Kiwi kids as young as 3 have been entered into a new modelling competition where the winners travel to China for an international event which has a swimwear segment.
Organisers say about 80 children are registered for the first New Zealand Super Kids & Teens Model Competition.
Although the age requirement for entry is 4, an organiser told the Herald on Sunday they were accepting 3-year-old applicants who would be turning 4 before the finals in February.
Critics are slamming the event saying modelling competitions are not child-friendly and cautioned about sexualising children.
However, Parenting Place creative and development director Dave Atkinson, who has worked with young people in the field of resilience and mental health, said child modelling set off “serious alarm bells”.
“Young people are exposed to an unprecedented amount of advertising and media every day, most of which has a very strong underlying message that ‘your value is based on your achievements, fame, or beauty’,” Atkinson said.
“As parents it is our responsibility to protect our children from these ideas for as long as possible and to build a healthy sense of belonging and identity that goes far beyond their appearance.”
Atkinson added: “One of the saddest beliefs a young person can grow up with is that they are significant or loved because they are beautiful.”
Family First National Director Bob McCoskrie maintains catwalk training, photo-posing and modelling should be restricted to grown-ups.
“There are no redeeming factors about child modelling and beauty pageants … they receive the message that their value is in their appearance and associated with sexualised standards,” McCoskrie said.
“A premature interest in a sexy appearance, an obsession about body image for a 4-year-old and an undermining of the social prohibition against seeing children as sexual objects and sexually attractive are all huge warning flags.”
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