Photo: Mike Schmid, Hollywood, CA.
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Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus, is a musical phenomena largely for pre-teen girls, but also for some boys, that is somewhat unprecedented in pop-history. In the past, idols and icons such as Elvis Presley, the Beatles, dominated the preoccupations of millions of teens and young adults, in the case of Elvis, for adults as well, and for aging Beatles fans, John Lennon continues to be a symbol of both musical liberation and spiritual transcendence.
While the pop pre-teen world has had its share of teen-idols, Hannah Montana has swiftly become a powerful icon that has captured the hearts of millions of children in every corner of the globe. From a Newark, NJ sold-out concert, to a Luanda Angolan seven-year-old with a blond Hannah Montana wig and microphone draping over her jet black skin, Hannah Montana is a powerful icon in terms of pop-history, really, the most powerful icon ever for pre-teens.
The Hannah Montana show, Disney
, for children, is among the most watched children's television
programs in the world. Rival Nicolodeon came up with their counterpart, iCarly, which, while not reaching the iconic colossus of HM, has also become one of the most watched shows for pre-teens on today's television, at times reaching a wider audience than the HM show.
Part of the appeal of these type of programs for children is the shear absence of parents. iCarly functions pretty much independently of parents, even inviting boys over to sleep, ostensibly in different beds, without any parental involvement or consent.
This "children's liberation movement," on television, has always had wonderful appeal to all of us as children, and the concept has been exploited since the 1930s with movies
and enduring television programs such as Our Gang, and later, the Little Rascals, children with adult characteristics who also pretty much did their own thing, and were both victims at times of adult manipulation, but also, pretty much ran their own little children's world. Adults in Our Gang were often the villains.
This was a little different than the Wizard of Oz
where the protagonists were adults, albeit childish adults, or at least older teens, and where the leading authority figure, in this case, the Wizard himself, was also an adult.
Sociology of Miley Cyrus' music
Along these lines, while some of the music of Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana), is melodic and nice for children, a large part of this music might be called "children's empowerment music," that encourages children to take their stand, against the adult world, and any apparent "oppression". The music borrows a 60s and 70s theme of rock and roll, that of rebellion, and in this respect does have something in common with Elvis of the late 1950s, who led a quite young person's revolt, or quite-rebellion against the establishment.
Miley Cyrus rebels against the oppression of an adult or peer with a "bad attitude," and her newest album, which is takes it's musical themes from popular electronic dance music, from one she has been compared to after her controversial "pole dancing" routine for Party in the USA, that is, Britney Spears, and her featured track, most blatantly, Rebellion 101.
So, Miley Cyrus is a leading teacher for the school of "The Introduction to Rebellion, as her featured track implies, and as her music has encouraged. This can have a profound affect on some children. When they feel oppressed, the music-inspired coping skill of rebellion, which characterized the youth of Elvis Presley's Day, the Beatles and Woodstock, on up to the punk scene which started to emerge in the 1970s, to a variety of forms of music, which, in their prime, were statements of rebellion, as much as new musical-art forms.
Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana leads the masses of pre-teens in a liberation and rebellion of parental oppression and constraint.
Children's reaction to Miley Cyrus' pole dancing, Party in the USA routine
Miley Cyrus pole dances atop an ice cream cart while performing her hit new song "Party in the USA" at the 2009 Teen Choice Awards.
In an informal survey of one sixth grade class of about twenty-seven students, only four were comfortable with Miley Cyrus' pole dancing (all boys). Without any prompting, the majority of children weren't pleased. One said, "My mother would never allow me to wear shorts like that."
Another said that it was "terrible, and so many children see that."
Children, although they generally go with the flow when it comes to the media, are surprisingly sensitive to what they feel are proper boundaries, even for celebrities.
Similarly, boys 10 and 11 years old, expressed deep concern and were slightly disturbed over the Sponge Bob Movie, and asked if Patrick (and Sponge Bob) were gay, because of a number of visual references in this film. While an adult might not so readily pick up on it, children are very sensitive about what they see in the media, not necessarily having the knowledge or foundation yet to decode and sort all of the information they are taking in.
Children, Children's Television, Kissing and Sexuality
Of course, the Little Rascals also had a bit of children's romance and sex, with Alfalfa's constant attempts to win the heart of his would be lover, and his erect pointy hair phallic when he got a response. iCarly and Hannah Montana follow sexual suit, with programs dedicated to "The First Kiss," with a climactic, lingering, experimental first kiss from the show's main character (iCarly). Disney, of course, has never been shy of selling the idea of romantic kisses to children with it's princess fantasies (there are currently 8 Disney princesses, can you name them all?)
Kissing, when we were children 35 years ago, wasn't a subject that was generally broached in children's programming, at least the physical demonstration of it between children, in the way it is being demonstrated today by Disney and Nicolodeon, the two major stations, the third major station for children being Cartoon Network, all on cable and satellite.
In fifth grade classrooms with 11 year old boys and girls, it was a puzzle how the young girls in these classes who seemed to come from good families, not yet reaching the age of puberty, were talking about boyfriends, and in the same school, a significant proportion of pre-teen girls kissing with boys and "making out" during recess and after school.
