The Sexualization of Early Childhood

Sexualization in early childhood saddens me. It is not something that we should have to deal with at such an early age. Children are exposed to so much adult content in today’s society where bodies are exploited to get what they want. “Girls and boys constantly encounter sexual messages and images that they cannot understand and that can confuse and even frighten them” (Levin & Kilbourne, 2009, p.2). Although it saddens me that we have to deal with this topic at such a young age the fact that we are recognizing that it is a problem makes me hopeful that we can help children learn how to act appropriately by keeping tackling the topic in an informed professional manner.

• Recently my husband and I attended a high school basketball game and at half time the girls came out to dance. They looked cute in their outfits nothing out of the ordinary for dance team/cheerleaders. When they started dance it was like watching a Beyonce video. My husband said he was very uncomfortable watching them. The dancing was very provocative for a family event and the fact that although they are teenagers they are still children. This seems to be the way that children think they need to dance now days.

• When I was teaching preschool I had a little girl who was very mature for her age and very knowledgeable about some adult topics. Her parents were not together and her dad had a new girlfriend. One Monday she comes in after being with her dad for the weekend and usually has a hard time behaving because she is used to getting her way when she is with him. She had on a tank top and a very short jean skirt. I had to help her keep pulling it down so her panties were not showing. At one point I asked her if we could put on the other (extra) clothes that were in her cubby. She told me no because then the boys wouldn’t like her. I was shocked that she said this and was trying to wrap my mind around where she would learn that.

• Our kindergarten class wears uniforms but occasionally they are allowed to dress down and wear “street” clothes. A six year-olds wore leggings and a cute top that hung off her shoulders. While on the playground she started dancing while holding on to a pole which is part of the jungle gym. She has her bottom out and then wraps her leg around the pole and tries to spin. The teacher was shocked at this behavior. When told that it was not appropriate for school and she should not dance like that the little girl tells her but the boys like to watch me and will want to hug and kiss me. The teacher had a difficult conversation with the mom that evening and the mom did not seem shocked or embarrassed but said she would talk to her daughter.

Young children are introduced to so much adult content in today’s society that it is hard not to be surprised by it but yet we are. Girls are made out to be sexual objects who wear tight clothing to show off their curves and make up to make them look older. The focus is on body image and that you have to be thin to be beautiful and liked by the boys. Boys are being taught that girls are sexually objects. Many parents underestimate the power of these influences that are coming from television and music videos and even the songs themselves. We have to try to teach our children differently from what they are seeing on television. Censoring them and denying them the ability to watch television is not the answer but ensuring that you are modeling the behavior you want them to learn and emulate.

Levin, D. E., & Kilbourne, J. (2009). [Introduction]. So sexy so soon: The new sexualized childhood and what parents can do to protect their kids (pp. 1-8). New York: Ballantine Books. Retrieved from:


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mkelly07
    Feb 17, 2013 @ 13:56:07

    I think the hardest thing is getting the parents on board. A lot of times the parents think it’s cute. How do we get them on board?


  2. Leslie
    Feb 17, 2013 @ 22:44:49

    Interesting April. Children are just growing up too fask.


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