When 7th Grader, Tayler Weatherall, posted a photo of herself wearing heavy eye makeup, a maroon midriff top, and a belly button ring to her now-private Instagram page a few weeks ago, twitter exploded with concerned tweets. Weatherall, who captioned the photo, “first day of 7 grade,” spurred an influx of “7th graders then vs. 7th graders now” side-by-side comparison photos that feature a photo of 7th graders from 5-10 years ago next to a photo of 7th graders from present day. Although many of the tweets seem to be in good fun, they all show a striking contrast between how pre-teens used to dress and how they dress now. Between skimpy clothing and provocative posing, the photos of 7th graders today all beg one question: Are kids growing up too fast?
As one can see from the series of photos below, 7th grade girls of the past are sporting modest clothing, side ponytails, and innocent expressions, while 7th graders of today are wearing full makeup, and too-tight, too-short shirts and shorts. One disturbing present-day photo even shows girls making crude and sexual gestures with their hands and mouths. While it can be argued that Weatherall’s photo is not inherently provocative—she is not in a compromising pose or making any abnormal gestures—there is something concerning about the photo. Perhaps that concern is the simple fact that she just does not look like she is in 7th grade, and nor do the photos of other present-day 7th graders.
The question of whether or not kids are growing up too fast has been asked time and time again. Authors such as Diane E. Levin, Ph.D and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D, among others, have written articles and books on the influence of pop culture and the sexualized childhood that children face. The photos below seem to show that nothing much is improving. In fact, things are getting worse, especially for young girls who feel the pressure to match the sexy styles of older celebrity figures.
The true problem in all of this is that although children, pre-teens, and teens are dressing much more maturely, or rather skimpily, an increase in maturity levels to match the mature attire is not present. Take, for example, August 17th tweet by a much-older teen twitter user, @almetoric.
The tweet not only trivializes and encourages the over-sexualizing of young girls, it also displays a concerning predatory stance of older people, mainly males, who now think it is okay to pursue these younger girls. Such behavior on the part of young men encourages girls to objectify themselves further, and while the people making comparison photos may be doing it in “good fun,” as stated earlier, it is clear that the today’s 7th graders are serious about flaunting their mature looks and bodies. The attention they receive for such behavior is undeniable, considering the fact that Weatherall’s one Instagram post caused her number of followers to rise from just a few hundred to over 15,000 in just a short week’s time. The number of ways in which this kind of provocative social media posting can negatively affecting young people is countless. Take a look at the twitter photos below, and see whether or not you think our young girls are growing up too fast.