Media vs. Mums

A common moral panic that exists in today’s society is the allegation that the media is sexualising children. Society is putting the media at blame for the commercial exploitation of children and the sexualisation of images of young children, in catalogues, magazines, television shows and movies. The panics that are arising, develop from the issues of children being dressed in inappropriate clothing for their age, children being photographed in ‘adult’ poses and images of children containing sexual connotations.

One example of how the media is alleged to sexualise children is Toddlers and Tiaras, an American reality television show that “showcases the competitive world of child pageants, as three families have their children judged on beauty, personality and costumes.” Take a look at this video, a scene from an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras whilst keeping in mind how to media is blamed for the sexual exploitation of children.

After watching this video, do you really think it’s the media’s fault for the appearances and actions of these little girls? It seems to me that the parents are forcing the children to participate in these pageants, dolling them up to the nines, covering them with makeup to match their spray-tanned bodies, gluing in hair extensions, forcing the youngsters to sit still in a chair whilst their innocent baby faces are transformed into that of a 20-something-year-old. Seriously, these are children under the age of 5 we are talking about… So is the media the cause of the sexualisation and exploitation of these children? I think not. Who is really to blame here appears to be the mothers of the children in the pageants.

Children learn how to behave through the actions of adults. Little girls learn how to grow into adults by viewing how their mothers and other female adults behave. If the children grow up in an environment like the one depicted in Toddlers and Tiaras, covering up their natural appearances with everything from fake tans to fake teeth, they will be brought up believing this is a normal thing for females to partake in. Their sexualised exteriors will continue to unfold during their childhood as this is the way they have been taught to behave.

Every little girl loves to play dress ups and wear make-up and high heels. But is Toddlers and Tiaras just taking it too far? Or is the parents of the children who are the ones taking it too far. In this case, I believe it’s the latter. Society is blaming the media for media for the social panic of sexualising children, however in some scenarios, the problem evolves from somewhere a little bit closer to home, that being the very own homes of these children.

Sometimes we need to look at the bigger picture, take a step back and think outside the box. Society is constantly accusing society of creating moral panics, but are they always the ones at fault?

Think about it.

– Sophie

(Image via:


6 thoughts on “Media vs. Mums

  1. Your blog post is informative and concise. I enjoyed reading your perspective on this issue and I loved your example of ‘Toddlers and Tiara’s’ as I use child pageant competitions in my own blog post!
    The most interesting part to your post was the way in which you turn the question back to your reader- questioning whether it is not just the media’s fault but “somewhere close to home.” I really loved this as it raises the ironic issue that society is creating this moral panic and blaming it on the media, when in actuality we are the cause to our own problem.

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  2. Loved this post! Excellent use of hyperlinks to definitions of “moral panic” and for more information on the things you reference in your post. The video clip you’ve used definitely makes your point that while the media is getting the blame for the sexualisation of children, the parents of these young children are ultimately allowing their children to be treated and act older than they are (one mother criticized her four year old in the video because she didn’t know how to put makeup on without making it blended, which is just crazy!) In the case of Toddlers and Tiaras it really is the parents who are sexualising their own children I agree, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that the television show exists, and that its existence is fuelling the idea that children should be entered into this world and normalises it. Maybe to examine this idea further, it might be interesting to do some academic reading in the area of sexualising children and use that to further strengthen your viewpoint, but all in all, excellent post! Looking forward to reading more of your stuff!

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  3. I enjoyed reading this blog, I agree that these “stage moms” should stop living vicariously through their children and let them be kids.
    After watching the video it was shocking to see the before and after photo of the little girl who looked so fresh and happy before the “blending of the makeup” and fake eyelashes.
    It actually made me sad how competitive these parents are and its ironic that the pageant coach said “smile till it hurts”.
    I thought your concept on how these little girls would grow up to believe the glam fake appearance and behaviour is normal was very interesting and worrying to think what negative impacts this will lead when they’re young women.
    I do however believe that the media still plays their part in sexualising children. This controversial show exploiting children is distasteful and still being aired even though it’s come under a lot of scrutiny because of the ratings. I think the parents are the ones taking away their children’s innocence but I also think the media is spreading the problem too.

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  4. I really enjoyed this post! You’re inclusion of the video already made me excited to read on! Using a very popular and often contentious show and allowing readers to see an extract of such a show is a great way of engaging them and really allowing them to see first hand what you are talking about! You raised some really good arguments and although I do agree the mother’s are the majority cause for this behaviour, without the show being aired it would not reach such a large audience and create such a moral panic. So I don’t think the media should be abe to aviod the blame here. In these kind of shows, the parents and children are often directed or encouraged to do certain things by the directing team etc. Controversial shows attract attention and draw in viewers and I think thats exactly what the media has attempted to do here, and in turn encouraged the continuation of these actions! I guess the idea I’m trying to suggest is that the media projects these actions onto the viewers, and without that projection the moral panic (or lack there of when it comes to these mothers) would stay within the family. Maybe…? Great post, It really got me thinking!

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  5. Really great post! Definitely encourages the reader to question the origins of the sexualisation of young girls. I totally agree with you that the parents are responsible for the exploitation of the girls, however I think they are not solely to blame. After all, some people will do anything in order for themselves or their child to be on TV or become famous, and I think that shows like ‘Toddlers and Tiaras” are prime examples of this. But if the show wasn’t televised around the world, would the parents still be willing to exploit their kids in order for them to become famous? Possibly. Still, these kinds of shows are encouraging this; as an incentive for your kid winning pageants and acting like a complete brat, we are going to put you on our show! It’s definitely the parents that are behind the issue, but without the mass media creating these shows and consequently condoning this, would it be so much of a moral panic?

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  6. Sophie!
    I really loved that focused on the mums being the perpetrators of this culture of child-sexualisation. It’s turning the onus back on society rather than demonising the media. Toddlers and Tiara’s is a perfect example of child sexualisation/exploitation, I always relate it toward the American show, Dance Moms and the Abbey Lee Miller School of Dance. I see the moral panic of WHAT the girls are wearing, but i would also have loved for you to comment on their actions. Abbey often incorporates choreography that some would consider ‘too mature’ for these young girls (here’s a link to a pretty racey video It’s probably noteworthy to mention that a lot of Ballet teachers in Australia are particularly awful to young dancers, teaching them that their bodies won’t be accepted in ‘the ballet world’, which in itself, isn’t the sexualisation of children, but planting seeds of a negative body-image within young girls. I really loved reading your post Sophie, It was extremely thought provoking and beautifully written!

    Liked by 1 person

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