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THE IMAGE OF LITTLE GIRLS

What are little girls made of? Well, scratch the sugar and spice and everything nice. These days, it's more like perfume and eyeliner, lipstick and rouge. And that's a shame.

The Girl Scouts of the USA released a study recently that said too many little girls are worrying about big-girl issues. Like boys, body fat and beauty. This isn't teen angst. These girls are ages 8 to 12 worrying about popularity and appearance. Imagine a 9-year-old asking her father if he thinks she's fat. Imagine an 8-year-old with an eating disorder.

Well that's what we're up against. Blame it on society. Blame it on the media. It all comes back to the message being delivered -- or not -- from home.

The media has bombarded kids with unrealistic images of beauty. A few supermodels grace the covers of nearly every magazine on the newsstands, and young girls grow up thinking that if they don't look like them something is wrong.

These girls need their parents to filter unattainable images from the media that are causing little girls to consider the next diet, the next fashion and -- egads! -- the next boyfriend.

Girls are being robbed of their childhood, said Nancy Gruver, founder of New Moon, a magazine for girls and edited by girls 8 to 14 (www.newmoon.org).

"Girls get the message at a very young age that they are sexual objects in this culture. What that means is that they are not being thought of as complete people. They're being thought of as objects," she said.

Gruver and her husband, Joe Kelly, started New Moon because of their twin daughters, now 20. In the early 1990s, the Duluth, Minn., couple searched to find magazines that would help their girls affirm themselves. Instead, they found magazines that tried to make girls fit into an impossible mold.

Kelly's nonprofit group, Dads and Daughters, protested a Campbell's Soup ad featuring two young boys trying to convince a group of adolescent-looking girls to try some soup. One of the females in the 30-second spot refuses, explaining that they're watching their weight.

To their credit, Campbell's pulled the ad after 10 days.

The company finally sent the correct message. Worrying about body fat, popularity and clothes is not part of being a little girl.

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