K - KIDS A - ARE G - GETTING O - OLDER Y - YOUNGER
Last night I watched the documentary, Sext Up Kids by Doc Zone. If you have not had the chance to view this documentary, I highly recommend that you take the time to give it a watch. The documentary explores the hyper-sexualized world that kids are growing up in. It makes you question…are kids missing out on childhood?
In a world where technology easily accessible and consumers are becoming younger and younger, children are struggling to create a healthy identity for themselves. They struggle with understanding the difference between public and private. The problem stems from the fact that consumers are marketing sexualized products, such as clothing that mimics adults, to children. Children are constantly being reminded of highly sexualized representations of stars that they look up to. The Internet can be a scary place for children. Especially when they are not aware of the risks or the implications of their actions.
So, what can we do?
Teach children about digital identity.
The reality is kids are accessing technology from a much younger age. With technology comes the unpredictable world of the Internet. We are naïve to think that children aren’t living in a world where they have more exposure to hyper-sexuality and inappropriate material. Basically, they are exposed to too much, too young. Therefore, I believe adults have the responsibility to teach children safe use of technology. It needs to be taught by parents, educators, and other role models that children look up to because without this guidance, children grow up in a world where they feel pressured to look and act a certain way. This can lead to them making poor decisions online that can be extremely detrimental. Children need to understand that anything they share online becomes public and essentially becomes a part of their identity.
Help preserve childhood.
If students are growing up in a world where they are exposed to too much too soon, how can we help preserve their childhood? I think it starts with creating a positive balance at home. If children are allowed unlimited time with technology that is not being monitored they are going to grow up with unrealistic and problematic expectations of themselves. Sext Up Kids discusses how children are accessing pornography at a much younger age. Consequently, it can overshadow their lives. It becomes the norm for boys to grow up watching and talking about porn and as a result they develop this fixated idea of sex. Pressured by this idea to be sexy girls are becoming the targets dressing provocatively at a young age. These mixed messages of how they need to look combined with social media and texting pressures teens to think and act in alarming ways. Are the days when children played kick the can or rode their bikes to get ice cream after school part of the past? What can we do to make sure they don’t lose their sense of childhood?
Recognize the problematic aspects of media.
Media plays a big role in the way children are growing up in the world. Social media, magazines, and advertisements are all sending unrealistic messages to youth. Boys are growing up in a world where they are learning to treat girls as sexualized objects. Girls are constantly being pressured to appear a certain way. The argument can also be made that there is a double standard between what it means to be a girl or a boy. Consider this article by the Daily Life that questions, “why is it that only girls are permitted to enter the playground of gender fluidity?” Although this article is somewhat unrelated to the documentary, I think the important part is teaching kids to view media with a critical lens. Somewhat related is this article by the Cool Cat Teacher that discusses the idea of being “not just a girl.” Most importantly, and definitely easier said than done, is teaching boys and girls to feel empowered and to be who they are NOT who media wants them to be.
As I reflect on my thoughts about this documentary, I have come to the realization that I am no farther ahead. I have identified the problems with growing up in a hyper-sexualized world where technology can be damaging to the lives of children, but I have so many more concerns than answers. Do you think hyper-sexualization will progress in the next ten years? What can be done so youth are not pressured to look and act older than they actually are?