PART TWO: Too Sexy, Too Soon?

By Elise Roberts - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - In this growing age of a media that sexualizes society, parents are finding it difficult to define the difference between being sexy and being cool.

12-year-old Raegan Norwood and her seven-year-old sister, Avery, are both tween girls growing up in South Mississippi.

They are involved in everything from theater to gymnastics. However, when it comes to what to wear, mom, Karen Norwood says that's where the struggle begins.

"They are very opinionated, and they are very particular about what they want. And I'm very particular about what they are going to have. It makes shopping quite exhausting actually," said Norwood.

Metallic jackets, animal prints and specialty t-shirts adorn the closets of both girls. But like many other kids, they can't escape the images they see on TV that often times end up in their classrooms.

"Some girls in my grade are wearing really heavy eyeliner, and they have these little tight shirts and you can't breathe in them," said 12-year-old Raegan.

Raegan is in the sixth grade.  She describes her style as comfy-cool but she says her peers aren't so laid back.

"Just the really tight shirts and the really heavy makeup and the big old high heels that are like that big. It's just funny because they are walking down the hall trying to look cool, and they trip because their heels are that big," Raegan said.

Her baby sister couldn't be more different.

"I like to dance and pop lock and drop it," said Avery Norwood.

Seven-year-old Avery is fashion forward to say the least.

"We battle with the Sunday morning dresses for sure," Karen Norwood said.

While both girls enjoy simply being a girl, there are boundaries.

"Things that other girls her age are wearing are just not things that we're going to wear, not in junior high or not ever, not in my house," said Norwood.

A 2002 survey by an organization called Public Agenda found that 76 percent of parents felt it was a lot harder to raise children today than when they were growing up.

That's why this family is taking a different approach. The parents are encouraging their girls to become involved in activities that promote talents, skills and abilities over their physical appearance.

But even though the sisters have a schedule that's sometimes hard to manage, they're not exempt from the images of bad boys and video vixens.

However, the girls don't care about mega stars like Beyonce or The Pussycat Dolls. They are more concerned with Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and The Cheetah Girls.

And when Elise asked 12-year-old Raegan what does the word sexy mean, she reponded.

"I guess it's just another word for hot or something because stupid guys say it a a lot," said Raegan.

Raegan says the girls in her grade are competing to see who's the hottest, and it's teaching the boys to treat the girls as objects.

"They go too far physically because they will go around smacking each other on the butt and it's not cool," Raegan said.

It's that kind of behavior the Norwoods say they won't tolerate.

"Everybody can do whatever they want to do, but we are not everybody," Norwood said.

They monitor everything from web sites to TV to toys. And while Norwood says she realizes she can't raise her daughters in a bubble, both parents want to teach their girls the importance of individuality.

History has shown young people will always be tempted by sexy clothes, makeup and macho t-shirts, but experts say it's up to parents and community leaders to take a stance and teach them there are more important things than being sexy.