How Old Should You Be to Wear a Bikini?

how old should you be to wear a bikini

Any parents of daughters know this feeling all too well: the apprehension of letting their little girl(s) wear something that might male draw attention, such as make up, short-shorts, mini-skirts, or the most revealing of all, bikinis.

For some parents, they absolutely refuse to let their daughter(s) do anything that they deem immoral or indecent, which they believe wearing the aforementioned are. They expect their kids to be covered up at all times, even at the beach or swimming pool, such as by wearing an oversized T-shirt over their bathing suit. To be honest, that just draws even more attention to them, and not in a good way.

This issue mostly affects religious conservative families, but even more progressive families have asked the question: at what age is it appropriate to let their daughter(s) wear bikinis? There is no right answer to that question, however I feel that there absolutely is a wrong answer, which is “never.”

Depending on who you ask, the appropriate age to let a girl wear a bikini is whenever she feels like it. That might be as young as 13, 11, 9, or even 5 years of age as long as she’s comfortable with it. Many parents are okay with this because they believe that girls should not be ashamed of their bodies, they should be allowed to fit in with other girls, and if anybody is attracted to a kid wearing a bikini, then it is the looker’s problem, not their daughter’s body or her swimwear.

In this article, we will discuss why many parents feel that it is okay to let their daughter(s) wear a bikini at basically any age, as well as the reasons why many parents oppose the wearing of bikinis. After learning what both sides have to say, you can make an informed decision for yourself.

Why young girls should be allowed to wear bikinis

It improves their confidence

What do you think happens to a girl’s self-image when you tell her that she must never show any skin? That even her shorts have to be a certain length, that she can’t show her shoulders, etc., when all of the other girls can basically dress how they want to?

Whether your intentions are good or not, she may start to develop a negative view of her body because why else does she need to cover up all the time unless her body is shameful? She might start to feel hideous, undesirable, and unlikeable.

Daughters raised in such a restrictive environment like this rarely grow up to be well-adjusted individuals. They tend to fall into one of two extremes once they are older: they have extreme self-confidence issues due to body dysmorphia, even into adulthood, which can even lead to eating disorders and life-long body image issues. Or they go the other extreme and wear extremely revealing, skimpy clothing just to spite their parents.

Instead, when your daughter asks if she can wear a bikini, rather than have such a tough stance, consider what you might unintentionally be causing further down the line. Either let her wear a bikini, or ease her into it by doing it in stages, such as a tankini first, then a high-waisted bikini bottom with a frillier top for more coverage, then just a regular bikini once you feel she’s finally of age (hopefully well before adulthood).

Let your daughter know that she shouldn’t be ashamed of her body, that she can wear what she likes (with some exceptions), and that there’s nothing wrong with wearing a bikini. That way, she can feel confident about her choice and won’t feel like an outsider when all the other girls are wearing two piece swimsuits. Let her feel good about her looks and she will be much more confident as an adult.

It isn’t sexualizedYoung girl on beach

One of the biggest reasons why parents are opposed to their daughter(s) wearing bikinis is that they feel they are too revealing and indecent, especially for adolescents to wear. They are afraid bikinis can draw the attention of hormone-filled boys, as well as the perverse gaze of depraved, predatory men.

First off, there’s nothing inherently wrong with bikinis for kids unless the world makes it an issue. Have you seen their designs? They are covered in rainbows, clouds, floral patterns, and colorful unicorns. They are kids’ bathing suits through and through; there’s nothing sexual about them (look at the image above as an example).

If you have a problem with this, then do you also have a problem with a gymnast’s or ballerina’s leotard? Is your child not allowed to participate in those activities either? Context matters, and a bikini at the beach or pool is appropriate clothing for the context.

This next point is uncomfortable to talk about, but it must be addressed. If there are people who look at your young daughter in her kids’ bikini and feel sexually attracted to her, there is a big problem with that individual.

Let’s not mince words, they are predators (as in, the To Catch a Predator kind) and would probably be attracted to young girls regardless of what they are wearing. (That felt disgusting to type). So the problem is not with your daughter’s body or her bikini, but with those who are depraved enough to sexualize her. Do not put the blame on your daughter and her choice of swimwear.

As an aside, depending on who you ask, some people may find one piece swimsuits to be even more provocative than a bikini. So what would you do then, force your daughter to wear a burkini? No, because it is not your daughter’s fault for being targeted, but rather the fault of the people who would look upon your daughter like that.

The solution is not to restrict what a girl wears, otherwise we will end up with something like the oppression women face in the Middle East, where they cannot even reveal their skin.

It lets them fit in

This ties in with the point I made above regarding feeling confident. If your daughter is the odd one out among her peers by not being allowed to wear a bikini, perhaps even being forced to wear an oversized T-shirt over her bathing suit, then she will feel extremely awkward. It’s going to do a lot of damage to her self-confidence and may even breed resentment towards you.

Also, kids and teenagers can be nasty when it comes to teasing or outright bullying. They don’t know any better and I’m sure everyone has either been subjected to bullying first hand or have witnessed it. Anyone who doesn’t fit in has a much higher chance of being picked on. Even if no serious bullying occurs, there could still be snarky or rude comments about how unfashionable her extremely conservative swimwear is, especially if she is literally wearing regular clothes in the water.

It increases safety in the water

I sure hope you aren’t telling your daughter to wear an oversized T-shirt, or any other regular clothing, over her bathing suit. Not only is that against the dress code at swimming pools, but it is a legitimate safety concern at any body of water.

