Oh dear I feel a discussion coming on.
To give some background information. I know how it is to be a young girl 'forced' to be a woman before her time, except my story has nothing to do with peer pressure or marketing/media pressure but everything to do with the fact that I went through puberty at the incredibly young age of ten. So there I was, five foot, three inches tall (I never grew after this), a dress size 10/12 with, what must have already been, a 'b' sized chest. As you can imagine I got my fair share of male attention, how horrified most of them were to discover I was only 10. And discover they did. Usually the minute I opened my mouth for though physically a woman, mentally and emotionally, I was still a child, a young girl who still played with her dollies.
Clothing was, of course, a bit of a problem and I probably did dress a little more maturely than many of my peer group but I certainly wasn't dressed in some of the clothing now available to children as young (and younger) than ten. No, there was no (what we in the UK call) thongs, push-up bras, nor tee-shirts with rather risque slogans (remember the case in the British press about the seven year old girl wearing a top with the legend 'sexy at seven'?) but still I had little choice but to dress in styles that added to the illusion that I was older than I actually was.
Going on to the part the media has to play in how we perceive children.
Not like me I know but on this occasion I was at a loss as to what to say, words failed me as to how I felt seeing these two articles in our local newspaper. Talk about giving mixed messages. On the one hand, on page 3 we had an article all about "Sophie, Queen Of Pageants", which sang the praises of a 13-year-old already the 'winner' of several 'beauty' contests and then on page 30, "Modern Image Of Beauty Is A threat To Young", an article all about how children as young as 11 would undergo surgery in search of the body beautiful.
This north teenager jetted to America and beat its beauty queens at their own game. Sophie Watson became the star of a series of pageants in the US last month. The 13-year-old from Spennymoor, County Durham, is also the reigning Mini Miss UK 2009.
Her proud mum Joy said "A few years ago she had low self -confidence but she has blossomed with all these activities.
"She's now a really out-going girl and she has friends all over the world.
"I think she's an inspiration. She's different to me. I couldn't have been so confident when I was Sophie's age."
Now you can call me a kill-joy if you wish but surely the beauty business isn't really such a good idea for a young girl who we are told had low self-confidence. Being the notorious business it is, surely any knock backs would be devastating to any person let alone a sensitive soul such as Sophie.
That aside, in this day-and-age when physical 'perfection' is seen as so very important by both boys and girls, when eating disorders are on the rise, surely special care must be used when dealing with our ever younger fashion conscious children.
In a new survey of social attitudes commissioned by GIRL GUIDING UK, nearly half of secondary school-age girls said they would undergo laser treatment, liposuction or some form of plastic surgery to change the way they look.
And that is because they feel the need to change; they want to be thinner.
Some say that things are the same as they have ever been; that girls have always wanted to be thin and attractive, but I'm more convinced that we've been on a sliding slope - that slim morphed into thin and then skeletal chic.
It may be true that girls have always loved make-up and dressing-up, but wanting to have themselves cut open to adhere to an image of the perfect body is a different matter altogether.
Now I don't know Sophie, yesterday was the first time I had ever heard of her, and I don't have any reason to believe she will find herself in this situation but, life today being what it is, a great deal of pressure IS felt by most youngsters as to how they look. Surely this pressure can only be intensified for Sophie who, after all, enters competitions in which the person deemed to be the most attractive wins.
FOOTNOTE: Just to avoid any confusion, I believe that what we commonly call a flip-flop here in England is known as a thong in other places.
Both of today's articles appeared in yesterday's Sunday Sun. To view the first article in full click HERE, for the second HERE and for the results of the survey by Girl Guiding UK as mentioned in the article HERE.