The Battle Against Pop Culture: Mom and Dad, BE IN THE GAME
By Jamie Siggard and Melody Bergman
Every day billboards, TV shows, movies, magazines, ads, apps, and other content wash over us like a tidal wave. And whether we like it or not, these sources are teaching us–and our children–all sorts of lessons about our culture, including topics like body image and sexuality.
So, here’s the question. Who will get there first? Who will teach your kids about these important topics? Pop culture … or you?
Just as an example, we are going to look at Teen Vogue, one of the many platforms that are saturated with sexual content and specifically aimed at our teenage daughters. Keep in mind, however, that there is plenty of degrading media aimed at our boys too!
Teen Vogue, a US magazine launched in 2003, is an “online-only” publication with a strong presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. The name Vogue is synonymous with fashion lures in teen girls who want to stay on top of trends. Under the guise of “hip” and “cool,” young impressionable readers are being exposed to misinformation that objectifies and sexualizes women.
However, unlike many teen magazines, which simply send harmful messages about body image, Teen Vogue has crossed the line and begun instructing their audience about highly sexualized topics. For instance, in the name of “sex education,” they recently published an article normalizing anal sex and walking girls through a step-by-step tutorial on how to participate. Another article speaks blithely about pornography and makes the dangerous implication that girls should watch porn to learn about sex. Consider what these articles are teaching teens about priorities and their place in our culture. What values are being instilled in our kids through pop culture sources like these?
And it just keeps getting worse. Earlier this year Teen Vogue published another article titled “Why Sex Work is Real Work,” advocating for the decriminalization of sex work (which we know only benefits pimps and not the victims of sex trafficking). Here’s just a small snippet from the article: “The idea of purchasing intimacy and paying for the services can be affirming for many people who need human connection, friendship, and emotional support. Some people may have fantasies and kink preferences that they are able to fulfill with the services of a sex worker” (Mokefong, 2019).
Get in the game, parents!! No more playing defense; get on the offense. Rather than letting Teen Vogue or other media be the “go-to” for critical information about culture, sex, intimacy, and relationships, YOU be the “go-to” for your kids. Be your child’s first, best source of information when it comes to these important topics.
Here are 6 great discussion topics to help combat misinformation from harmful media:
- Some media is not worth our time. There are lots of media sources competing for our attention. Learn to decipher the media around you. Listen to your gut. Follow, listen, and watch only what inspires and uplifts you. While some things are entertaining or popular, they are not always worth our time.
- Our value is unchanging. Our worth is not tied to our sexual appeal, the number of followers we have on Instagram, party invitations, or clothing brands. Our value is infinite and that does not change.
- Our bodies are amazing. The human body is incredible and should be treated with kindness and respect by ourselves and other people. We should see each other and value each other for more than just our appearance. Recognize there’s so much more to us than just the way we look and appreciate what our bodies can do.
- I’m up for any question, anytime. Be sure your child knows that you are available to talk whenever, about anything. Always remember that the questions your kids have will not go away just because you avoid tough topics. Inevitably, children will find an answer, but you will be left out of the conversation. Just think: Do you want to answer that question, or do you want Google to answer it? Be your child’s first, best source of information.
- Sexual intimacy is a wonderful thing, and it’s important we learn about it from accurate sources. There are many sources available to educate kids about sex, but it’s important that we learn about it from accurate and trusted sources. Be that accurate and trusted source for your child!
- Sometimes being “cool” is totally overrated. Most of us want to be “cool” and fit in. Make sure your kids know that being cool is only temporary and can leave us feeling empty. Remind your child often that real self-worth comes from being kind, respectful, and honest, which helps us to feel lasting happiness. Take the time to discuss values with your child.
After discussing these topics, continue to stay in the game. Your kids need YOU. For more awesome discussion topics check out our new book, Conversations With My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age. This book is full of timely discussions about healthy sexuality, finding real joy, setting goals, social media, and so much more.
Want a fun, easy way to talk to kids about body image? Check our children’s books: Messages About Me: Sydney’s Story (for girls) and Messages About Me: Wade’s Story (for boys), both available on Amazon.
**If you are looking for modest alternatives to popular fashion magazines for your budding fashionista here are some options:
Jen Magazine is an online fashion magazine and blog dedicated to modest fashion and positive media for young women from a Christian perspective.
Eliza is an online magazine started by a former top model as a response to the overly sexualized fashion industry.
Verily is an online fashion magazine which is dedicated to the “real” beauty of women. They do not photoshop their images and avoid the use of “ideal body types and features” in their fashion spreads.
Jamie Siggard recently graduated with her degree in Marriage and Family Studies from Brigham Young University-Idaho. She currently lives in the greater Seattle area and works as a nanny. Seeking adventure, truth, and strong relationships are her recipe for happiness, and she hopes to help others find similar joy through her writing.
Melody Bergman is a mother and step-mom of three awesome boys, co-host of the Media Savvy Moms Podcast, and blogger at MamaCrossroads. She is also a member of the Safeguard Alliance for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation and facilitator for the Virginia Alliance on Sexual Exploitation. Melody has a bachelor’s degree in communications and has been writing and editing since 2002. Her mission is to motivate leaders and community members to educate and protect children and families.
Mofokeng, T. (2019, April 26). Why Sex Work Is Real Work. Retrieved from https://www.teenvogue.com/story/why-sex-work-is-real-work