Education, Health, and Safety

Guest Column by Shunali Khullar Shroff: The young & the restless

A girl, barely in her teens, gyrates suggestively for the camera. Her tight clothes barely cover her still developing body. An explicit soundtrack plays. And it traces what she imagines to be the shortest, sexiest, path to genuine adulation. You probably know some of these girls.

Chances are parents of these adolescents are unaware of their spam account avatars because of how easily these platforms enable anonymity. My column then isn’t an indictment of either the child or their parents but a conversation that I, as a mother, am hoping to start.

Role reversal

I recently posted about this on social media and it seemed to open a pandora’s box of concerns. There’s no escaping the sexualisation of children—put on a talent show and you’ll see an 11-year-old thrusting her tiny pelvis and gyrating to crass music. You may marvel at her talent, but chances are you will wince, and not just at the heavily made-up faces.

Collectively, the media seems to be telling our girls they need to be sexually desirable. Their role models are doing it on screen and on Instagram. Celebs like the Kardashians spring to mind because they kind of started this fire and are demonstrating to kids that a girl’s value comes strictly from her body and her sexual appeal, excluding anything else.

Generation trend

It’s ironic that on the one hand we’re making strides in creating awareness about feminism and gender equality, but by sexually objectifying our bodies we’re taking two steps back.

How do we convey to an entire generation of girls that showcasing their bodies to get attention or seek popularity is the lowest way to go about it?

“These young teens (aged 13 to 17) are subconsciously suffering from low self-esteem. Seeking validation from the opposite sex is a big part of this behaviour, there’s also peer pressure,” says clinical psychologist Seema Hingorani.

Parents sometimes encourage their kids to post such pictures, and there are also those who believe posting a picture of themselves online can be good for the child’s confidence. “Sometimes I think parents need therapy!” says Hingorani.

With capitalism driving the algorithms that keep kids hooked to their devices, at the policy level as well, governments need to intervene. Schools must play their part too by actively engaging and creating awareness about the world of social media.

Hingorani concludes that we need to tell our children that our identities are who we are as human beings and not our Instagram photos or popularity on social media.

Shunali Khullar Shroff

Shunali Khullar Shroff is an author and an avid traveller who has recently authored Love in the Time of Affluenza.

I Say Chaps is an occasional guest column that allows passionate, creative people a platform to have their say.

From HT Brunch, April 30, 2022

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