Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I'm feelin' mighty low…gimme those Uggs!

It's that glorious time of year again! A warm spirit of love is sweeping through the crisp fall air. Once again, people from all walks of life will come together in the wondrous celebration of peace and goodwill that only comes once a year.

Aaaaaaahhhhh…. (angelic choir triumphantly sings)

Now try going to the nearest mall and spewing that overly-saccharin crap. After you crawl out from under the clothes rack that someone will undoubtedly stuff you under for blocking the door-buster cardigans, I think you’ll see things more clearly.

Those Christmas carol days are long gone, honey. Now the season is all about buy, buy, buy. Well whaddya want? We’re a nation of consumers. If there’s a door-buster deal on twenty 46-inch flat-screen plasma TVs at 4 am on Thanksgiving morning, then durn it, Thelma…get the tent and let’s get over to the Wal-Mart. We’re sleeping out tonight!

Ok, I’m venting. Namely because nothing on my daughter’s Christmas list is less than $200. When did that happen? One year she was jumping up and down over a stocking full of candy and a Monopoly jr. game. Now it’s Uggs, iPods, Wiis, and digital cameras. Oh there’s no way she’s getting all that stuff (unless she’s getting a job to go along with it), but she’s a good kid, so like millions of other mamas, I’ll do what I can. But since we’re wondering why our kids are asking for more stuff than ever, a newly released bit of research may shed some light on the question…

Basically two studies have found that materialism in children increases from middle childhood (8 and 9 years old) to early adolescence (12 and 13 years old) but then declines by the end of high school (16 to18 years old). This mirrors patterns in self-esteem, which instead decreases in early adolescence but increases in late adolescence.

So the lower the self-esteem (which hits the skids around age 12)…the more crap they want. Or more precisely: the more name-brand, designer, and most technologically advanced crap they want. Which explains the $800 Christmas list with only 5 things on it.

In the second study, the kids received paper plates with positive descriptions about them, like "smart" and "fun," from their peers in a summer camp setting. Apparently, this small getsture sharply reduced the high levels of materialism in the 12- and 13-year-olds, and the moderate levels of materialism among 16-to-8-year-olds.

So there you have it, now we can feel like wise and well-informed parents when we say, “No, all those gifts are bad for your self-esteem. Here’s a paper plate with “smart” written on it instead. MERRY HOLIDAYS!”

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Another reason to take a stiff drink before reading the news

I try to check the headlines every day to see what's going on in the world. I make it easy on myself by setting up my Google home page to scan for stories with specific keywords (Oh yeah, technology is an amazing thing!).

Some days, I get a pleasant surprise in the news, like when someone gets rescued from a raging flood or a burning building, or when the feature is a heart-warming story of healing, goodwill and kindness.

But for the most part, I'm usually pretty damned sorry I even bothered to read the news. Like today when I clicked onto my headlines page and found this.

May I rant for a moment, Mamas? Thanks.

When the idea for this blog floated into my head, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to find enough content to keep it going. I mean, how much could really be happening in the lives of American pre-teen girls for me to come up with relevant, interesting topics all the time?


In the weeks (WEEKS, you hear me?) that I've had this blog up and running I've actually had a hard time narrowing down the topics so that my life isn't completely consumed with research and writing. Not only are tweens:

Being offered free birth control at school
Going into puberty earlier
Being marketed to on an incredible scale(which is hard for me to admit because I'm a marketing gal at heart.)
• and exposed to so many images of sex and violence they're desensitized to it...

But now, we have a case of two children…an 8 year old and a 9 year old… being accused of rape. It's so shocking that it actually sounds absurd. The questions that surround the case are just as mind-blowing: Was is consenual ? Why did the 11-year old victim talk about the incident at a slumber party before telling her parents? Are an 8 and a 9-year old capable of rape?...

It's unbelievable. Or more like you don't even want to believe it. But there it is. Just one more story among dozens of others which scream that our kids are in desperate need of guidance.

Hold your little ones tight, Mamas.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Childhood ... at warp speed

Well Mama, it’s been pretty much established… girls are entering puberty earlier than ever.

No kidding.

Just stroll into a 5th grade classroom and take a look around. Some of those little girls are popping out like crazy. Humps, bumps and lovely-lady-lumps all over the place!

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics the average age of girls starting puberty has dropped from 15, in the late 1800s, to age 12 in 2007. There have been cases of girl as young as 6 starting to develop breasts and sprout pubic hair, and girls as young as 8 starting their periods.

Age 8? Say what?

