Oriana Pawlyk, Columnist

When you were little, you may have been in a school play, a dance recital or maybe even a (beauty) pageant. These were the recreational activities our parents loved to see us in because we were their little “stars” — not to mention, we wore ridiculous outfits for the home videos.

Was it always flattering? No. But this is still a childhood experience some if not most children deal with on a typical occasion.

But how has the center-stage world changed in the last decade? Turn on TLC‘s Toddlers and Tiaras or Lifetime’s Dance Moms if you’d like a glimpse. Both shows focus on little girls fighting over the spotlight at ages as young as three. They yell, “Take me to [my] pageant!” at their mothers, and their mothers comply. They throw tantrums if the outfit is wrong, or if they’re not “dolled up” right.

The cameras give off the image that these little girls are in control.

But are these just little kids throwing tantrums because of lack of parental guidance and discipline?

Or are the cameras exploiting the worst moments for the ratings? What is actually going on with these toddlers?

The facts are these: mothers are paying thousands of dollars for pageants that only pay $500-$1,000 or so prizes, the mothers are battling one another (they have no problems with swearing in front of their children) and the results only prove these girls want more and more until they get it all.

A recent article on CNN’s website, “‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ and sexualizing 3-year-olds,” brought up another point: are we exploiting these children sexually? The author, Melissa Henson writes, “[There was a] deluge of negative comments over an episode that featured a little girl dressed up to look like Dolly Parton, complete with padded bust and buttocks … [parents] think it’s cute to dress their child in sexy clothes or encourage her to imitate Beyonce’s dance moves so they can post it on YouTube.”

Are adults now teaching their children that being noticed in any possible way is paramount to their success?

Personally, my parents gave me the choice of which activities I could participate in when I was that age.

There was no dispute if I quit, because reality set in: I was not going to become a professional actress or dancer. These TV shows are making a mockery of these girls — sure everyone is considered “cute” at the age of three, but already thinking they will be high-paid actresses or runway models when they grow up is a far-fetched fairytale ending, to say the least.

This past August, the French company, Jours Après Lunes, created a lingerie line offering undergarments for three different age groups: bébé (babies), fille (children) and ado/femme (teens). These pieces are garnished with lace, bows, pearl beading, the works. According to a statement from the designer, her intention was to create comfortable yet fashionable undergarments. But what are these little tykes thinking? That they’re going to be the next Marisa Miller?

Young girls already have an “awkward” stage coming — it’s called puberty. In 2007, the American Psychological Association released a study that showed girls who were exposed to sexualized media content at an early age were more likely to have eating disorders, depression, diminished sexual health, etc. Even more so, these girls did not want to pursue careers in science, math, engineering or technology.

If girls see themselves this way at an early age, boys jump on that bandwagon as well.

More adolescent boys have begun to value women for their sex appeal — sexual harassment has increased, and so has sexual violence in certain cases.

Although reality TV is entertaining in most cases, TLC — ironically, The Learning Channel — should maybe revamp their style.

All a viewer “learns” from watching this show is that parents are turning their children into spotlight savoring brats and have no problem with it. Young adolescents are confused enough. Parents should be teaching their children to value who they are and what they’re striving to be in life.

Hyper-sexualized media should not be the cause for the next generation to be worse off during their adolescent experiences.

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