree with izzieartist, the fact that shows on Disney and Nick have human kids acting (not cartoons) make it seem real to them. Example in Suite Life of Zack and Cody they constantly disobey/ed their mom and one day my brother disobeyed my mom and said a comment saying that "Zack and Cody did it too."
Vanessa C. replied...
Mar. 14, 2010 at 1:03 pm
Sounds like to me your brother was just trying to be cute. I mean that show always has them receiving consequences for their actions. Do you really think he's being brainwashed?
xBaByGiRrL22x replied...
Apr. 14, 2010 at 9:41 pm
I like ur pointz. It's just, the writer isn't specifically blaming one person or idea. Just pointing out that our youth is being sucked into the whole world of looks are everything. I don't believe they're becoming necessarily brainwashed, but I do think they're trying out the many different things that surround them whether those who are older see it good or bad. It's just wht kids do. They'll learn wht's right for themselves hopefully someday.
EmmaM replied...
Apr. 14, 2010 at 9:42 pm
I agree with AsherJ. My brother quotes popular kid shows, like iCarly and Penguins of Madagascar, all the time. I wouldn't use the word "brainwashed", but I don't think my brother is trying to be cute. He just watches this show all the time and has built certain phrases into his vocabulary. He isn't obsessed; he doesn't go into a store and look for iCarly shirts. Not that I don't agree with the article, but brainwashed isn't the correct word to use here.
Megan W. said...
Feb. 7, 2010 at 3:36 pm
everything that you said is 100% true. thank you so much for putting this out there for people to read.
Lucky.Deviant said...
Feb. 7, 2010 at 1:42 pm
This generation is fogetting their childhood. it's making me sad to think about what they'll say if someone asks them what the best part of their childhood was....
Linzeluu said...
Feb. 7, 2010 at 11:42 am
I AGREE WITH YOU! If Walt Disney saw what Disney had become, he would cry.
lily1411 said...
Jan. 25, 2010 at 6:43 pm
You don't know how many of my friends (and me!) agree with all of what you just said.
lux24 said...
Jan. 23, 2010 at 2:53 pm
I agree. everything has changed. When I was little I watched shows like spongebob,cat and dog...and movies like the fox and the hound but now I see kids watching family guy,south park. I have towo brothers one is seven and the other is ten and since they began to watch those shows they started saying all of these bad words that I'm not even allowed to say and when I hear them I just shake my head and feel disgusted. But I guess it's not really their fault it's their parents fault ... (more »)
fiftiesgal467 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 20, 2010 at 6:00 pm
Moving article! Excellent job. You're so right. It's not like when I was younger and people were into Disney princesses, now it's all hip hop and rock stars. Why is it that little kids are pressured to grow up?
pain_&_hate<3 said...
Jan. 16, 2010 at 8:17 pm
this is totaly true , i have a 5 year old sister and im wondering whats gonna happen to her When shes gets into her teens and and then she goes off and dose something she will regret like get pregnate or some thing WAY worse !
Allegria-Starling said...
Jan. 16, 2010 at 4:14 am
Ah, the good ole days when Mickey was our role model... :D
toxic.monkey said...
Dec. 25, 2009 at 1:03 pm
i agree with you so much. i find it sad that kids hurry to become "older". childhood passes so why not enjoy it?? and anyway, aging is first of all mental, rather than behavioral and physical as percieved by these kids.
BUT this article is amazing :D
...irie... said...
Dec. 25, 2009 at 12:11 pm
Really great article! If we all took a stand and showed the media people sex ,violence,and drugs are NOT what teenagers and kids want to hear about,maybe they'd stop. If we buy into this crap it will never change. We have to stick to our morals and hope it gets into the minds of our future generations just as the article said. Whoever thinks kids out there just want sex and superficial things are wrong, but at the same time they are manipulating them to think that's what they want..... What... (more »)
outoforder2014 said...
Dec. 19, 2009 at 11:19 pm
when i was 10 years old i played basketball, thought boys had cudies and watched scooby doo. the most reckless thing i did in this direction was beg my mom for a pair of jeans with holes in the knees [and i never got them, now i understand why she didnt let me dress like that] yesterday, i saw a 9 year old girl texting on her ipod touch about her "Boyfriend"? and they say Hannah Montana is a good show for girls. absolutely not!
cotig writes said...
Dec. 17, 2009 at 8:16 am
very nicely done. i think many people our age would disagree with you. you've got to defend yourself on all counts.
swim4ever said...
Dec. 11, 2009 at 3:47 pm
I am 14 i dont wear makeup i dont have a cell phone i have an ipod and a laptop I bought them with my hard earnned money my mom still will not let me go to the mall to hang with my friends im not allowed to have a boyfriend(i dont always follow that rule though) my shirts have to come 3inches below the top of my jeans i cant have holes in my jeans if my parents ever saw any thing falling out of my shirt i would get killed and to think ten year olds wear under wear that say dive in on them thats sick
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