As reported on ABC news this morning, the UK’s self-proclaimed “Human Barbie” gave her 7-year-old daughter, Poppy, a £7,000 voucher for liposuction as one of her Christmas presents.  Earlier in the year, she gave her daughter a £6,000 voucher for breast augmentation, saying that her daughter “asks for surgery all the time”. 

As the 51-year-old explained to the UK’s Daily Mail. “I see these vouchers as investing in her future, like saving money for her education.”  When her daughter was just six, she taught her how to pole dance.  Defending herself, she said, “Poppy is a normal kid who is good at sports and loves playing outside. Girls don’t want Snow White and Cinderella any more.  They want to be WAGs [a British term to describe wives and girlfriends of high-profile soccer stars], and famous like Cheryl Cole and Lady Gaga.  I’m just supporting her and making her dreams come true. Looks are a big part of how our futures pan out – there shouldn’t be a stigma around wanting to look good.” 

Unfortunately, although most of the parents I know wouldn’t teach their little girls how to pole dance or start prepping them for plastic surgery at age 6, many parents are letting movies, television shows, pornography and music videos provide their children with an incredibly powerful and sexualized message about their value to this world.  When I talk with tweens today, they regularly stress how their worth rests in their appearance.  Liposuction, breast augmentation and nose jobs are just a part of their life, and many of them expect to get cosmetic surgery at some point in their life.  When I was getting some hair highlights last month, my hair stylist started telling me how she “finally” let her 17-year-old daughter get Botox, because so many of her friends were doing it.

Our society places a premium on appearance, and, as the images, videos and content that is marketed towards youth becomes increasingly sexualized, our sons and daughters have an unrealistic expectation regarding what they need to do to be accepted in today’s world.  So, while you may not be giving your kids vouchers for future plastic surgery, it’s worth considering whether you’re allowing the media around them to shape their values and self-worth.  Are your own comments or your own behaviors setting the stage for their future obsession with appearance?  Are you allowing them to learn about what’s sexy through exposure to the surgically-enhanced bodies in pornography? (If you don’t have a filter on your computer, I would suggest that you are at least opening the door to this level of exposure). 

Take time to talk with your kids about where they find their self-worth, and help them become confident in who God designed them to be.  Talk to them about the media they absorb, and consider whether the content you are allowing them to view is beneficial or harmful.  Look for teachable moments to combat the pressures and lies of our youth-crazed, highly sexualized media environment.  As Dr. Ari Brown explained to in September, “Childhood is a time to learn about the world, explore, pretend, imagine and create in a safe vacuum 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.”