Playboy bunny leaps into fashion for children

WE have let the Playboy bunny image come off the top shelf and into our children’s wardrobes.

But what have we unleashed? Even the experts are not sure and that is the real worry.

This week the agency Children at Risk in Ireland (CARI) released its annual report which cites an increase in cases of “sexualised behaviour” in children, some as young as seven.

The rise could be due to a number of factors but children’s crop tops with Playboy logos, padded bras for nine-year-olds, T-shirts studded with rhinestones and provocative slogans on them are becoming increasingly common and could play a part.

Girl groups such as the Pussycat Dolls and Girls Aloud target young girls with their brand of music, provocative behaviour and fashions.

But what kind of parent does not mind their teenage (or younger) daughters wearing tops with the message ‘Come and Play’ or ‘Sexy Bitch’?

Dunnes Stores and Penneys now have racks of bras for young girls, some as young as five years old. There is a variety of padded bras for children as young as nine.

And with the Bratz dolls now far exceeding sales of Barbie, Dunnes has responded to the development with a range of bra and panty sets with pictures of Bratz on them.

The Bratz dolls, designed specifically for four to eight year olds, come dressed in sexualised clothing such as mini-skirts, fishnet stockings and feather boas.

The manufacturers of the dolls insist, however, that children see the dolls as being pretty rather than sexy.

Neither Dunnes Stores nor Penneys would comment on the wide availability of bras for children who do not need them.

But it is not just bras that are available for little girls. High-heeled shoes and boots can be bought in Irish shoe shops for children aged five and upwards.

There are “boob tubes” aimed at girls as young as six, while girls of 12 can dress like hookers with their mothers’ approval.

A study published earlier this year warned that girls as young as five were growing up at risk of psychological damage in a society that believes ‘sex sells’.

Published by the American Psychological Association (APA), it said that a generation of girls could face problems ranging from depression to eating disorders and unhealthy sexual development because the marketing industry wanted to “sexualise” them at an even younger age.

CARI believes increasingly sexualised behaviour in young children could be a result of a more sexualised society. Its acting national clinical director Majella Ryan said: “Children are exposed more to this, whether in magazines or elsewhere, and to some degree we have become a bit desensitised.

“There are a whole lot of problems that go with sexualised behaviour, but I do think that the way society has developed is an issue.

“There is no doubt that young people are under pressure to appear a certain way,” she said.

While teenagers might like to think they were individual in they way they dressed, they tended to run with the pack and would go for whatever trends were in vogue, she said, adding that teenagers could look very grown up but were still child-like, with many still wanting to take their favourite cuddly toy to bed.

This childlike behaviour could explain the popularity of the Playboy bunny, which also features widely in children’s bedding.

But, said Ms Ryan, many teenage girls who dressed to impress were oblivious to the risks from predatory males. She advised parents to keep lines of communication open with their children so that they knew the dangers that existed.

* www.cari.ie

* www.apa.org

* www.bratz.ie

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