On the latest episode of Toddlers and Tiaras on TLC, a four year old contestant wore breast and buttocks enhancements in order to look like Dolly Parton. Is it just me or is this so wrong on so many levels?!
Full disclosure: I find “reality” TV shows appalling. I guess they are popular because people like watching train wrecks. They are certainly popular with networks because they are inexpensive to produce and there is a never-ending stream of people who are willing to appear to have their moment in the limelight. But personally, I wonder why people still watch TV given the low level of what is considered “entertainment” these days!
I am particularly bothered by Toddlers and Tiaras because this reality show exploits children for the sake of ratings. But it is not just TLC to blame. The beauty pageant industry is also to blame, for placing a value on dressing girls up in inappropriate clothing for their age and little girls winning contests based on how they look in a swimsuit or evening gown or wearing fake breasts and buttocks to perform in the “talent” portion of the pageant. But, ultimately, I blame the children’s parents for being willing to exploit their children for money and exposure.
It isn’t news that our girls are growing up too fast, or that the entertainment industry (TV, magazines, female musicians and actresses to name a few) purposefully encourages adult behavior in girls who are too young to dress or act that way. Having a daughter of my own, I know it is a daily struggle to let our daughters be little girls and enjoy childhood–being a kid is a pretty good life–and we have plenty of time to be adult women!
There are endless examples of girls “growing up too fast” and there are adverse consequences. Childhood is a time to learn about the world, explore, pretend, imagine, and create in a safe vaccuum of innocence. Bypassing those critical life experiences and developmental stages by trying to dress, act, and be treated like an adult leaves these children lacking important life skills that help them be confident and successful adults. And, testing out adult behaviors without the maturity to make good decisions can also have lifelong consequences.
I am sure, despite the protesting, TLC and other networks will continue to air their programs that send the wrong message to young girls. The solution to this problem is not with sending angry letters to network executives. It lies in every one of our living rooms–parents need to turn these shows off and teach our children to celebrate and enjoy being a kid!