Family First NZ is echoing concerns expressed by healthcare professionals, parents and eating disorder groups in the UK over a website targeted at ‘tweens’ and teenagers (9-16 years old).
The website www.missbimbo.com encourages girls to use plastic surgery and extreme dieting to get the perfect figure and children can earn “bimbo dollars” to buy plastic surgery, diet pills, facelifts, lingerie and fashionable nightclub outfits.
“The sexualisation of our teenagers and young children is a serious issue and this website is yet another example of sexualised marketing targeted at young people. It also highlights the need for parents to monitor internet use by their children, and for appropriate internet filtering to be made available to protect the safety and wellbeing of our children” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“We need to let children be children. We should not be subjecting them to adult concepts, experiences or identity before they are mature enough to cope with them.”
A recent report by the American Psychological Association points to the dangers when sexualisation leads to girls viewing themselves as objects and having an unhealthy preoccupation with appearance. The pressure can lead to depression, eating disorders, and poor academic performance.
The Australian Childhood Foundation released a report in April 2007, which showed that problem sexual behaviour in children as young as six, often appears to be influenced by sex imagery in the media.
“This is a timely reminder to parents that popular websites for young people such as Bebo, MySpace and Miss Bimbo need to be carefully monitored by parents,” says Mr McCoskrie. “Online predators, explicit language and themes, bullying and abuse, and sexualisation of young people are all warning flags that website providers cannot be depended on to act in the best interests of young users.”
“We would encourage parents to regularly monitor the internet usage of their children, to keep the computer in a communal space in the family home rather than hidden in a bedroom, to discuss internet safety with children and to regularly talk about and process some of the themes that young people are coming across on the net.”