Last week, I posted on the site about a new book coming out by Tanith Carey. I emailed Tanith and she just sent me over this article she wrote for our site. I am excited about her new book “Where Has My Little Girl Gone” coming out this month.
Here is an amazing article for all you parents of girls.
When I had my two little girls I assumed that if I didn’t put them in T-shirts with the words: “So many boys, too little time” or mini high heels, I could protect their childhood.
I imagined that if I didn’t mention so much as mention the word “diet” around my daughters then they wouldn’t get the body image hang-up that so many young girls get these days.
But as Lily and Clio grew up, it soon dawned on my how hard it for parents to hang on their girls’ innocence.
By the time she was eight, Lily had received birthday invites from classmates suggesting she bring make-up – and she being asked to sing sexy Lady Gaga songs at school concerts.
Clio was four when she came home from her school practising a booty-shaking dance routine to Beyonce’s “Put a Ring on it” – even though I expected her teachers to be more careful about the messages they gave her.
After all, despite our best efforts to protect them, unhealthy ideas about what it means to be a female are all around children.
They grow up in school playgrounds where the most feared insult is the word “fat.” The dolls being sold to them come with cleavages – while their pop idols dress like lap-dancers. Yet, when I looked around me, for all the discussion about the problem, I found very little which actually told parents can do to protect their girls.
So over the course of a year, I interviewed psychologists, parenting experts, teachers and families to try and find the best way forward for parents for my new book: “Where Has My Little Girl Gone?”
The good news is that I discovered that though we may often feel it, parents are far from powerless. There really are lots of practical, realistic steps you can take today to inoculate your daughter against the worst effects of the X-rated society.
But most important of all, I discovered that it’s essential we parents don’t bury our heads in the sand. For example, none of us want to think about our daughters seeing disturbing sexy images on the internet. But the easy availability of porn on the web means we have to tackle the subject with our kids head-one – before the internet gets in there first.
That’s because if our girls do end up stumbling across it, the lessons they learn will be as far as possible from the healthy messages you want them to have about sex.
All of girls I spoke to from the age of about nine and up ten were already aware there were “nasty pictures” out there and wanted to avoid them. And if they do see them its unlikely they’ll tell you.
A report by the London School of Economics found that nearly six out of ten children age between nine and nineteen have seen porn – even though 16 per cent of their parents knew.
They may not have gone looking for it. But pornographic images still get through when kids misspell web address, see pop-up ads and get sent picture messages.
Even if your little girl just goes searching for her favourite Disney princess, there’s a chance she should stumble across several sites showing them in X-rated poses.
One eight-year-old girl looked at me warily as she admitted she’d seen “lots of naked people” when she decided to Google her favourite Harry Potter character, Luna Lovegood.
Don’t miss the boat. As they get older –and hear more about sex and get increasingly curious, it’s gets even more urgent.
By the age of 12, seven out of ten children say they already know more about sex than their parents think they do.
As one mum told me: “If I try to discuss it, my 14-year-old daughter just rolls her eyes and says: “Why are you telling me now? It’s a bit late!”
None of this can happen overnight. The sooner we begin protecting our girls be decoding all the messages around them, the better.
Because if, because of the demands of jobs and overwork, we fall for anything-for-a-quiet life parenting, and allow them to spend hours infront of ipods, ipads and laptops, they will wander off into a cyber-world where we won’t be able to follow them. The Tween years in particular – from around seven and twelve – are an important window.
It’s our best chance to influence our children and shape their values – before their friends and peer pressure start drowning us out.
Just by becoming a more aware parent today, you can help protect your daughter against sexualisation by making her more media savvy. In the two minutes you take to show your daughter how an image of an ultra-skinny model has been airbrushed, you’ve taught her not to try and live up to an image of perfection that doesn’t exist.
By explaining the pressures on your daughter to look sexy – in an age appropriate way – and reminding her she’s worth more than that – you can shelter her against the drip, drip, drip erosion of her self-worth.
But if we sit back and do nothing because we think there’s nothing we can do, the price is high for our children.
Just this month, (end of April) a new report from think-tank Demos found nearly a million teenage girls in Britain alone – twice the number of boys – describe themselves as feeling unhappy, depressed and worthless.
A rise in eating disorders, self-harm, casual sex, teen pregnancy and under-age drinking are some of the other side-effects of growing up in up in a celebrity culture which puts an impossibly high value on looks and sex.
My daughters are worth so much more than that – and so are yours.
Where Has My Little Girl Gone? How to Protect Your Daughter From Growing Up Too Soon, by Tanith Carey, is published by Lion Hudson on May 20th, price $7.92. Go to www.tanithcarey.com for more details or buy on Amazon.