Too Sexy, Too Soon

From movies, to music, to fashion, pop culture is full of sexualized images including a clothing company that made a padded bikini top for eight-year-old girls, provocative halloween costumes for children that come out every year, and a song popular with preteen girls that talks about getting drunk and hooking up with different guys every night. They're all images our children see everyday.

According to ScienceDaily, a new study from researchers at Kenyon College in Ohio finds up to 30 percent of clothes for young girls found online in the United States is deemed either sexy or sexualizing.

Psychologist Dr. Kristin Bohan, of Pawleys Island, says all of those messages in our culture tell our young girls they are sex objects. She says the sexualization of young girls is having a devastating effect. Dr. Bohan says once they hit about middle school, many of the girls become depressed and begin to withdraw.

According to a report from the American Psychological Association, the proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harmful to girls' self-image and healthy development.

Dr. Bohan founded a summer camp to help girls deal with the pop culture they see everyday. The MyTERMS Camp is a week long camp to help girls ages 8-14 to become savvy consumers of the media, identify and honor their unique qualities, and promote a healthy body image.

As parents, here are some things we can do to help our girls.

--As your daughter watches TV, discuss the sexualized messages with her. Ask questions like, "Do your friends ever act like that?" "Does this show match your experience of being a girl?" "Why do you think the female characters need to be rescued?" Then stop talking and listen to the answers.

--Teach your daughter to question stereotypes. Ask her why the girl aisles in the store are always pink or why a boy can't have a purple plate at a birthday party.

--Find pictures on the internet of models without the makeup and without the photoshopping that's done. Show her how what we see in advertisements isn't real.

--Ask her the top 10 songs on her iPod, then look up the lyrics. If there are words you don't understand, look them up in an online slang dictionary.

--Find the positive examples out there. Dr. Bohan says they're more difficult to find, but they are there. For example in the movie Despicable Me, the three orphan girls are each unique, but very strong characters.

For more ideas, there are plenty of books out there, like Packaging Girlhood, So Sexy So Soon, and Reviving Ophelia.

What do you think? Do you think our girls are sexualized too soon? Or do you disagree? Leave us a comment below, we'd love to hear your feedback.