Last month on our journey back from London, a 7-years-old girl was sitting next to me restlessly, and in between her non-stop chatting to her mum who looked desperately could use some extra hours of sleeping and her tiny fingers which were busy pressing her pink Playstation Portable to kill whatever enemy she fought against, she was singing. Not the Barney purple dinosaur song or any song a normal pre-teens would sing, but Girls Aloud‘s new single Can’t Speak French.
Her mum, finally given up sleeping and joined the conversation, said that her beloved daughter wants to be an actress. Not a doctor, a lawyer, or an architect, but an actress. Being a pragmatic lady, mum said it’s not going to be easy. A dreamer and a kid, the 7-years-old said it’s easy (according to her friend who had scored some gigs in local theater) and believed she’s going to make it.
This kid is not alone, millions of other (pre)-teenagers have unrealistic expectations of instant stardom. The constant media exposure of teenage celebrities, such as Emma Watson and Miley Cyrus, as well as the reality TV talent shows like X factors and American Idol that present the glamorous life of being celebrities on our doorsteps, are said to be contributing factors. These youngsters think that their Hollywood break is just around the corner, and the glittery life every teenage celebrities live each day is an escape from exams and other boring school stuff.
Everyday we face the bombardment of media images glamorising drug-taking, binge drinking and the sexualisation of teenagers. Peaches Geldof is not a day older than 19 but constantly appears at glitzy events where champagne flows and now to be quizzed by the Police over a shocking videotape of her buying drugs. Miley Cyrus is 15 years-old and caused an uproar when she posed semi-naked for Vanity Fair (but naturally she now claims she had been ‘manipulated’ when the photos were taken). Vanessa Hudgens is 18 years-old Disney’s High School Musical star posing naked in a bedroom with a red curtain behind her. Jamie Lynn Spears is 16 and pregnant, and as well as being crazy-Britney’s sister, is used to be Nickelodeon television’s darling.
Those are the example of teenage celebrities whose face grace our kids, nephews’ or nieces’ bedroom, school box, rucksack and thermos, whose CDs we buy, whose concert and shows we watch, whose stories we follow in gossip channel and magazines, whose hairstyle will be copied, whose those youngsters think are “cool”.
Like it’s not enough, Scotland’s children’s commissioner is calling for the age of consent to be lowered to 13 for sexual partners of similar ages. That means, 13 to 15-years-olds who have sex with each other should not be criminalised – although over-16s who have sex with a minor could still be prosecuted (from The Sunday Times, May 11, 2008).
It’s not strange to hear my friends complain that their 9-years-old or 11-years-old daughter has been begging to buy some make-ups because others put some on when they go to school, and those are considered essential, just like latest mobile phones and designer handbags (seriously, I saw a girl wearing private school uniform and couldn’t be older than 13-years-old, walking in Union Street with a Gucci on her shoulder. The bag alone costs over £1,000 or Rp 20 millions). Some of them have constant battles about what their daughters should or should not wear since skirts are getting shorter and tank tops are getting lower each day. All, of course, are for getting attention from the opposite sex. And if this proposed change is applied, as part of the laws on rape and other sexual offences, surely lots of parents will have bigger headache than ever. How can you say no to your 13-years-old teenagers when they legally can do it?
Drugs, sex and alcohol are part of the celebrity lifestyle today, but no child should grow up under the impression that getting pregnant when she’s barely 16 is cool. No child should bow to peer pressure and tabloid’s constant exposure to drugs and alcohol, or worse, think that Amy Winehouse and Peter Doherty are so talented, and drugs are the part of their genius process. And taking nude pictures, no matter how old you are, whether you’re 16 or 60, definitely have some consequences.
The kids deserve better and longer lasting future than the stars in the teen magazines.