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Aesthetic, external attributes have a place, but they should not be the sole means by which a child should measure themselves. Does she believe that such contests could encourage paedophilia?
Predators and Princesses: The Internet Safety Guide for Parents
That children are now given a channel to become little Lolitas, to be portrayed as older, to almost become mini adults — these are all trends that give legitimacy to that kind of thinking. In America, where the tradition of beauty pageants is far more entrenched, the industry has been overshadowed for years by the murder of six-year-old child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey, who was found sexually abused and garrotted in the basement of her family's home in Boulder, Colorado, on Boxing Day The case is still unsolved.
In the UK, one of the most disturbing aspects of the child beauty pageant scene is that it remains almost entirely unlegislated. But Froud is also quick to point out that a properly run pageant can be beneficial. Many of them donate a slice of their profits to charity and, she says, the contests can promote "grace and good manners and wanting to do good… The girls who enter learn about focus and they can start to learn better behaviour.
In fact, many of the mothers and daughters I speak to are remarkably sensible and see beauty pageants as part of a well-balanced life, rather than the sole focus of it. It is an example that does much to challenge the beauty pageant stereotype of pushy parents and spoilt, doll-like children with glassy-eyed stares professing their fervent desire for world peace. In many cases, a contestant's personality seems to flourish under the spotlight in a way that mirrors the plot of the Oscar-winning film, Little Miss Sunshine.
The movie poked fun at the child pageant scene but also used it as a backdrop for the seven-year-old Olive bespectacled and slightly chubby to revel in her own individuality. For Telka, entering the Miss Mini Photogenic UK beauty pageant seemed to be a natural extension to the sorts of things she enjoyed doing anyway. She is already an accomplished actress who appeared in the BBC drama series Bonekickers and voices one of the three main characters in the CBeebies cartoon Kerwhizz. Her mother, Bonnie, who was herself a child model in Iran, was supportive.
She thinks you can have it all. So I think, for her, entering the pageant was mainly curiosity. In the event, they were both left rather underwhelmed by their pageant experience. Bonnie, who had never been to one before, was shocked to find other mothers "pulling and pushing their kids' hair" and plastering make-up on to their faces. Telka, meanwhile, acknowledges that "it was nice to dress up, but I didn't like the way really young children were putting on make-up. When you're a child, you're supposed to enjoy your childhood and have fun. It is more of a challenge and I like a challenge.
I dream about being famous, but I want to be famous for a reason.
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I want people to know my name for something I do. But there are also girls who genuinely find that the pageant scene, far from making them anxious about how they look, actually boosts their confidence and their self-image. Eleven-year-old Chloe Lindsay from Belfast was bullied for years at primary school for being overweight. I was thinking badly about myself.
I had days where I might not eat or come out of my room, I'd just sit in my pyjamas and not want to do anything. With her self-esteem at rock bottom, Chloe started attending a local dance school where a couple of her friends were already having lessons. Soon, she was entering "freestyle dance" competitions which take place almost every weekend in town halls across the UK. Contestants are required to dress up in flamboyant feathered and bejewelled costumes reminiscent of the Rio carnival.
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For competitions, Chloe wears heavy make-up, false eyelashes and has an all-over spray-tan. Her mother, Helen, 32, admits she was worried at first that Chloe was dressing inappropriately for her age. Over the past year or so, it's creeping into her everyday life, but I would only allow her a wee bit of mascara and gloss to go to school. The way I look at it, if it gives her a little confidence, it's worth it and now she's going to secondary school I don't want her to stand out for not wearing make-up as everyone else is.
I only take it so far. She tortures me about dying her hair and that's an absolute no. She's too young. And yet, however much entering pageants can prove to be a positive thing for sensibly minded and ambitious young girls with firm adult guidance, there are some who question whether children can ever truly be said to form their own decisions, independently from their parents. Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at the University of Kent and author of several books including Paranoid Parenting , says that modern parents are encouraged to make a heightened emotional investment in their children and to view them as extensions of themselves.
If little Johnny picks up a violin, he's going to be a composer. If little Mary is a gymnast, she's going to win gold at the Olympics. With the powerful impulse towards celebrity culture, the parental impulse becomes unrestrained. If a child says 'This is what I want to do,' it's generally not miles away from what the parent wants.
It's relational decision-making rather than a strong-willed child making decisions totally on their own. These pageants are not for children to entertain other children. What one sees here is adult fantasies fuelling this thing. It's for adults.
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It's a couple of steps up from Crufts. Still, it is hard not to dismiss the sneaking suspicion that at least part of the opposition to pageants in this country stems from a class divide — the idea that there is something a bit tacky, a bit infra dig about parading one's children on the stage rather than doing the comfortably middle-class thing of taking one's little darlings to piano lessons or entering them for chess tournaments. Last year, a study into child beauty pageants in the US for the Harvard University Gazette questioned 41 mothers who participated in an average of five pageants a year.
go site The researcher, Hilary Levey, concluded that mothers of lower income and poorer education entered their children into the contests because they wanted them to learn the proper skills necessary to move up the social scale. One mother was quoted as saying: "I want my child to be aware that there's going to be somebody better than her. It's a hard thing to learn — it was for me — and I want her to start early.
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But if you come from a middle-class background and shove your child into music lessons, that's OK. Parental aspiration acquires different forms, but it's a very similar kind of impulse. And given that we live in a world that increasingly values physical appearance, is there anything so very wrong in teaching one's children how to make the best of themselves, how to get ahead in life? Only this year, Catherine Hakim, a senior research fellow in sociology at the London School of Economics, wrote a paper for the European Sociological Review that stated "erotic capital" was the key professional attribute of our times.
One mother interviewed for the BBC documentary puts it more succinctly when talking about her six-year-old daughter competing in a pageant: "All the while I was pregnant I was [thinking] 'Oh please let her be lovely, please let her be lovely,' because it does open more doors. I don't care what anyone says and I'm not saying I think this is right, but there are surveys that actually state that prettier people will get more doors opened for them. It might be depressing to think that our children are growing up in a world that places an ever greater value on appearance rather than substance, but if it is the case, then child beauty pageants are, perhaps, a natural extension of the trend.
Back in Hampshire, Amber is putting away her collection of stones with great care. Each one has its own specific compartment in the pink rucksack so that she knows exactly where to find it. She hands me a tiny, smooth, toffee-brown pebble. Why, I ask? It's designed to keep anyone from getting a child's personal information without a parent knowing about it and agreeing to it first.
COPPA requires websites to explain their privacy policies and get parental consent before collecting or using a child's personal information, such as a name, address, phone number, or Social Security number. The law also prohibits a site from requiring a child to provide more personal information than necessary to play a game or enter a contest.
Online tools let you control your kids' access to adult material and help protect them from Internet predators.
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Many Internet service providers ISPs provide parent-control options. You can also get software that helps block access to sites and restricts personal information from being sent online. Other programs can monitor and track online activity. More important than blocking objectionable material is teaching your kids safe and responsible online behavior, and keeping an eye on their Internet use.
Call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at if you're aware of the sending, use, or viewing of child pornography online. Contact your local law enforcement agency or the FBI if your child has received child pornography via the Internet. Watch for warning signs of a child being targeted by an online predator. These can include:. Talk to your kids! Keep an open line of communication and make sure that they feel comfortable turning to you when they have problems online. As kids get older, it gets a little trickier to monitor their time spent online.
They may carry a smartphone with them at all times.