What the media and popular culture tells us about sex and how you can talk to your kids about it?

Media - Media is the plural form of medium, which (broadly speaking) describes any channel of communication. 

Social media – the online platforms that people use to connect with others share media and form social networks.

Popular culture - the general culture of a society

In the past, the “stories” told to children and young people about how to live and how to act came from parents, schools, churches and community members. Increasingly, media are today’s storytellers. Unfortunately, the messages about sex that we get from the media are often negative, unhealthy or untrue.

 There is no doubt that our kids are growing up surrounded by sexual images and messages. Kids are exposed to sexual imagery in advertisements, on TV, in movies, in books, in video games, songs, mobile phones, radio and on the Internet. Many of these images are played for shock value, so they often contain graphic or violent sex. Our media culture bombards kids with unhealthy sexual messages that can contribute to early and unsafe sexual behaviours and activity, an unhealthy body image and unrealistic expectations. Our media culture assists with ongoing sexism, racism, gender inequality and violence against woman. Even ‘mild’ shows use sexual situations for humour and this sexual humour is often a mainstay of entertainment. Today, young people spend more hours of their day engaging with some form of media—5 to 6 hours a day on average than they do in any other way. This can include the use of phones, internet, social media and television content. This  has contributed to a mental health crisis, evidenced by the increased levels of depression, low self-esteem and eating disorders in young girls and is on the rise for boys.

 Well…is that is enough to make you freak out and put your head in the sand or not?

 How do you help your child see the truth behind the media?

 We need to understand that the media is not always ‘evil’, rather it can be informative and educational in a positive way, as well as being a great resource for fun and learning.

1. Get to know your child’s media environment, including the TV and movies they’re watching, their forms of online communication. Listen to their music, check out the ads in games they play and more. This will provide unlimited opportunities to discuss media literacy issues.

2. Take the opportunity to talk about what you see or hear on the TV or in movies, music, social media and any other form of media. I know that this might sound rather strange but I will be forever grateful for reality TV. It has started so many conversations with my children around the topic of sexuality, consent and relationships from ‘Married at First Sight’ to ‘The Bachelor’, tampon adds, erectile dysfunction ads and the endless songs about sex that we hear on the radio.

Identify opportunities to explore media literacy with your children in everyday, unexpected ways. (Frequently point out images and messages in the media to your child and remind them that this is a not a standard they or anyone else should hold themselves to.) Listen to their music and radio. When talking with your children, focus on the underlying messages. Share your feelings and values, and avoid blanket criticism of your children’s opinions or favourite media. Learning to think critically about media will help your child when they are exposed to inappropriate content, and they will have the knowledge that media isn’t an accurate representation of real life.

3. Set up parental devices and filters and have boundaries and time limits. Explain to your child why you are doing this.

4. Put devices in public areas not in bedrooms

5. Know your children’s passwords.

6. Try not to talk about your own body constantly and compare it to social media.

So ready set lets go!