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Little girls or little women? The Disney princess effect

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•Children often come across Internet pornography unintentionally: University of New Hampshire researchers found in 2005 that one-third of Internet users ages 10 to 17 were exposed to unwanted sexual material, and a London School of Economics study in 2004 found that 60 percent of children who use the Internet regularly come into contact with pornography.

And on, and on. It's enough, really, to alarm the most relaxed parent.

But as Professor Levin, Finucane, and Orenstein show, there is another trend today, too – one that gets far less press, but is much more hopeful.

Trying to make a safer, healthier environment for girls, an ever-stronger group of educators, parents, institutions, and girls themselves are pushing back against growing marketing pressure, new cyberchallenges, and sexualization, which the American Psychological Association (APA) defines in part as the inappropriate imposition of sexuality on children.

Many are trying to intervene when girls are younger, like Finucane, who doesn't advocate banning the princesses but taking on the ways that they narrow girls' play (advocating more color choices, suggesting alternative story plotlines). Some tap into the insight and abilities of older girls – with mentoring, for example. Still others take their concerns into the public sphere, lobbying politicians and executives for systemic change such as restricting sexualized advertising targeting girls.

Together, they offer some insights for how, as Finucane says, to bring sexy back for a refund.

Soccer heading makes a bad hair day

The first step, some say, is to understand why any of this matters.

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