Is the Media Teaching Your Kids About Sex?
By Melody Bergman
Sometimes life is so fast it makes our heads spin, and we just hope and pray that the tools we’re using are actually keeping our kids safe when it comes to media.
But do we really expect filters, age-appropriate ratings, and time limits to ensure our kids won’t encounter sexually explicit material?
What does “age appropriate” mean anyway? As far as I can tell, nowadays all it means is that children of a certain age are expected to be in the audience. Whether we want our children to be in that audience is a different matter altogether.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but some current events have made it clear that “they” (the creators of this stuff: games, videos, ads, and media in general) have a funny way of deciding what is or isn’t taboo anymore. In fact, I’m not sure what is off limits at this point.
Here are some examples of explicit content disguised as “age-appropriate” media:(WARNING: External links may contain content that is offensive or triggering.)
TEEN VOGUE created quite a stir recently by including a graphic tutorial on anal sex in their June 2017 issue. The target audience for the magazine is ages 11-17 (Teen Vogue pushing Anal Sex to young girls, 2017). When confronted by angry parents, the magazine defended their decision to publish the article (Starnes, 2017).
MINECRAFT, rated for ages 8+, is definitely a kids game. But watch out! Players are now adding “sex mods” to their Minecraft games, luring children into virtual sexual encounters (Betters-Midtvedt, 2016; Jenson, 2016).
ANIME is not just an innocent artform, although its cartoon style does ensure passage through internet filters. Beware of Hentai, graphic anime pornography, which gets through filters the same way (Bentley, 2017).
“BILL NYE the Science Guy” has a new show on Netflix called Bill Nye Saves the World, and parents should be aware that his content and tone on this “kid-friendly” show have shifted significantly from his old work. Nye just received an Emmy nomination for his “Sexual Spectrum” episode, which is presented in an almost strip-club type format and includes actress Rachel Bloom singing about her vagina, ‘butt stuff,’ ‘sex stew,’ sexual positions, transgenderism, and how sexuality and gender are ‘on a spectrum’ (Prestigiacomo, 2017).
Do these things make us want to throw up? Or huddle in a corner shivering with fear? Or–as I’ve heard more and more parents admit–move in with the Amish? Maybe. But in reality we can make it through this one day at a time. Hang in there!
Here are some tips on combating hypersexuality and unwanted “sex ed” in the media: Follow media coverage on family issues. Frankly, I was horrified to learn I had missed some of the current events listed above until I started researching and really paying attention. Like many parents, I wondered how I can possibly keep up with these things along with the rest of the whirlwind that is life. Lucky for us, there are watchdogs out there already keeping track of these things–we just need to find them and follow them wherever we are on social media. That way notifications will come to us automatically. Here are some options:
Educate and Empower Kids – Us, of course! We’re always watching your back and trying to keep you up to date on these things! (Luckily there is a whole team of us–not just me!)
Common Sense Media – Detailed reviews for parents regarding movies, books, TV, games, apps, and websites.
Protect Young Minds – A blog and website dedicated to protecting children from online pornography (also home of the Good Pictures Bad Pictures book series)
Protect Young Eyes – A faith-based blog dedicated to equipping concerned, but too-busy parents and hyper-connected kids with information about using the internet well.
The Activist Mommy – An ultra-conservative vlogger who educates about current events and topics that are important to families.
Dirty Dozen List – From the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, updated annually.
Be your child’s first source of information. Let’s face it. Unless we tape our kids inside a cardboard box and feed them through a little hole, we’re not going to be able to protect them from exposure to the media. The fact is, if we want to teach our kids about sex before the media does, then we need to start early. This is one job we don’t want to leave to the professionals! Don’t know where to start? We can definitely help with that. We’re always adding new resources on this topic. Here are just a few to start with:
Teach your kids to self-monitor. As we all know, we can’t be with our kids at all times, and unfortunately even the best filters can fail. This is when our kids need to have a backup system in place–one that is built into their own conscience so they can access it wherever or whenever they need to. Teaching our kids to self-monitor requires careful time and preparation on our part. As parents, if we spend time teaching our children about sex, pornography, and other explicit material before they are exposed, that will be more precious to them than any piece of software in their time of need. Watch this video and learn our plan to help kids R.U.N. away from pornography:
For more details on self-monitoring and other great discussions about pornography, check out our book, How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography. For a sneak peek at what’s inside, you can also read my book review: “The Handbook is HERE: How to talk to kids about porn.”
Sometimes it’s tempting to feel discouraged and overwhelmed in our digitally saturated, sex-obsessed world. But with the right tools, we can take courage! We can empower our kids with the knowledge that sex and love are beautiful and wholesome before the world tells them otherwise. You can do it Mom and Dad! We’re cheering you on!
And while we’re on the topic of media literacy … Check out our new Kids Activity Page! Have your children put their skills to the test decoding advertisements with fun interactive exercises for different age groups. Are they smarter than the media?
Melody Harrison Bergman is a mother and step-mom of three awesome boys and creator of the blog MamaCrossroads (http://mamacrossroads.com). She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and has been writing and editing since 2002. Melody has made it her mission to motivate leaders and community members to educate and protect their children. Her experiences as a survivor of sexual abuse and former spouse of a sex addict bring unique perspective to the fight against pornography and sexual exploitation.
Bentley, Lacy. (2017, May 4). Five Things Kids Need Parents to Know About Anime. Parents Aware. Retrieved July 24, 2017, from http://parentsaware.info/index.php/2017/05/04/five-things-to-know-about-anime/
Betters-Midtvedt, A. (2016, October 21). Everything Changed the Day I Learned Minecraft Has a Sex Mod. parent.co. Retrieved July 24, 2017, from https://www.parent.co/everything-changed-the-day-i-learned-minecraft-has-a-sex-mod/
Jenson, K. (2016, November 3). Sex Mods??? Is Minecraft Safe for My Kids? Protect Young Minds. Retrieved July 24, 2017, from https://protectyoungminds.org/2016/11/03/sex-mods-minecraft-safe-kids/
Prestigiacomo, A. ‘Butt Stuff’: Bill Nye Gets Emmy Nod For INSANE ‘Sexual Spectrum’ Episode. The Daily Wire. Retrieved July 24, 2017, from http://www.dailywire.com/news/18642/butt-stuff-bill-nye-gets-emmy-nod-insane-sexual-amanda-prestigiacomo.
Starnes, T. (2017, July 18). Parents outraged over Teen Vogue anal sex how-to column (but magazine still defends it). Fox News. Retreived July 24, 2017, from http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/07/18/teen-vogue-defends-teaching-kids-how-to-engage-in-sodomy.html
(2017, July 19). Teen Vogue pushing Anal Sex to young girls. National Center on Sexual Exploitation. Retrieved July 24, 2017, from http://endsexualexploitation.org/articles/teen-vogue-pushing-anal-sex-young-girls/