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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Michael T. said...
Nov. 11, 2009 at 9:53 am
I believe it is the parents that are dressing there daughters up like this... okay so the manufactures are supplying the clothes and makeup but the parents are buying and dressing the girls... allowing makeup at 8 it just stupid.. these girls are going to grow up with no self-esteem and who knows what the future lies....
ManekiNeko replied...
Dec. 3, 2009 at 10:24 am
my mom wouldn't let me wear make-up until i was 13.
Schubster said...
Nov. 11, 2009 at 8:03 am
I do agree with you a most ways, including the "Recess and Ed, Ed, and Eddy" part. I think that movies like High School Musical and Hannah Montanna should try and reach an older audience, since WE know that we shouldn't tell someone to "fetch" anything-it's just that characters personality. But the little girls DON'T know that and their young imaginations can't differentiate that from reality. Awesome job, though! :)
Jennifer B. said...
Oct. 20, 2009 at 6:23 pm
I agree with FireflesGuideMe. I blame it on soceity and the media this has been revolving over time and now its creeped up on us little girls are growing up totally different from what I did not too long ago there was no hanna montana or selena gomez i watched rugrats and wore cinderella pajamas from the disney strore now my little cousin is worrying about her weight at the age of 8 yearsold these days there are too many standards of representation which = insecurity for little girls who eat it ... (more »)
Mikki-bug<3 said...
Oct. 20, 2009 at 4:12 pm
I COMPLETELY agree with you! Everywhere I go I see eight year olds wearing the shorts so short it's not even funny walking around with their cell phones, texting and wearing their eyeshadow and lipstick. What happened to jumpsuits and overalls and just enjoying childhood!?
Inkspired said...
Oct. 20, 2009 at 3:11 pm
This is so true! I'm so glad you wrote this article, and I'm completely with you. Girls at age nine wearing make-up is just freaky. I don't wear make-up!
FirefliesGuideMe said...
Oct. 20, 2009 at 3:08 pm
What happened to old disney?? The Cinderella and Sleeping Beuty teenagers my age used to look up to?? Little girls are growing up way too fast. My friends and I are teens who grew up believing you don't have to grow up, just act your age sometimes. I see this little nine-year-old and I act more like a kid than her. Little girls are dressing like Daisey Duke with the cut off shorts and showing off their belly buttons. Guys are going to see these girls as objects. GIRLS!!! ACT LIKE YOU... (more »)
GirlWithWings56 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 20, 2009 at 10:21 am
What an outstanding article. You really pinpoint just how much the media affects our youth. At first I thought you were being a little hard on the media, but soon I saw your point. I really like this! (You should check out an article that I'm going to be posting, about the perception of beauty, though yours is better, I think!)
NerdInPajamas said...
Oct. 13, 2009 at 2:32 pm
a bit that i've noticed from these comments is that they're focusing on the disney classic movies and not the actual shows that used to be on disney. though the cartoon classics such as peter pan and beauty and the beast did have really good messages, the shows from a decade ago were often indirectly rascist and showed that being tall and blonde was the best thing to be. times have gotten worse, but sort of only in a different way. yes im a teen, but my older cousin has some of the old... (more »)
monkeyfeet2 said...
Sept. 28, 2009 at 6:23 pm
I totally agree with you. All the old Disney movies and cartoons had at least some good lesson in them, but now its like the opposite. Plus, I've noticed little kids now seem like they demand way more from their parents.
emmatheballerina said...
Sept. 28, 2009 at 4:28 pm
Yes I 100% agree with you. Disney used to be a great thing for kids. " Some day my prince will come" or "A whole new wolrd" was fun for kids. Now, yes, tehy arfe teaching little girls to be materialistic little brats who care of nothing but what they are wearing and who is looking at them.
scoobydoo said...
Sept. 28, 2009 at 11:52 am
I am an 18 year old girl, who is fed up with the sensualized media/influences that prevail in today's society. Girls throwing aside common decency, dressing like sluts, and thinking that the importance of virginity is something of the past. THIS ISN'T SO!
GREAT article, btw. Keep up the good work. People need to speak out. God bless.
forever_dancer replied...
Nov. 24, 2009 at 2:36 pm
thank you scoobydoo, for saying what i always wish that part of society would figure out
jmc.13 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 28, 2009 at 8:26 am
I SO agree. Disney makes me sick, and it's just plain unacceptable what's going on with our youth. But I agree, some parents are way too overprotective and that gets creepy. All I know is that it's a slippery slope into the realms of Jimmy Choo's and sparly eyeshadow on ten year olds.
flawsversesperfection said...
Sept. 26, 2009 at 5:11 pm
Just yesterday I saw two little girls wearing these tiny cheetah belly shirts and they had tons of sparkly makeup on. At the time, I found it hilarious, but now I really see what you're saying when i read this article.
kelly A. said...
Aug. 2, 2009 at 7:08 pm
I loved your article it is so true! it drives me insane going into stores and seeing hannah montana's face plastered on to every article of clothing! why cant it be like when we were that age we had our T.V. shows but they were innocent and they didn't teach us to treat others with disrespect and and always have to wear brand names! it is ridiculous our media is killing the younger generation that we will soon have to count on in the future! i really enjoyed your article!
AquariusSun&Moon This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 31, 2009 at 5:50 pm
Well said! You have to admit that the Hannah Montana TV show is funny but what a waste of time! And the attitudes, even I find my self (when ever I happen to watch it-not often) picking up on the sarcasm and snobbish dialogue, and starting to talk like the characters. And yes. I do believe that it is the parents job to set limits for these things, but there is still the other party that is at fault here for crating that world of obsession.
Kayoung L. said...
Jul. 31, 2009 at 5:03 am
I think you have a really solid, well-written essay. I agree that the media's "role-models" these days aren't doing a great job at role-modelling. But I also agree with Sana that in the case of HSM Tisdale is supposed to be the spoiled antagonist who usually doesn't get what she wants because of her greediness. In that sense, the movie portrays that greediness on the long run doesn't lead to success.
despurlock This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 30, 2009 at 3:48 pm
Great job! Fantastic! Your points here are wonderful. Girls should be taught to be proud of their originality and inspired to reach their own goals, so as to not only conform to be the Hannah Montanas of the world. Again, great job :)
Lifesurprisesyou said...
Jun. 30, 2009 at 4:03 am
This is very true. If it weren't for tv and the internet and all of these distractions, I think all of us would grow up to be better people.
Wishing said...
Jun. 28, 2009 at 3:43 am
My cousins are one of the many of our generations adolescence that practically worship Disney stars. I completely agree with everything said in this article. You know, it's reall nice to know that I'm not the only one NOT debating who is hotter, Kevin, Nick, or Joe. It seems like the Entertainment Enterprise is as bad as Polilitics nowdays. And what's with the panties that say, "Dive in"??? Are you SERIOUS!!! I almost want to raise Walt from the dead and see how Mickey Mouse transformed... (more »)
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