A couple weeks ago, I watched a video of a girl around 14 years old doing an anti-aging skincare routine. When I read the comments, most of them were unexpectedly encouraging, such as “she’s just a kid, let her do what she wants,” or “she’s not hurting anyone, she’s just having fun.” I was surprised. I understand being a kid who wants to replicate adults as a way to play, but young girls should be inspired to be creative and imaginative, not worry about their appearance from such a young age.

It seems that, overall, a rise in technology-use and consumerism is causing kids — especially young girls — to grow up faster than they used to. Technology and consumerism have disproportionately detrimental effects on girls in terms of image and self-esteem, which is tied to disordered eating and mental health.

Social media is a catalyst for girls growing up too fast. Young girls are exposed to unrealistic standards for what they should look and act like. One study found that 70 percent of models in the modern era are underweight, unlike models of the past. Models have historically represented the beauty standards of the time, and this change has promoted poor body image and, in turn, disordered eating in young girls. In fact, teenage girls today struggle with eating disorders at over twice the rate of teenage boys.

Further studies have shown that the prevalence of eating disorders among girls has increased over the past 50 years, with up to five percent of adolescent girls being diagnosed with bulimia and about half a percent of 15- to 19-year-old girls being diagnosed with anorexia. When young girls are exposed to images that promote an unhealthy and unachievable standard, they become preoccupied with their appearance and hyper-fixated on achieving an ideal body, with many resorting to dangerous means to obtain it.

The effect of these images was also found to be more significant in girls younger than 19 years old. In fact, grade-school-age girls on the internet strive for petite body types and post about diets and exercise routines designed for fully developed adults.

There have been times in my life where I have taken a break from social media because I felt that it was hurting my self-image, but I worry — do young girls have the same level of self-awareness? Young girls may not be able to fully understand how social media influences their image and continue to expose themselves to the media, which is harming them, especially if they grew up with it.

At this point, restrictions on social media would be difficult to implement, so we have to consider the media we put out there for young girls to see. It is important to empower young girls and educate them on the dangers of the media they are exposed to, using social media as a way to do so.

Consumerism is another factor driving this trend. Companies have begun targeting young girls in order to increase sales. Much of this content is sexualized and promotes unrealistic standards for young girls. Brands like American Eagle and Abercrombie and Fitch have even marketed push-up bras to girls as young as 15.

Companies realize that preying on young girls’ self-esteems allow them to market products typically sold to older women, like makeup, skincare and weight-loss products, to a much larger audience. In combination with social media, the promotion of these products makes young girls believe they are supposed to look and act like grown women before they even graduate high school. This is a large concern because the sexualization of young girls in media and marketing has also been linked to mental health concerns in young girls.

It’s not easy to prevent a trend as large as this that is rooted in capitalism and patriarchy, but we cannot let these patterns continue to harm young girls. Of course, the way growing up looks has changed and will continue to change, but the fundamental ideas of childhood have not gone away and should not be lost.

I think great strides have been made with body-positivity and other empowerment movements, but these ideas need to go further. Large brands, media companies and others promoting these ideas need to be pressured to limit this content and show young girls that there is no need to worry about their appearance from such a young age. Girls need to be encouraged to stay young and be confident in who they are or who they will become — not to grow up to become a false ideal inauthentic to themselves.

Antonia Kladias is a sophomore majoring in biochemistry.