Just in case you are unclear what "sexualization of young girls" really means, a sexualized image suggests sexual availability to the exclusion of other personal characteristics and qualities, which is inappropriate. Two examples are 1) child beauty pageants in which young girls wear make-up and false teeth to replace baby teeth, thong underwear with muppets or phrases like "eye-candy;" and 2) lyrics that include phrases like:"so blow me bitch," "I rock for topless dancers," and "I tell hoes all the time, bitch get in my car."
The APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls studied published research on the content and effects of media (including TV, movies, music videos, lyrics, magazines, video games, and the Internet) and found that the consequences of the sexualization of girls in media today are very real and are likely to be a negative influence on girls' healthy development.
Specifically, research evidence shows that sexualization and objectification:
- undermine a person's confidence in and comfort with her own body, leading to emotional and self-image problems, including shame and anxiety;
- are linked to eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression;
- have negative consequences on girls' ability to develop a healthy sexual self-image.
The good news is that parents can play a major protective and educative role and schools should teach media literacy skills to all students and should include information on the negative effects of sexualization of girls in those programs. We can help teens talk about how marketing techniques make girls' and women's bodies look unnatural and focus people's attention on their bodies as if that is all that is valuable about them, but to do this, we have to be engaging in the same media they are experiencing.
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