Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Children, Media, and Sex
The New York Times has an article on "Impact of the Media on Adolescent Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors". Now that wouldn't usually be something I'd write about, if the article wasn't so totally idiotic. The article cites "sexual references and images from television, in movies and video games, in music, in magazines and on Web sites" as dangerous influences on teenagers, but mostly goes on discussing television.
About the internet it only says: "As for the Internet, one national survey of 10- to-17-year-olds found that one in five had "inadvertently encountered explicit sexual content, and one in five had been exposed to an unwanted sexual solicitation while online." What it fails to mention is the other four in five teenagers had voluntarily encountered sexual content on the internet while searching for it.
In my humble opinion it is absolutely useless to worry about a risque joke in an episode of "Friends", or Janet Jackson's boob hanging out during Super Bowl, while your kid has free access to the internet. Sexual content on television, in movies, video games, music and magazines tends to be very harmless in comparison to the hardcore freely available on the internet. The internet has no limits to any sort of sexual perversion, a fact jokingly referred to already long ago in the creation of the newsgroup alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.bestiality.hamster.duct-tape. Most filtering software simply doesn't work, and any healthy teenage boy will be motivated and clever enough to find sexual images on the internet. Especially if you just sent him up to his room because you didn't approve of him watching a scantily dressed Britney Spears on MTV.
Pretending to a 17-year old that there is no such thing as sex, and trying to keep all possible information about it away from him simply won't work. Parents should brave the difficult but important challenge of talking with their children about sex, and that includes talking about porn, and the use of sexual images for marketing purposes. These are facts of life, and it is much better to provide some guidance for your children than to let them find out for themselves. Having talked with your daughter about Playboy magazine now might prevent the nasty surprise of finding her being the centerfold during her college years.