Swimwear has many advantages over regular clothing. They are lightweight, fast-drying, and more resistant to chlorine and salt than regular clothing. Most normal clothes will absorb a lot of water, especially if they are made of cotton, which can get really heavy and restrictive. The end result is that it’s harder to stay afloat. Your child’s safety in the water should be your number one priority, so do not force her to wear regular clothes to cover herself up.

Furthermore, chlorine and salt can cause significant wear on normal clothing, causing them to deteriorate quickly. Essentially, you are sacrificing an article of clothing each time you wear one in the water. So not only is it unsafe, but it is extremely uneconomical.

Even swimwear that covers more of the skin, such as rash guards and board shorts, can actually be a detriment when trying to stay afloat. That is also why they are sometimes banned at swimming pools.

While bikinis are not designed for swimming laps or for intense physical exercise (bathing suits are much better in that regard), they can still be worn into the water casually and for activities on land. Plus, they are actually designed to be worn in the water unlike regular clothing, and they are safer than even rash guards and board shorts.

It depends on the context

Finally, we are not suggesting that parents are bad for wanting their child to dress more conservatively because there are some legitimate concerns, one of which is the context.

For instance, if she is on an outing with other girls her age, and they are all wearing bikinis, just let her fit in. However, I can understand wanting her to dress more modestly if you are on a family vacation, or at a church beach event, for instance.

If you explain this to your daughter, it will make her feel better that you are considering her choices and that you are not outright banning all bikinis from her life. This is a great compromise to make and one that will not leave a daughter resenting how strict her parents are.

Why parents are against their daughter(s) wearing bikinis

The families most opposed to the wearing of bikinis by young girls tend to have a more conservative, religious background. They believe bikinis to be immoral and indecent. To be fair, even as recently as the 50s, the public opinion was that bikinis were taboo and risqué, and some families either grew up around that era or were influenced by it. Now, most people wouldn’t bat an eye at seeing bikinis worn on the beach, but the question at hand is: should young girls be allowed to wear bikinis?

Parents are afraid that a bikini would be a step towards their daughter becoming more promiscuous and sexual. They are also afraid that males will make advances on them or make them targets for predators.

First off, I find it interesting how most of the reasons parents are opposed to bikinis have to do with religious or social reasons, and very little concern for practical risks. For instance, a bikini does not cover much of the skin which can increase the chances of sunburn, and provides no protection against sharp rocks, coral, or jellyfish, yet I rarely hear these arguments being made.  Well, let’s save these concerns for another time; we have more pressing issues to discuss and this article is already getting too wordy.

I’ve already addressed the indecency concern. For one, bikinis are not inherently sexual unless the world makes them sexual. For instance, do you see a male competitive swimmer in a Speedo (which is even more revealing than a bikini) and think that person is indecent and immoral?

If so, then the Summer Olympics broadcast must be absolutely sinful to watch, because everyone is wearing extremely tight-fitting, revealing swimwear. Yet, I’m sure you watch it anyways, as does most of the world because they understand that it is appropriate for the context. If you or anyone else is sexualizing swimwear, then that is a problem with your thoughts, not the swimmer/swimwear’s fault.

Furthermore, if you have some arbitrary rule that your daughter needs to be covered up head to toe even at the pool or beach, then not only is it unsafe when trying to stay afloat in the water, but it’s going to damage their confidence and cause them to have self-image issues growing up.

Parents who are afraid their teenage daughter is becoming more sexual as her body develops falsely put the blame on bikinis for this development. No, it’s just a natural part of growing up. You cannot stop your child from developing physically, and being attracted to who they are attracted to (and becoming attractive themselves).

Rather than shaming them for something they can’t control, you should focus on educating them and teaching them how to practice safe sex rather than allowing them to make every mistake along the way, some of which are irreversible.

I’m sure you want to be grandparents one day, but you don’t want her to get knocked up by some random high school kid she hooked up with, right? Since you’re afraid of what a bikini might lead to, teach her how to avoid unwanted pregnancies and avoid STDs and stop blaming the bikini for your daughter growing up.

Teenagers are going to explore their sexual urges whether you like it or not. A bikini is not going to be some gateway to a lifestyle of immorality; when she is of age, she is going to explore her sexuality, and bikinis have nothing to do with that curiosity. Plus, need I remind you that bikinis are appropriate swimwear for the pool, water park, and beach? Context matters, so lingerie and kinky outfits are what you should have a problem with.

At what age should you let your daughter wear a bikini?

Many people, myself included, think that letting your daughter wear a bikini at nearly any age is acceptable. Bikinis are appropriate attire for the pool, beach, or water park; they are not inherently sexual, they can boost your daughter’s confidence and comfort, and they let your daughter fit in with other girls.

If you’re worried that bikinis are going to make your daughter more sexual, well, that has to do with growing up and becoming an adult; it has nothing to do with the bikini. If you’re afraid that others are sexualizing your daughter, unfortunately these depraved people are going to do it whether she’s wearing a bikini or not. You can’t control how other people think, nor should that concern cause you to shelter your daughter for the rest of her life. Living in a bubble will do more harm than good in her development.

At the end of the day, as a parent, the decision is up to you. But think about the potential long-term consequences of denying your daughter the freedom to wear what she likes; do not set her on the path where she is resentful and has body-image issues in the future.

Header Photo Credit: D Leal, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons