Flashback to ten years ago:
What was popular amongst the younger generation?
What were girls wearing?
What was considered “normal” behavior?
Where did the golden age of adolescence go? Looking around outside or merely on the Internet today at what the youth are partaking in is honestly scary. It seems to be that just yesterday young girls were pleading their parents for the latest Barbie doll, begging to be allowed on the Internet for just a few minutes more at night, and wearing clothing from Limited Too. When did asking for Barbie dolls become pleading for the latest IPhone? When did just a few more minutes on the Internet turn to long hours on applications such as Snapchat, Tumblr, and Instagram? Most importantly, who is letting young girls wear crop tops and short shorts?
It is a known fact that children are impressionable. They mimic what is considered to be “interesting” or “cool” amongst those older than them. With outside influences in the media and television, it has consistently been an issue regarding what images are projected onto young girls. However, a rising factor has been the Internet itself. Being that we are currently in a thriving Technological Age, the accessibility to content on the Internet has been proven to impact and sway these younger generations. Being unable to avoid what is deemed “beautiful” or the “cool” thing teens are doing has shown its effects on girls aged 12-17 more so than ever before.
So what are these girls doing? It’s not as if girls under the age of 17 are bad seeds, at the ready with a bat to go swinging once they leave their homes. Their behavior isn’t destructive in that aspect. What it is possibly destructive in however, goes a tad deeper than physical harm: losing sight of childhood. What has been swept under the radar of the press it seems is preserving the few years of adolescent bliss each person is endowed with to enjoy. Rushing through these years in order to feel older has been a problem with Generation Z girls. It’s these girls that rely heavily on social media for content and entertainment. It’s these same girls that can be found glued to their phones for hours on end, scouring the Internet for fashion inspiration, and looking to girls, celebrities or friends years older than them for guidance on how to look and behave.
Throughout the course of time peer pressure has been an unsettling factor of growing up. Being tempted into trying new things and experiencing things earlier than usual is a part of life, however more significant at ages 12-17. Given how impressionable children are, being introduced to new things during these years often results in dramatic alterations in lifestyle. For example, after seeing photos of models in magazines or simply watching makeup tutorials on YouTube leads to younger girls have been noted to putting emphasis on their physical appearance. With women being sexualized long before those of Generation Z were even born, blaming the television and magazines that print and share these images, as the root of the problem, is elementary and cannot fully account for the issue. What the issue really is, is the accessibility to these sources. With the issues young women face consisting of being good enough, fitting in, being the most up to date on fads, and representation, it’s not surprising for girls to want to do everything and anything possible to maintain stability in such a changing and growing atmosphere while they, themselves grow and change.
As well as image issues, in 2007 the University of Alberta created a study on teenagers that surveyed what exactly made them feel older. Of the responses, many claimed having sex, drinking, smoking, and generally participating in risky behavior are what constitute being older. Being that television and social media has been notorious for implementing scandalous ventures on screen, censoring the content has become a more strenuous process. The study also concluded that it was girls rather than boys that mature at a faster rate. This may be attributed to the vast amount of content that is particularly directed to women and young girls as opposed to men. With the pressures of aging so early on, it is no surprise that adolescent girls are portraying themselves older than they actually are.
So what is there to do about this?
Is it okay to allow this rapid aging of the youth? Do we merely accept that this is how the youth are growing up? Sheltering a girl from popular culture and what is current is not proper protocol at this point because it would only result in potentially being ostracized by peers. Allowing a girl to be swayed by the standards of beauty portrayed by celebrities and models alike and acting as her favorite reality TV star offers no benefits either. What must be done is not a simple task. Either way there is backlash waiting. However, reclaiming what it means to act your age is a necessity.
Finding the balance of acting ones age and participating in activities typically expected of those older can be achieved by empowering these young girls. Empower the youth of today by encouragement. Unite women and girls by building confidence, providing inspirational role models for these girls to look up to, enabling girls to recognize their own talents and embracing the moment they live in. Perhaps doing so won’t force Mattel to target Barbie dolls at infants within the next few years. Honestly, it is remarkable that 10-year-old girls no longer are the targeted audience for Barbie dolls anymore.