One can see how children's television
does influence the behavioral patterns of children, and how the sexuality of children is being awakened at a much younger age today, than was the case 30-35 years ago. Music and music videos are at the forefront with Britney Spears, Kate Perry, Rihanna, Beyonce, as well as Bratz dolls, which introduce teens and pre-teens to a sexuality at ever younger ages
The psychology of children
, then, is involved with media sexuality that is directed towards them. Parents who offer television
to their children, need to direct children wisely, to explain to their children how TV programs differ from reality and to encourage children to have wider interests in diverse fields of life and nature.
Parents can provide children with nature books, nature and wildlife films and, if parents choose to have cable television in their homes, some parents choose not to have cable television in their home, because it can be very difficult to control, programs like Animal Baby or Science Channel have a continuous stream of interesting topics for children and teens which are both entertaining and informative. Children are as fascinated with this type of educational programming as much as if they were watching the Hannah Montana show, and parents should gently direct their children's interest in the proper way.
See Sharna Olfman's
The Sexualizing of Childhood
and Diane Levin's So Sexy So Soon
Children's Television and Movies Teaches Children Sexual- Experimentation
from an Early Age
Children's television teaches pre-teens to experiment sexually from a young age. Because very young children watch sexual activity on television and in movies, it may contribute to a higher percentage of children who are sexually abused, making children more vulnerable to sexual advances, and lead children to imitating the sexual behavior they see in the media, even if, in this case, it is simply romantic kissing and experimentation.
A large percentage of children receive their first lessons in sexual education from the television rather than from parents or through the education system. Disney television contributes to a child's exposure to sexual activity in a way that distorts the child's balance in this area. While Disney glosses the "climactic kiss" in a veneer of innocence, Disney cartoon movies, especially Disney Princesses, having always featured the "climactic kiss" as part of its conclusions, this, no doubt, has encouraged many children of the 20th and now the 21st century to initiate their own precocious kissing experimentation.
Modern non-cartoon movies from Disney and other film-makers, with a similar "princess" motif, usually end with the climactic kiss as well. When parents indulge pre-teens to these type of movies, it can be a catalyst for children's sexual experimentation before they are emotionally or otherwise prepared to handle that behavior.
Sexual activity without emotional commitment can be both confusing for children and teens, and potentially emotionally harmful. So Disney and Nicolodeon are using sexual activity with popular TV stars to "hook" children on their programs and achieve higher ratings, and are really, using their tremendous influence irresponsibly.
iCarly's First Kiss episode and Disney's Hannah Montana kiss-episode television video
Children imitate what they see. Children experiment and can be aroused sexually.
Sexual activity at too young an age can lead to emotional confusion for children.
Hannah Montana experiments with early adolescent or preteen,(or tween), kissing. This provide a powerful object lesson of pre-teen girls. Why is it an eleven year old girl talks nonchalantly in school about her "boyfriend"? Where are children picking up on sexual behavior as pre-teens, and the desire for "boyfriends" before they hit puberty.
TV programs, music videos and concerts from pop-stars like Hannah Montana, are part of the commercial package which encourages the sexuality of girls, and boys, to blossom prematurely, before children have opportunity to develop the emotions and resilience necessary to deal with what sexual relationships, whether they involve actual intercourse or not, involve.
Deep Emotions and Sexuality in Children's Music
of Hannah Montana has a deep impact on both the emotions' of young children and the general tempo of the generation's psyche.
The comments of New York child psychiatrist
have application to Miley Cyrus music, in that it is often the children with poor secure attachments who are most impacted by the emotions of this music and iconic stature of Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana.
Hannah Montana, Pop Television Media, Children's Self-Image and Self-Esteem
Another area where parents need to give consideration in choices of what they allow or encourage their children to watch regularly on television is that of children's self-image and self esteem. Children need to have a positive view of themselves, to believe in themselves and those close to them, and to be resilient in the face of adversity.
Children, again, especially those with poor emotional attachments, look at the accomplishments of television child stars as something they can never possibly attain. They are not that good looking, don't have the same type of witty personality, and will never dance and sing as well as their favorite pop stars like Hannah Montana or the stars of High School Musical.
This sets them up for a poor self-image and diminished self worth or self esteem. One fatherless girl at 12-years-old, who later attempted suicide by ingesting a bottle of Tylenol, and who spent a lot of time listening to and watching Hannah Montana and other similar Disney TV programs said, "I want to be somebody, I've never done anything." She realized that she could never match the level of accomplishment of her pop-idols, and rather than inject her with courage, was part of the package that withered her to a suicide attempt.
Parents Should Build Resilience in their Children
Parents and caregivers can build resilience in their children by helping them to have a balanced view of themselves, letting them know that they have their approval, and also providing them with activities whereby the children can accomplish something that they have done themselves, such as art, playing a musical instrument, and to learn to find joy in helping others as well, using some of their time helping those who might be less fortunate, or in some other positive pro-social way.
This contributes to self worth and self esteem, which can help a child be resilient in the face of adverse circumstances and bounce back from life's crises.
Pages Related to Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus Music, Television and Child Psychology
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Walt Disney Life Story
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The History and Psychology Behind the Peter Pan Story
The Psychological Effects of Children's Movies
Children and Art
- Ways to Help Children Develop Interest in Art