Dressing children: Some parents may be pushing the limits of decency

Wan Lixin
Youngsters wearing attire best suited for adults may put their well-being in jeopardy. Is a dress code needed?
Wan Lixin

Although skimpily clad women in public places today are more likely to be judged – if at all – in terms of taste rather than decorum, we still tend to draw the line at age.

Most parents, schoolteachers, and the public in general still believe young girls should avoid dresses that play up their incipient signs of maturity.

The trouble is that a small minority of parents seem to be thinking otherwise.

According to a media report, a calligraphy teacher surnamed Zhu, who oversaw a summer school class in Beijing, recently spotted a student of about 7 who was wearing a dress that exposed her bosom and back. The outfit was set off by a pair of long black silk stockings that would, the girl claimed, show off her long, shapely legs.

Deeming the outfit too sexy, even for a mature woman, Zhu quickly phoned one of her parents and asked for another dress to be sent for her to change into.

To Zhu's surprise, the parent dismissed Zhu's reaction as overstated and alarmist – making a fuss over a trifle. That left Zhu wondering: "Am I such an old fogey that I am out of step with the latest trends?"

Given small girls' reliance on parents for guidance in matters of dress, we can safely assume that overtly sexy attire is predominantly down to parents.

Some e-commerce platforms reinforce these parental attitudes by tapping into a style known as naila feng, or "hot kids style." Many parents embrace it enthusiastically in discussions on social media platforms, where they may also act as influencers.

Girlie dresses with underlying sexual tones are an issue that merits the concern of the whole society.

It takes little imagination to think of the adverse impacts that this dress style might have on the well-being of children.

First, it may give the youngsters the idea that being sexy equates with being beautiful.

Secondly, excessive preoccupation with outward appearances at such a young age could contribute to vicious peer pressure, plunging children into the vanity fair of the adult world before their time.

The commercial angle in all this is even more disturbing.

Some parents dress their children in questionable clothing with the explicit purpose of garnering more online fans or of advancing their roles as online influencers for particular brands.

Some parents seem to fall prey to this trend without really thinking about its repercussions. Nothing entices a potential buyer more than a girl-next-door sporting a dress seen as chic and glamorous.

When the brand promoters act in cahoots with willing parents and platforms marketing particular commodities, regulators would be hard pressed to know where to start to address the problem – if they have a mind to.

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