I recently watched a documentary on CBC’s The Doc Zone called Sext up KIDS that might be of interest to parents. It explored the consequences that an overly sexualized culture has on children and teens. The blurb online reads; “From tiny tots strutting bikini-clad bodies in beauty pageants to companies marketing itty-bitty thongs and padded bras to 9-year olds, images of ever-younger sexualized girls have become commonplace…”
Sext up KIDS presents information about how growing up in a hyper-sexualized culture impacts children and it contains information that will likely shock most parents. It reveals that, “the line between pop culture and porn culture is increasingly blurred. For every parent who thinks, “that’s not my son or daughter,” Sext up KIDS is your wake up call.”
I watched the documentary and read the discussion boards on the CBC’s website. Obviously, there are different opinions about the information and how it was presented. There are also interesting debates about the topic of sexuality in our society and subsequently how that impacts the development of self-esteem and beliefs about relationships.
My biggest reaction to this topic has always been in response to the conflicting messages that we send to children about sexuality. We can watch a talk show on a Monday about the importance of a healthy sexual relationship in a marriage. Sex experts will discuss techniques for increasing the sexual connection between the partners. On the Tuesday, the same talk show will air an episode about the horrors of teens having sex and the experts will promote the importance of abstinence and generate fear about the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
So, is sex a good normal thing that is integral to a happy healthy relationship; or is it a horribly frightening and taboo thing that should be avoided or punished because it will give you diseases and make you a whore? Young people are likely confused by these double standards.
The difference that conservative people may argue is that sex is a healthy part of a relationship only when two adults are married. That’s fine, but what about all of the other types of couples in the world? And, how do young people reverse the mental programming that sex is bad, dangerous, and taboo, to sex is important and natural once they get married? We can’t teach a child to fear something their entire lives then expect them to suddenly feel comfortable and open to it just because they got married.
I have never met someone who did not want to feel sexually attractive to someone. It doesn’t matter what you wear or how you look, we are genetically programmed to find a mate, and in order to catch the attention of an appropriate mate we need to be noticeable in some way. The problem is what most people think will make them noticeable.
If I ask a teenager, “What is more noticeable, cleavage or a quick wit?” they will say cleavage. What they don’t know is that even if the cleavage is more immediately noticeable, it is the quick wit that will attract a higher quality mate.
The girl who makes out with random guys at a party will definitely have lots of guys chasing her, but it’s the girl who is the president of the student council who will eventually catch the eye of a classy guy who wants to be in a committed relationship. Giving out blow jobs in the high school bathroom and circulating nude pictures of herself on social media will absolutely get her noticed, but it won’t help her acquire a long term romantic relationship with a partner.
We need to teach children that being known is not the same as being liked or popular. As a parent, the most important thing you can do is make sure your sons and daughters know that they are noticeable – noticeable for their talent, intelligence, kindness, creativity, humour, uniqueness. As parents, if we notice those qualities, our children will search for partners who recognize and appreciate those qualities in them.
Also, sexuality is not a bad thing. It is how it is used that makes all the difference. If young people have personal power and confidence, they will be less likely to use sexuality to orchestrate social situations. If they respect and appreciate their own bodies, they will demand that others respect and appreciate their bodies. Teach your children that their bodies are beautiful and that’s why another person needs to earn the privilege of seeing or touching it – not because sex is bad, but because it is sacred and special.
I hope this documentary opens up a discussion in your home or with other parents who have concerns about the sexual culture that children are immersed in. Sext up KIDS is directed by award winning documentary filmmaker, Maureen Palmer and produced by Rick LeGuerrier and Timothy M. Hogan and can be viewed online via the CBC’s Doc Zone website.
D. R. Graham