Dr. Sandra Steingraber's August 2007 report "The Falling Age of Puberty in U.S. Girls: What We Know, What We Need to Know" addresses the probable reasons behind early puberty and well as the consequences faced by little girls who develop at a young age. Causes behind the early blossoming (also known as "precocious puberty") include:

* Childhood obesity (though this can be a consequence of early puberty as well as a contributing factor).
* Chemicals found in foods, toys, cleaning products, the environment, and health & beauty products.
* Premature or low birth weight
* Stress
* Formula feeding
* A sedentary lifestyle with little exercise (too much TV, video games, computer time, and processed snacks, and not enough freeze tag)

And the scary part, early puberty is not just an physical inconvenience for these girls, it has been shown to raise the risk of:

* Breast cancer (Dr. Steingraber's report was commissioned by The Breast Cancer Fund)
* Polycystic ovary syndrome
* High-risk behaviors in later adolescence like smoking, drinking, drugs, crime and unprotected sex
* Violent victimization
* Psychopathologies like depression and anxiety
* Conduct disorders and delinquency
* Lower academic education

No little girl deserves to have her childhood marred because her body is doing things that her mind is not ready for. Top that off with the negative physical, emotional and mental effects than could come in to play and it's even more scary. Add to that the fact that the causes behind this phenomenon seem to be preventable, and it's damned tragic.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Aqua Dots & Pantiless Pop Stars

We live in the ultimate age of information.

Technology has given us mobile phones that can take pictures or shoot video that we can then send to all of our friends on their phones. We carry our Blackberries everywhere so anytime something happens not only do we get a call and an e-mail about it, but we can go online and read or watch the story for ourselves. We are truly connected like never before, and it's great!

Or is it?

It's a definite plus that we know what's happening on the other side of the world five minutes after it's happened. I have loved ones who are soldiers. It's important for me to stay on top of the war situation and anything that impacts it.

And it's definitely a benefit that if I miss seeing the news (which lets face it, I don’t watch anyway) I can go online and get the daily headlines whenever I get the urge. And if I don’t have time to look up the news online, most news stations will send me e-mails or text messages when something big happens.

But the fact that most of us can take or leave the news whenever we want seems to have pushed the news media to come up with some creative ways of getting our attention. One popular tactic seems to be giving way too much information. For example: Do I really need to know every time Britney Spears farts, falls or forgets her drawers? Not really, but that type of thing tends to make big headlines these days. Whatever. That's something I can easily turn off. However, something very important hit the news today and was immediately turned into a circus. I'm talking about… the Aqua Dots recall.

NEW YORK (CNN) - U.S. safety officials have recalled about 4.2 million Chinese-made Aqua Dots bead toys that contain a chemical that has caused some children to vomit and become comatose after swallowing them.
Scientists have found the popular toy's coating contains a chemical that, once metabolized, converts into the toxic "date rape" drug GHB, or gamma-hydroxy butyrate, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission spokesman Scott Wolfson told CNN.
"GHB is this drug that in low doses actually causes euphoria," said Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent. "In higher doses, it can cause people to go into a coma. It can cause seizures. It can cause something known as hypotonia, where all your muscles just become very flaccid.…

Don't get me wrong. This is important news. Very important for anyone else who has a child in their lives. But screaming Date Rape Drug found in Child's Toy goes beyond reporting the news.

Tell me it's toxic. Tell me kids have been hurt. Tell me it's been pulled of the shelves and if I have it in my home I should toss it out. But jeez…

"GHB is this drug that in low doses actually causes euphoria," said Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent.

Thanks, Sanjay. Now let's tally how many weirdoes are going to run out and snatch up every Aqua Dot they can find to test out the "low-dose-euphoria" hypothesis. Because let's face it…if I wasn't the responsible parent, upstanding citizen, and educated, professional woman that I am…If I were about 15 years younger and still relatively stupid or just high from "doing the reefer" (my mother's words)… I might seriously consider popping a couple of these babies to see what happened.

But since I'm no longer living in a dorm room, I now have to worry about my kid…or more accurately one of her raggedy-ass classmates... bringing some contraband Aqua Dots that they smuggled out of the trash in to school to give the euphoria a try.

Too much friggin' information.

Monday, November 5, 2007

A Beauty of a Site for Self-Esteem

Today, I've added Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty website to the Enlightening Links section of Girl-Child. This is the wonderful initiative behind the "Pro Age" ads that show mature mamas in their birthday suits, the "Real Curves" ads that use true-life curvy ladies not skinny models to promote their line of firming products, and of the incredibly powerful "Onslaught" video that puts into perspective exactly how girls and women are bombarded with media-made images of "beauty" every day.

I know Dove has gotten some slack for this campaign and not without reason. Their parent company, Unilever, also owns the Axe brand. You know Axe, the cologne spray with the commercials that show average-looking guys being mobbed by horny, half-naked women after a few sprays of the stuff.

The fact that such conflicting messages can come from the same company has some people calling foul. But let's keep this in perspective, Dove and Axe are two different brands under one parent company. They have nothing to do with each other. Dove's message is a potent and powerful one for women of all ages, races and cultures. They're doing more than any other company to help change the way women are viewed in advertising and in the culture. And that's pretty huge step for a company who's bread and butter is beauty products. Let's not cloud that with judgements on other brands under the Unilever umbrella (which includes Skippy, Ragu, and Klondike, by the way).

This campaign is one that I will certainly support and one that I feel really good about sharing with my tween.
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