The Student News Site of Stafford High School

SHS Publications

The Student News Site of Stafford High School

SHS Publications

The Student News Site of Stafford High School

SHS Publications

13 going on 30

Has social media completely destroyed the innocence of our young girls?

Pre-teens or ‘tweens’ are children between the ages of 8-12, the gap bridging adolescents from teenagers. Being awkward and quirky was how children in this age group were enabled to behave. Cruising around Libby Lu in Justice shirts that read, “Girl Power” was what their parents expected of them. Now, pre-teens who were once obsessed with soda-flavored chapstick and knee-high converse are immersed in Tiktok trends that promote racy fashion and the overconsumption of beauty products suited for women far beyond their years. In an age defined by social media, hungry for the vulnerability of young girls, these young people are beginning to take after not only the appearance of troubled teens, but the behaviors associated with them as well, such as sexting and vaping. These ever-growing changes offer evidence of the sinister depths of our cultural landscape.


It’s no secret that over the past decades, the rapid expansion of the internet has made social media and its corresponding platforms increasingly popular worldwide. Due to this, gaining access to social media and creating an account has become no harder than a simple click of a button. The age restriction that apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Tiktok claim to uphold have clearly proven ineffective as 8–12 year old children in the U.S spend an average of almost 6 hours on digital media every single day, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). These findings in media usage have normalized alarming fashion trends and behaviors for young people, especially grasping the minds of young girls.


In an interview with UN News, senior policy analyst from a Global Education Monitor (GEM) report, Anna D’Addio, explains, “There is increasing evidence that shows that increased exposure to social media is related to mental health problems, eating disorders and many other issues that condition and distract social media users, and particularly girls, from education which affects their academic achievement.” 

When observing social media’s power through a gender lens, reporters and analysts have shed light on the dangers it poses specifically to the female gender. Based on evidence from the same GEM report, social media exposes young girls to a range of unsuitable video material, including sexual content, and the promotion of unhealthy and unrealistic body standards that negatively affect mental health and wellbeing.

Women have unfortunately always been portrayed as sex symbols and objectified by mainstream media since the emergence of popular culture. Icons like Marylin Monroe and Brooke Shields, celebrities who were heavily subjected to hypersexualization, often served as an example for how women should look and carry themselves. In these past decades, adult women were primarily held hostage to unattainable beauty standards. Now with the same patterns applying themselves to social media and the increased access of its effects, the age that girls begin to show self-conscious and toxically comparative tendencies has dwindled down to as young as 5 years old according to a prospective study conducted by H. Dohnt and M. Tiggemann from Flinders University. These influences on young girls have revealed themselves exponentially through sexualized, mature behavior that would have been deemed inappropriate 20 years ago.

 In March 2011, the franchise Abercrombie was under heat for marketing a push-up bikini top in the children department of their stores. Years before, they had also sparked controversy with their children’s thong line that offered designs that read, “Wink, Wink” and “Eye Candy”. The company gained negative publicity for the third time after releasing a shirt that featured the slogan, “Who needs brains when you have these?” across the chest area. 

“Marketers are trying to expand their market by selling teen items to younger and younger girls,” said Sharon Lamb, Ed.D., professor of psychology at Saint Michael’s College. This phenomenon has been coined by experts as KGOY- Kids Growing Old Younger; an acronym signifying that companies no longer need to cater to the pre-teen age group and can simplify their market into two distinct groups, young children and adults. These disturbing measures big-time marketing departments have taken all for the sake of dollar signs have taken a toll on the expectation of how a pre-teen should look. For example, many major costume manufactures like Spirit Halloween have released provocative halloween costumes marketed towards the ‘tween’ age group. The leap from innocent knee length Dorthy dresses to thigh high socks and 6-inch heels raises a red-flag beyond money-making schemes; our young girls are being encouraged to dress and act like prostitutes. 


Pre-teens are not only dressing promiscuously, but also acting out in sexual ways. In a study from the Department of Children of the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection in Ghana, children aged 8-17 were asked about their current sexual encounters. Research revealed that the prevalence of early sexual debut among children aged 8 to 17 was a little more than one in ten (13.2%), and it is more predominant among female children than male children. This means over 1 in 8 individuals reported to engage in sexual activity at or before the age of 14, according to this study’s definition of “early sexual debut”.

  Of course with the normalization of acting out in such profane ways, we are seeing increasingly young mothers – children having children – birthing before their bodies even reach full development.  Christy Hogan, a recently retired middle-school counselor in Louisville, Ky, admits, “We’re beginning to see a few pregnant sixth-graders.” According to studies conducted at the Guttmacher Institute in New York, as of 2019, adolescents aged 15–19 years in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) had an estimated 21 million pregnancies each year, of which approximately 50% were aborted or miscarried due to their unexpectancy.

Moreover, social media has overwhelmingly increased the access and exposure to this behavior. More than half of 11-15 year old girls using Instagram and Snapchat in the United States have been contacted by strangers in a way that made them feel uncomfortable, according to a report by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that reviews and provides ratings for media and technology in order to safeguard children.

The effects of social media have also manifested through increased usage of drugs and alcohol. According to studies accumulated by the NBCI, in 2017, 15.5 percent of high school students reported that they had had their first drink of alcohol (other than a few sips) before age 13. Furthermore, these studies have also displayed that media exposure, including portrayals of teenagers drinking on television, can increase adolescents’ experimentation with alcohol.

Alongside of consuming alcohol, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), 7.2 percent of middle school students and 27.1 percent of high school students reported current use of any tobacco product (past 30 days) in 2018. Electronic vaping devices such as Puff Bars, Elf Bars, Juul have reached an even larger population of youth, causing many middle and high schools to install smoke detectors in their bathrooms. The fruity flavors and sleek, slender designs have especially appealed to the adolescents of our generation. Correlating to social media abuse, studies done by researchers at the University of Oxford show exposure to content on social media platforms displaying health risk behavior was associated with increased use of vaping devices.

Why has such a large portion of female youth fallen victim to the infectious belief that they should emulate the promiscuity they ingest on social media? Evidence suggests that parental absence and failure to monitor social media use contributes to the rapid deterioration of innocence among adolescents. 57% of teens feel their parents are not at all worried about their use of social media, according to a study done by Pew Research. Now that the average parent allows their child a smartphone at age 10, opening up a world inaccessible to previous generations, with unlimited access to news, social media and other outlets that were previously reserved for adults, the early access is forcing them into emotional maturity before they reach adulthood. 

Although this dilemma’s grip on society is becoming tighter by the day, with more and more trends and products surfacing articulately crafted to engage our youth, the chances of reversing the premature aging of girls is looking slim to none. Marketing teacher at Stafford High School, Kristy Craddock, explains, “Social media is so important to the young generation, when they see something trending on social media they immediately want it.” 

For pre-teens, the imitation and adoration of these risky attitudes and behaviors is nothing more than a desire to fit in. “The expectation has shifted,” Craddock shares. “As they see the older kids or even kids their age and how they look with makeup and the different products that they are offered, it does force them to grow up quicker.” Toxic changes in preteens that are worrying older generations are the line between being “cool” and being bullied for these young girls. “Some of us that are older can’t believe they are going out like that, but if you don’t go out like that you won’t be accepted,” Craddock confesses.

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About the Contributor
Jayda Jones
Jayda Jones, Writer
I'm Jayda! I'm a sophomore and I am very involved in sports and extracurricular activities. This is my first year officially on The Smoke Signal staff. You have probably seen me interviewing around the school; maybe even interviewing you:) I can't wait to share my passion for writing with the community!
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