Saving A Child’s Innocence (Final)

In today’s society, some parents are willing to do almost anything to help their child become an “up-and-coming celebrity.” They want to promote their children and give them every opportunity they can to be the next Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber, so they sign them up for dance classes, singing lessons, pageants, modeling, and numerous other activities that may lead them to fame. While being involved in an activity is great for a child, when does the strong “encouragement and support” offered by their parents and mentors turn into child exploitation? Children are often encouraged and rewarded for participating in events that are exploiting them and their sexuality. In competitive dance, they are applauded for wearing skimpy costumes and dancing in a manner that is much to old for them; in glitz pageants, they are made over into something they are not and then ranked according to this “false” beauty; and in modeling, many children are asked to pose in some sort of sexual manner to “highlight” their innocence or maturity and take them one step ahead of the competition. The children are forced to grow up way to quickly because of their parents’ dreams. These parents have taken so strongly to living through their children that they are willing to risk everything, including their child’s innocence, for their own personal gain. Because of this, children have learned that exploiting themselves and their sexuality is the only way to experience success and fulfill their dreams.

The tragedies of child exploitation can be found everywhere: movies, magazines, and especially, the internet. A prime example of this occurred in May of 2010 when a YouTube video of seven-year olds performing an inappropriate dance to “Single Ladies” was aired on national television.   People could not understand how any parent would allow their child to dance so provocatively while wearing such inappropriate clothing. It was something that disturbed them so greatly that many referred to it as child pornography, but this kind of dancing is now accepted in the competitive dance world. Many parents, teachers, and competitions encourage such dancing because they think it’s “too cute” to see their little girls dancing in such a manner, and it helps them to win. In addition to that, those parents who strongly protest against such things are often viewed as being troublesome and sometimes prohibited from participating in the competitive program. How sad is it that such an innocent hobby has turned into one of the main sources of child exploitation? Dance teachers should be more than capable of training their dancers and providing them with routines and costumes that are age appropriate and support a positive message. Dance is supposed to a positive hobby that encourages children to set goals and teaches them self confidence, not one that forces negative attention and mixed messages upon its participants. These girls could be forever scarred because of the attention this dance routine received. Can you imagine them going to school and be interrogated by their fellow classmates about why they were on the news and why they were dancing in such a manner? They would have no idea how to respond. They have been continuously encouraged and rewarded for doing the exact same routine at multiple dance competitions, so why would it become an issue now? In addition to emotional scarring the response to this routine could have caused, it could also have a negative affect on their future. There have been many adults in today’s society who have either been denied a job or fired because of something that took place in their past. This dance video could forever follows these innocent girls, but because their parents and mentors willingly exploited them, they can do nothing about it.

Another female who became a victim of child exploitation was Brooke Shields. In 1975, Teri Shields, Brooke’s mother, signed a contract with photographer Gary Gross and allowed him to take nude photo’s of her ten year old daughter. It was claimed that these photos were only shot for the promotion of Brooke’s up and coming movie, “Pretty Baby” and Gross’s project, The Woman in the Child, but these photos were later published in the magazine Little Women, the Playboy Press publication, Sugar and Spice, and large prints were exhibited on 5th Avenue in New York (Lipscher 6). These photo’s and the movie, “Pretty Baby” created a huge uproar in the 70’s, and according to, “Pretty Baby” became one of the most controversial films of all time. Due to all of the negative attention and the continued publication of these nude photos, Brooke entered a legal battle against Gross in 1981 and did everything she could to obtain the rights to the photos. She claimed that the photos had caused her “distress and embarrassment,” and that while her mother had signed full rights over to Gross, the photos were only supposed to be used for the single publication of “Pretty Baby” (Lipscher 6). After two years and multiple appeals, the court made the final decision that Brooke had no rights to the photo’s, for her mother’s legally binding signature allowed Gross to exploit them freely. This situation is a prime example of a parent’s actions exploiting their child and taking away their innocence. Because of her mother’s need for fame and success, Brooke is forced to live with the humiliation of having her 10 year old body exposed. As a child, she placed complete trust in her mother and posed for the photos without really knowing what the consequences would be. She, like all children should be able to believe that their parents have their best interests at heart and will protect them from the evil ways of the world; however, that did not seem to be the case for Brooke. These nude photos will forever be accessible on the world wide web, and because of her mother’s actions, there is absolutely nothing she can do about it.

If one searches, he or she can find many more examples of children being exploited. Parents guilty of such exploitations have often argued that they are only doing what they believe is best for their child and their future. A father of one of the young dancers in the “Single Ladies” video responded by saying the routine was, “completely normal for dancing… On behalf of the parents, our best interest is for the kids. Just know that the kids are doing something that the completely love to do. They compete in dance competitions… in front of family and friends” (ABC These parents wanted to give their children an opportunity to have fun and fulfill their dreams, and, sadly, because of the examples set by the “stars of today,” they felt that this was the way to do it. Whenever an artists or an actor experiences some kind of scandal, their popularity and publication seems to rise. More attention is given to them because they did something, whether it be good or bad, that caught the world’s eye. The more they mess up, the bigger attention they receive, and in the end, the more likely it is that they will become household name. In addition to that, many young stars of today are exploiting themselves. Within the last five years, the news has been headlined with scandals of Linsay Lohan, Vanessa Hudgens, Miley Cyrus, Paris Hilton and many more young stars, all of whom exploited their sexuality in one way or another. With these examples, it’s no wonder parents and children are more open to exploitation. They have been shown time and time again that exploitation is a part of fame, and if one wants to become a celebrity, they must be willing to do what ever it takes and live by the saying “any attention is good attention.”

Children in todays society are constantly given the message that in order to receive attention, one must exploit themselves. They see it on T.V., hear about it on the radio, watch it on the news, and some are even taught to do so by their parents. While everyone wants to help their child fulfill their dreams, the line must be drawn between what it is most beneficial for a child’s future and what is healthy. While many of the children who have experienced exploitation are famous today, not all of them are proud of the way they achieved their fame. Society should redirect their celebrity status to those who have true talent and practice proper entertainment value, not to those who are constantly exploiting their sexuality to receive the attention that they so desperately desire.

Berman, John, and Sarah Netter “Young Girls’ ‘Single Ladies’ Dance Sparks Controversy on

Internet.” ABC News 14 Mar. 2010. 19 Sep. 2010


Dirks, Tim . “Most Controversial Films of All Time.” 19 Sep. 2010.


Lipscher, Juraj “Controversies: A Legal and Ethical History of Photography.”

Musee de l’Elysee 1 Jun. 2008, 6-7.


~ by camccain on September 25, 2010.

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