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Discussion of Whether Children Should Be Allowed to Participate in Beauty Pageants

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The purpose of this paper is to discuss whether children should be allowed or not to participate in competition shows; such as talent shows or beauty pageant contests. A few questions should be answered to give a clear view on this issue: Is it beneficial for their growth and their health? Is it for their own benefit or are they being exploited? Some studies and analysis have been conducted to concerning this matter and can shed some light on it. They showed that kids may not understand clearly what a competition is which denies the fact that putting kids into such competitive shows can really teach them about life realities. Even though many believe that competition may enhance kids performances in the future, studies showed that it serves them best when combined with teaching them about cooperation too. Parents may claim that participating in competition shows is what the children themselves want, while kids’ desires are mostly a reflection of their parents’ desires. In a world where competition shows are part of billions of dollars industry, children should be protected from being commercialized and their rights to live a normal life should be preserved.


Children are the most important resource for our future world which makes us all responsible of their well-being. As this paper title says, this is a discussion about whether children should be allowed or not to participate in competition shows; such as talent shows or beauty pageant contests. To start with, here are some of the questions that need to be clarified in order to reach a good judgment: Is competition good for children? If yes, under which conditions? What do kids learn from these competition shows? Is it beneficial to compete on live shows against other kids and sometimes against adults? This leads to some more questions; such as: Who is really benefiting of competition shows? How does losing affect children? How does winning affect them? If some competition shows are good for adults, does it mean they are good enough for kids? The following is an attempt to answer some of these questions.

First, is competition good for children? The author and speaker Alfie Kohn who is well-known in the parenting field believes that competition has negative influence on children. He says, “The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that competition is destructive, particularly, but not exclusively, for children.” He also adds that excellence can be achieved when competition is absent. Many researchers have the same views on this as Mr. Kohn and they believe that competition can damage self-esteem due to the anxiety it generates. These competition shows encourage a “dog eat dog” attitude according to psychologist John Wills. Dr. Wills who delivers sessions in schools says that talent shows became the compass to differentiate between right and wrong for these children of this age. According to Dr. James O’Higgins Norman, a director of the National Anti-Bullying Research at Dublin City University, children are learning that fame can be easily gained. This fame that is gained fast will probably expire just as fast without providing these aspiring children with any future career. One of the many examples is Leon Jackson who was a former Gap sales assistant before winning X-Factor talent show in 2007. After his first album, his record label company stopped cooperating with him causing his career to reach an end so soon.

Second, beauty pageant contests and most talent shows give children a superficial idea on what beauty is and what appreciated skills are. For instance, to win beauty pageant contests, as shown in a documentary by CBC, children need more than just natural beauty and even more than costumes and makeup. They may also need to wear wigs or hair extensions, have a tan or a spray-tan, and photoshop their pictures. The message children get of all this is that to be beautiful enough for the contest and the judges, they need to accentuate their physical appearance. Not only beauty pageant contests teach children that winning depends on how the others sees them, but also it sexualize girls in specific. Lately, beauty pageants are more and more emphasizing on showing participants as sexy rather than beautiful or cute. Their underdeveloped body are barely covered and many of the routines they perform are provocative. The American Psychological Association states that sexualizing little girls may cause them to have depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and most likely eating disorders, etc. Yet, USA didn’t take any serious step towards banning this kind of contests while other countries did such as France that banned child beauty pageants and put some restrictions in 2013. Another reason why this should be taken seriously is that beauty pageants and talent shows are a multi-billion dollar industry. Parents are making money and profiting from getting attention thanks to their children fame. This calls for some precautions to protect children’s rights from show runners or some potential abusive parents.

Moreover, when a child turns into a teenager and retires from beauty pageants, it’s common that they have self-identity issues. They face a long list of struggles to keep a perfect body image. In 2005, a study showed that children who participated in beauty pageants had higher rates in suffering from dissatisfaction with their body image. On the other hand, education becomes insignificant to these children even in their teen years. Furthermore, they perceive their bodies as their livelihood and in that case a less-than-perfect physical appearance means unemployment to them. In 2009, a poll was conducted with the participation of 3,000 teenage girls showed that almost a quarter of them prefer to spend their money on their looks than on their education and plastic surgery is considered by one in five. A BBC survey found out that six out of ten girls from age 8 to 12 think they’ll be happier if they get thinner. In addition, in most cases, children practice too hard for too long when required to perform which put them under an immense pressure. Some adults taking care of these children, may ignore their tears and even mock them in order to push them to practice more. As a result, these children may come to believe that their parents’ love or adults’ approval depends on how good they perform. As Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors, put it: ‘Most people love you for who you pretend to be. To keep their love, you keep pretending – performing. You get to love your pretense. It’s true, we’re locked in an image, an act.’ (Morrison, Jim) So what happens when children don’t win? Disappointing others and themselves surely hit them hard especially because they are participating in public shows and that moment is preserved forever on media and social media.

When confronted with these arguments, some parents say things like, ‘My daughter wants this!’ or ‘Ask her yourself if she likes this!’ It’s true that most little girls love to spend a few days as a Cinderella and the ones who participate in the beauty pageants believe that they are going to be happy living their dream. Many of those involved in the pageant industry stand firm that it is a harmless fun activity that boost little girls’ self-esteem. ‘I personally see pageants as a positive thing,’ states Katie Froud, Alba Model Information founder. She adds that she encourages girls to focus on keeping their body fit and to promote good manners. She explains that these contests can be beneficial for society if a sum of the profits is donated to charity. In general, she sees the participants and their parents living a well-balanced life. Chloe Lindsay, who’s 11 year old, says that she was bullied at primary school because she was overweight and she was having a low self-esteem until she attended a dance school. Her life changed completely after participating in many dance competitions where she wears fancy dresses and heavy make-up. She adds that it made her gain confidence in herself. Adding to these arguments and given that we live in a world that values physical appearance, some claim that it’s fair to teach children how to make the best of their looks to be able to get ahead in life. Also, on the other side of the world, Egyptian pop singer Tamer Hosny says that being exposed to similar experiences and treated as adults are very beneficial to children. It can’t be denied that children have the right to share with the world the amazing skills they have and they should get all the support they can get, but that doesn’t mean that they should go through activities that may have major negative influence on them and their future. They must have the right to enjoy childhood activities without getting involved with adults’ business world and entertainment fierce industry. When it comes to competition, studies have shown that people feel better they try to win while feeling confident, but when the motivation is to attain excellence in some skills. Surely children can participate in these contests only with the permission of their parents, which means that parents’ desires is what controls whether their children can participate or not as they see them as extensions of themselves. And while getting the children into such activities, parents may forget that they need their activities as children too to keep a balanced life. Their love towards their children becomes depending on their performance in these shows.


Finally, children should live their childhood and enjoy it. Learning about life hardships should come along as they grow up. What they should learn as kids is that they beauty comes from within and physical appearance isn’t as important as education. Taking care of their health and play sports is always a priority without getting into anxiety about having a few extra kilograms or judge others by their looks. Children must not participate in contest shows that promote bullying, judging, or insulting others. A more recent analysis that reviewed hundreds of research on the competition and performance issue and found no significant connection between the two. Kids’ performance in their future life doesn’t depend on competing with others in their childhood in such a fierce way. Instead, they can participate in contest shows for children only where they learn to mix cooperation with competition such as when they are in a team joining forces with other children. This way cooperation and skills are what’s the competition is about which is what best benefits children the most. 

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Discussion Of Whether Children Should Be Allowed To Participate In Beauty Pageants. (2021, October 25). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from
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