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!

Why, when and how do we need to talk about Pornography.

We were born as sexual beings. If you have a positive self -belief that sex is a normal part of life then that's a great place to start the conversation around pornography.

Why ?

Porn and sex are very different. Pornography is not real sex. What we see are actors. If it’s educating our families instead of us then we need to change that as they need to know what real sex is. Recent research indicates that pornography because of the internet is now affordable, easily accessable and can be addictive. If we educate them, then our kids may learn and think from watching or reading it that sex can be violent, (people especially woman often look like they are enjoying the violence) devoid of any emotion, should not involve consent, value, trust, respect, love or any kind of relationship. Pornography can be really scary and dangerous, especially if a child knows nothing about sex before seeing porn as they may feel fearful, ashamed guilty, confused and anxious.

When?

It should be before they see porn so they will know what is real, right and true and know what to do when they see it. As pornography is being watched by younger and younger children we need to educate them early. We can have positive conversations from the moment our kids can talk. (By using the proper names for private parts so they get using the right words and talk about child protection.) In our sex saturated society the opportunities to talk are all around us.

How?

It should not be a one off scary conversation instead be a conversation without fear, guilt and shame around safety, asking questions about what they know, respecting their opinions and not condemning them. Get informed yourself, stay calm even if you don’t feel it. Know what and why you believe what you do so you can explain it to your kids. Know what your kids are watching and what forms of internet your children are using. ie: instagram you tube etc Reassure them that they are not ever in trouble about any conversation to do with sex or pornography. Make your conversations open ended and positive. Have family rules around all devises attached to the internet. Make sure you include answers that talk about emotion, consent, value, trust, respect, love or relationship.

 You can start the conversation about sex before pornography does.

The big P word…

  1. And I don’t mean PENIS…

I mean PORN and yes I believe, it’s dangerous..

What is pornography?

Definition (The English Oxford Dictionary):

Printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate sexual excitement.

Research says that the average age of a child’s first exposure to pornography is 11. 

(and getting younger)

The most frequent consumers of pornography are young heterosexual males aged between 12 and 17 but 99% of Males have seen porn by the age of 15 and many females too.

Pornography is definitely not just a male problem.

So why is it dangerous?

The experts say:

Technology has changed. It’s not like it used to be (ie: not just finding a porn magazine under your girlfriend’s father’s bed like I did..it’s everywhere and can be easily accessed because of the internet.)

1.     It’s free.

It’s on most social media. It’s incredibly easy to download and access, and does not cost anything. Kids can access it on smart phones even if their parents have filters and protective software on other family computers and devises.

2.     It’s anonymous.

You don’t have to tell anyone. Just google ‘sex’ or any other word and find out for yourself. (This is very appealing, especially to young people)

3.     It can be addictive.

Once you see it you can’t un-see it, and …everyone is different, the way they react is different. Some kids and adults too just want to see more and then more and then it gets more graphic the more you want. It can be like any addiction really eg alcohol, coffee or food.

  .. Maree Crabbe, joint leader of a program called ‘Reality and Risk’ writes: “The result is a form of pornography which has become more aggressive, more outrageous, more dangerous in order to be noticed. Explicit pornography has become the norm on the internet. It is known as gonzo porn, and it is directly affecting the sexuality of our kids.”

 In other words, sex can be without consent or safety, or pleasure, aggressive in nature, degrading of women, particularly in an unbalance of power, and showing that it’s fine outside of the context of a consensual relationship or any form of loving intimacy.

Is this what you want your kids to think that sex is all about?

No thanks, not me.

So let’s educate our children about what sex really means before PORNOGRAPHY does.