Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Socially Acceptable Child Abuse Alert

In the wake of the Jon Benet Ramsey murder case and the success of the pageant-themed black comedy Little Miss Sunshine, the view that childhood beauty pageants are profoundly creepy exercises that prematurely sexualize young girls and are likely to be harmful to the process of healthy psychological development has become widespread - and rightfully so. In my opinion, anyone who enters their daughter in such a pageant is committing child abuse. Why, though, is a five year old weightlifter any more acceptable? The linked article takes the "wacky human interest story" angle on the boy, with no more than a nod at the elephant in the room (the line about how weightlifting "may be unhealthy" for a five year old).

I'm not a pediatrician, but even I know there's no "may be" about it - lifting heavy weights is not a healthy activity for a young child to engage in. It's bad enough for an adult - whose bones are fully grown, whose joints have hardened, and whose soft tissues have reached their adult strength. For a child whose body is still growing, it runs an intolerably high risk of serious injury, and if it's continued, is extremely likely to cause serious health problems later in life. And that's without even getting into the psychological effects being involved in such a ruthlessly competitive activity at an early age may have. Is this kid taking his Juicy Juice laced with HGH? Will his next round of shots include a cycle of anabolic steroids in addition to polio and tetanus vaccinations? Seriously.

I don't object to this being a news story, but it should be reported as what it is - a case of irresponsible parenting bordering on abuse - not a cutesy "kids get involved in the darnedest things" throwaway piece.

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