It’s marketed as just a bit of harmless fun, but the Bonds Baby Search competition is the reputable version of 'Toddlers and Tiaras', writes Kasey Edwards. Photo: Bonds website
If your Facebook feed is anything like mine, it's filling up with cute photos of babies and pleas from friends to vote for their kid in the Bonds Baby Search competition.
The winning babies get a photo shoot, the chance to appear in the next Bonds campaign, and a few hundred bucks worth of onesies.
It's marketing genius. Bonds gets to avoid paying modelling agency fees, social media goes crazy advertising Bonds products for free — the babies have to wear Bonds clothes in their photos — and parents don't even think twice about signing away the rights to their photos.
But what's even more extraordinary is that the clever people at Bonds have managed to create an air of respectability for something that's as trashy and exploitative as a beauty pageant. Let's face it: the Bonds Baby Search competition is the reputable version of Toddlers and Tiaras.
It's marketed as just a bit of harmless fun, but here are five reasons why it is anything but harmless.
1. Your innocent images may turn up in some rather nasty places
Sites like Bonds Baby Search are oases for paedophiles and mentally ill people who steal baby photos for baby roleplaying and other abusive uses.
An overreaction? While the pictures might appear wholesome to you and your friends, perverts use these kinds of images as stimulus for their depraved sexual fantasies.
There's no security on the Bonds website. Anyone can steal your child's photo with a right-click of their mouse or a screenshot and use the photo anyway they like.
Less sinister, although just as violating, the images can end up being used on blogs or other sites to push products.
2. Playing 'hot or not' with children is just creepy
We tell our children not to judge people by their looks, but then go and support a competition that's all about judging and ranking kids on just that. Aside from the hypocrisy, past years have shown that babies aren't spared from vicious attacks simply because they're minors and that Bonds is supposedly a respectable brand.
While Bonds isn't responsible for cruel things people post online, if you set up a competition based on appearance, then it's almost inevitable that you're creating a platform for such nastiness.
3. Valuing children for their beauty creates a damaging precedent for the rest of their lives
If you set up a precedent that you child's beauty is important to his or her worth, how are they going to feel when they inevitably fall short?
While Bonds Baby Search may not have quite reached the same level of vulgarity as children's beauty pageants, the lesson to the children, and especially their older siblings, is still the same: they are objects to be scrutinised and judged for how they look — and that complete strangers get to decided their value.
Girls in particular spend their whole lives being judged and valued for their appearance. We should be doing what we can to fight this madness, not encouraging it.
4. Children should learn that competition and reward is about effort
Having a cute bone structure at six months of age is luck. It's not the definition of success or superiority. We should be instilling in our children the belief that success comes from hard work and persistence, not from winning the genetic lottery. Happiness and self-esteem grows out of a sense of achievement and mastery, not from superficiality and narcissism.
5. Bonds is exploiting children and their parents
I understand what it's like to be a proud parent. I'm just as guilty as the next mother of boring people to within an inch of their lives with photos of my cute kids.
Bonds has hijacked this parental pride for profit, without any regard for the wellbeing of the children.
If Bonds is the respectable brand it claims to be, it wouldn't run a competition based on kids' appearance, where photos are at risk of being stolen by paedophiles and innocent children will be subjected to cruel and vile name-calling.
Kasey Edwards is a writer and best-selling author.