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The KidsPace Dance Code of Practice

The KidsPace Dance Code of Practice (DCP) is a practical tool to combat sexualised and harmful messages in dance education, and empower educators to embrace positive, holistic teaching practices that safeguard the wellbeing of our young people. The DCP is a research-based tool, reviewed and endorsed by academia and leaders in the Arts, Education, Psychology and Government. It has been diligently crafted in line with current peer-reviewed research on the psychological development of children and young people, and written in recognition of Article 29 and Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). The DCP's various clauses encourage best practices surrounding costuming, music, choreography, social media presence and more. 

 

We invite dance studios, arts organisations, schools and all providers of children's dance education to join in the mission of KidsPace. To register your interest in viewing the DCP upon publication, please fill in the contact form provided here!

Why a Code of Practice?

Marika Tiggemann and fellow researcher, Amy Slater, from Flinders University in Adelaide, were the first to document the appearance-obsessed behaviours of young Australian girls in their June 2014 study: 'Contemporary Girlhood: Maternal Reports on Sexualised Behaviour and Appearance in 4-10 year-old girls'. Results showed that girls aged four to 10-years-old are prematurely engaging with teen culture, and exhibiting hyper-sexualised behaviours through attention to personal grooming, clothing and bodily appearance. The study assessed the activities favoured and participated in most by girls of this age - with dance surpassing all, at a staggering 96%.

 

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported in April 2012 that 727,000 girls aged five to 14 years participated in an organised sport outside of school. Of this figure, 418,000 were enrolled in a dance school (58 percent), up from 390,400 in 2009. Participation in dance education is increasing by annual increments of tens of thousands, with dance studios and in-school dance programs now one of the most common public spaces you will find a young Australian girl.

 

There are currently over 100 global reports and findings published on the way sexualised messages are impacting cultural norms, and affecting the healthy development of children. We believe this issue can be addressed by assessing and strengthening the surroundings in which children are most commonly positioned, one of them being, the dance classroom. As Dance Educators, we have a prolific responsibility to engage with this issue and actively safeguard not only the physical, however the mental and emotional wellbeing of all children within our care.

 

Supporters of KidsPace

There is now widespread concern in the community about children - especially girls, being portrayed as sexualised objects, in their pre-teens, early teens or even younger. The American Psychological Society in its landmark report has labelled this the greatest current threat to girls’ and young women’s mental health.  They found that sexualisation - sexual behaviour imposed from the outside onto girls from the culture around them, leads to problems with body image and diet, being anxious and depressed about appearance, and being more likely to have sex that they did not actually want or were ready for.  It also normalises sexual predation of younger and younger children.   

 

Parents are verifying what the research is also saying - that girls have lost four years of childhood, and that “fourteen is the new eighteen”. Girls’ mental health has never been poorer, with problems requiring psychological care or treatment at unprecedented levels.   

 

Dance schools are a very large part of Australian girlhood, and its been identified by many parents that the ideas of dress, the style of dance, the lyrics of music chosen, and the message from teachers themselves may without realising it, be conditioning a sexualised self-image in children from a young age.  Contemporary adult dance, especially as shown in the mass media, has become very sexual and dance teachers may simply be unreflectively taking this into their dance teaching without realising the consequences.   

 

Kids dance, to be health promoting and psychologically positive, needs to be different to this.

 

I welcome and strongly encourage the adoption of the KidsPace Dance Code of Practice, and will be recommending that parents seek this accreditation before allowing their child to attend a dance class or school.  I hope it becomes obligatory as a matter of good sense.

Steve Biddulph

Professor of Psychology, Author of Raising Girls, Raising Boys and Secrets of Happy Children

'It's time we actively empowered this new generation, that we safeguard our girls from sexualisation and the resulting lack of self esteem, so they can explore a whole new landscape. One that offers the pure joy of an unfettered imagination, that opens onto a world of innovative and expansive ideas, from which we will all benefit.

Maggie Hamilton

Author of What's Happening to our Girls?, What's Happening to our Boys? and Secret Girls Business

"Contemporary music media has become increasingly overtly sexualised, with some displays aligning with traditional soft pornography. The overflow effect has seen highly sexualised costumes, dance movement, and choreography in dance studios, including those who work with children. Research has demonstrated that exposure to and engagement with sexualised material can have harmful effects on children’s gender role and self-identity development, as well as placing them at risk of psychological harms and unwanted sexual attention. These concerns point to the need for urgent attention to try to minimise the harms to children. I support and recommend the KidsPace Dance Code of Practice and hope to see these codes adopted by all dance studios and dance teachers who work with children."

Dr Lesley-anne Ey

University of South Australia (PhD, BECE Hons, Dip CS), Australian Council on Children in the Media, Early Childhood Australia

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KidsPace Code is a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ABN 33 613 876 261)          

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