8-9 year olds sexy dancing to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” was a You Tube video that went viral and sparked outrage among many who saw it; viewers questioned what on earth the parents were thinking letting their kids dress in such skimpy outfits, some remarking that Beyonce wore more clothes in the song’s video. Others took issue with the suggestive dance movies even the song choice. Many were shocked that this found its way onto You Tube and were concerned that it was a magnet for pedophiles; likewise they see it as another case of too much too early, the premature and over sexualization of young people, the sexual saturation of society. Extreme parents letting their kids do extreme things: stunt family sets itself on fire; boy climbs Mt. Everest, girl sails round the world, what are the parents thinking? But was all the outrage warranted; the larger question, are people up in arms at the wrong individuals when they crucify parents like these in the court of public opinion?
Whoopi Goldberg, co-host of The View hammered home some great points regarding the You Tube feeding frenzy beginning with placing the blame for the video being on the internet, not on the parents, but on the person who shot it, to say nothing of the person who distributed it via the web; substantiating the claims of many parents involved who said this was a dance competition meant to be seen by judges and family members not the world. She also pointed out we, the public, were putting sex onto these girls, turning their performance into something sexual, making all the innuendo; to them it was a fun dance competition. Her comments regarding pedophiles were along the lines of they are out there and they are going to look at it, if they can find it, clearly not making it a reflection on the children or their parents. In answer to the question of how far is too far to let your child go in these situations with the outfits, her statement went something like this: dance outfit yes; your child wants to go to school like that no. Another place comments took on a life of their own was callers into the John Tesh Radio Show; Mr. Tesh himself seemed flabbergasted at what these parents were allowing their children to do stating he had a 16 year old himself and would not let her dress that way.
Other parents to come under fire as of late were featured in a 20/20 special and include the youngest boy to climb Mt. Everest as well as the parents Abby Sunderland, the girl who attempted to be the youngest female to sale around the world then had to be rescued in the Indian ocean. Gale King, speaking on a Good Morning America sound off concerning hot issues, compared the Sunderland’s to balloon boy, pondering whether or not they did this in order to clinch a deal for a reality show. It seems, as if parents didn’t have enough to worry about, they are now under siege for supporting their children in what they want to do; the issue becomes larger than the dance contests, larger than the perceived danger parents are exposing their kids to. Issues of this kind go straight to striking that balance between letting your children grow and being over protective.
In a time when we are facing extremes in America like never before, when on one hand we have young people failing at life and on another young people doing great things, public reaction is sending the message to parents that they should ignore the dreams and passions of their children, shouldn’t let them participate in activities of interest, shouldn’t let them do anything out of the ordinary and that they should protect them by sending them out into the world incased in bubble wrap. No parent can control every nut with a camera phone or what they do with it; it would be more disturbing if it had been one of the parents who posted the video. As it was, no one knows who shot the footage or who placed it on the web.
Ms. Goldberg makes excellent, solid points about where reasonable lines should be drawn and countering our knee jerk responses to what we see. People who have never participated in a dance contest do not understand, people who have not seen one also do not understand; it was a dance routine nothing more. Childhood obesity is now being called an epidemic; parents are being called upon to change their children’s habits, yet parents who find a fun physical activity for their kids are vilified. Immediately upon seeing it we assumed something sexual was being forced on these kids or that they were being corrupted; when in reality, our comments are more likely to corrupt them, if they run across the video on the internet, read the comments and start asking questions. Of course you wouldn’t let your 16 year old dress that way; why, because 16 year olds are going through some stage of puberty, may be developing serious feelings, dealing with first love situations with the opposite sex, are interested or being pressured by peers to engage in sexual activity. However at 8-9 there is none of that; there is also no physical development that would make such outfits or moves inappropriate within the context of dance. Adults have lost their sense of innocence not these children; “Single Ladies” is a popular, upbeat song perfect for the type of synchronized dance routine required. The group did a wonderful job of both imitating the dance moves in the video as well as adding their own interpretation
For the other parents recently raked over the coals both sets reaching the news have said that viewers watching at home did not understand the amount of preparation that went into what their children were now doing. The young man who climbed Mt. Everest had been climbing mountains with his parents right there beside him for years; there was rigorous training leading up to the attempt including the boy sleeping in a specialized tank to condition his body to handle the high altitude, low oxygen situations found on Everest. Abby Sunderland had been dealing with boats for at least 3 years before her attempt to sail around the world; she had the added advantage of her brother having done the same and there to offer advice beforehand. Her boat was specially built for the waters she was sailing in; another of Gale Kings’ comments centered on the idea that, as a parent isn’t your job to protect your child and say no you’re too young for this right now? But arguably, we give our kids less preparation and training when it comes to teaching them how to drive, than went into even one of the smaller activities way before their headline making journeys. And not all kids seriously want to do something considered dangerous; yes, it is hard to picture Gale Kings’ kids wanting to do anything of the kind, but one has to wonder is that a refection of their character or protective parenting? To say nothing of all the risky, impulsive things kids do often times without their parents permission or knowledge, things much more likely to end in injury or death, drugs alcohol recklessness with a motor vehicle, ATV, personal water craft, criminal behavior.
