A Project for Better Journalism chapter

“Dance Moms,” “Toddlers and Tiaras” advertise big-girl behavior for little girls

There is nothing more exciting than when I turn on my TV and see girls as young as six years old dancing across the stage in what I think were meant to be clothes but did not quite make the cut. Oh, and it gets better as I watch these same sweet little girls screaming at their mothers backstage because they did not have enough glitter.

TV shows like “Dance Moms” and “Toddlers and Tiaras” advertise that it is okay to dress skimpy at a young age and to wear an over-abundance of makeup. I did not know what makeup was when I was at that age. In fact, when I was six, it did not make sense to get all dolled up because it would not last once I hit the playground.

I wonder if these girls have any idea how to get outside and get dirty. In “Dance Moms”, they practice nine hours a night and sometimes more when there is a competition coming up. Between school and dance, those girls barely have any time to sleep, let alone have fun. There is nothing wrong with learning to dance at a young age, but maybe the curriculum should be kept age appropriate.

According to the National Wildlife Federation’s article, “Health Benefits,” outside play protects children’s emotional development whereas loss of free time and a hurried lifestyle can contribute to anxiety and depression. By taking away these girls’ chance to play outside, we also lower their levels of Vitamin D, which can lead to bone problems in the future. Children are not meant to be holed up in a dance room for hours on end.

All the girls featured on “Dance Moms” are between eight and 14 years old, and the girls competing on “Toddlers and Tiaras” start performing as soon as they are old enough to sit up on their own. From such a young age, girls are learning that perfection is a must and that their beauty comes from skimpy outfits, fake tans, make-up and flawless talent. When these girls make mistakes or their performance does not meet their parents’ expectations, they are faced with not only losing but their parents’ reactions to their loss. Parents often enter their children in beauty pageants for the possible financial gain and fame that comes with winning; therefore, they often see it as a personal loss rather than a disappointment to their children.

Now, I am not saying we should pull the girls from their dance classes and stop putting them in pageants, but maybe the focus should be on natural beauty and personality rather than perfection. Instead of dressing your toddlers in glitzy dresses, allow them to dress in clothes appropriate for their age. Childhood is supposed to be full of fun and laughter, not rigorous dance lessons and corseted dresses.