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How can sexy advertising messages harm young girls?

Michele Borba
Psychology
Here are a few dangers of those “too fast, too much, too sexy, too soon” images and why we should be outraged:
  • Pushes a wrong message on how to achieve happiness. Children’s self-beliefs, values, and attitudes are formed through repetition. Continual messages pushing “thin, looks, tone, sexy” can push girls to believe that they should be pushing their childhoods ahead so they grow up faster and sooner.
  • Develops a “flimsy” self-image that endangers resilience development. Those school years are when our daughters shape their self-concepts and form their “Who I am?” opinions. Authentic self-esteem is a fine balance between a “feeling of worthiness” and a “feeling of capableness.” Developing both of those feelings is what helps our daughters handle stress, cope with life and bounce back when the going gets tough. 
  • Decompresses childhoods. “Too fast, too soon” messages push girls to grow up too quickly for their age and maturity. Growing up “before their time” also means they miss out on developmentally appropriate activities, rituals, and games that are such an essential part of just growing up. Instead, they devote priceless energy to how they should look or weigh or act. 
  • Boosts health risks. The new hot Sweet 16 birthday gift request? Botox! Breast implants are on the high school graduation “wish list.” According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, more than 36,800 cosmetic surgery procedures were performed on Americans 18 and under last year. There is always a risk with surgery -- but what about the risk to a young girl’s body image?
  • Increases mental health risks. Research does show that the proliferation of sexualized images in advertising, merchandising, and media are indeed harmful to a young girls’ self-image and health. A five-year study of 2,516 teens by the American Psychological Association found that girls who frequently read those dieting and weight loss articles are far more likely to fast, vomit, or use laxatives to lose weight. In fact, the data proved that the more frequently a girl sees those images, the more likely she is to resort to extreme weight control behaviors. 
  • Increases odds for risky behaviors. Those “too fast, too soon” images can also push our girls into those “teen” years sooner. Growing up fasters also means the potential for earlier drinking, earlier promiscuity, earlier peer pressure -- and those all add up to more risks."

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.