Plus it speaks volumes concerning what type of young people you are dealing with, going beyond a small child saying they want to do something or try something to actually doing it when presented with the opportunity, to show that kind of focus, dedication and commitment to anything, especially something considered extreme. Further Mr. Sunderland speaks with an obvious Australian accent; coming from that part of the world, being exposed to a different culture, he seems to have a different view and that different view has raised 2 very bright, confident kids who will no doubt be as success in whatever they do in the future. And isn’t that the goal of every parent? It also speaks to the attitude in America today that the reported thousands of dollars spent in rescuing Abby was even mentioned; Mr. Sunderland seemed confused by the controversy, insinuation being made, as he appeared on the Today Show beside his son and daughter. He went on to explain that, as he understood it, when such a rescue takes place, the country whose waters your in will incur the cost, presumably because there is no monetary value to be placed on human life. Before the American people become so outraged at this they should consider the amount of money spent rescuing ill prepared, stranded hikers, people who just got a boat and a boating license who attempted something without any kind of prep or training, the number of people every year, every time it rains who try to drive their vehicle over flooded roads and rescue workers have to retrieve them out of or off the top of their sinking cars. What about the number of people, again every year, who ignore evacuation orders for fires, hurricanes vs. the Sunderland parents who made sure their child was as prepared as they could be before attempting what they did.
All of the parents depicted here should be commended for being involved in their children’s lives in a day and age where you can hardly get a parent to join the PTA never mind climb a mountain with their child. Not to mention the less extreme, positive things children are known to engage in; no one raises an eyebrow when teens want to volunteer for habitat for humanity, even though they could get hurt around all that construction equipment. Oprah’s most talented kids ignites inspiration not a firestorm; people thought it was uplifting to hear a child with such a powerful voice who sang in her native country to support her family. The 9-year-old high school valedictorian turned 10 year old college student dropped jaws in terms of intelligence and awe, not outrage and what do you think your doing? His parents let him reach his intellectual potential, searched far and wide for a college that he could attend so young, and when he wanted to spend summer break in Africa seeing fresh water a well built that he had a part in fundraising for, they were right there with him. They didn’t bar him from going because he could get a disease; they got the proper foreign travel vaccines for the area they wished to visit and went. Further no one says anything when missionary families go to remote parts of the world to bring religious doctrine and humanitarian aid like food, clothes, medicine, education taking their kids with them.
Many parents have been featured on such shows, the father who loaned his son $500 who in turn created a video game and went on to own his own company, the boy who used his love of basketball to build a school then a hospital in Africa all had proud parents willing to support their endeavors. The teenage preacher interviewed for 60 minutes spawned curiosity not accusation. When a young man in Florida went around collecting water and supplies needed after a hurricane, his mother didn’t stop him because he could be kidnapped going door to door asking for donations; most parents don’t bar their kids from sports for fear of injury. Through the years some of the most successful people have been the ones with someone backing them with encouragement, emotional support, more often than not, their own parents; famed poet Mattie Stepaneck won the hearts of millions with his undaunted spirit in the face of a terminal disease. His mother, Jennifer Stepaneck, not only let him be discovered, let him do the speaking engagements and ambassadorships that came his way, but even after his death she complied not one but 3 books, the latest being his biography in an effort to continue his message of hope through peace, prayer and play. Imagine if every parent were like that.
Consider this, what would the world be like if we always let fear cage us, always let possible injury or death define what we do? Picture the accomplishments never achieved, the knowledge never gained; what if the Wright brothers never invented the airplane? The feats of Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart would have been impossible. What if the moon landing was never attempted because it was considered too dangerous; Sally Ride would have never made it to space, our interest never would have been peeked, we wouldn’t have things like the Hubble telescope feeding us wonderful pictures of our universe, Mars research wouldn’t have found fossilized water droplets indicating water was once there and perhaps life as well. We have never been a nation to let failure or disaster unduly cripple us; we didn’t stop building boats after the Titanic, stop making planes after the first major crash, we didn’t stop going to space after Apollo 13 or the Challenger disaster, why are we going to start now? And just because we’re talking about children doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of great things, as they have been showing us in greater numbers over the past 20 years, and will continue to do so far into the future, if we let them.