By Elisa Roland for KnowMore.tv
When the second season of Orange Is The New Black debuted recently on Netflix, I thought I would be really excited. But then I discovered that instead of reading Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume like I did when I was her age, my sixth grader watched the entire first season. How, you ask? We failed to properly password protect our account so she couldn't get in to the shows we watched. Somehow she stumbled upon it... or more likely it beckoned her from the loading screen.
Call it bad parenting. Poor judgment. Just plain old technical duh. Here we were busily monitoring her Vine, Instagram and OoVoo accounts, reading her text messages and setting rules about using social media while she was learning a whole new way to get social. Orange Is The New Black is a great show, but drug trafficking, corrupt security guards and graphic sex are prominent storylines. We've gone straight from reading the American Girl puberty bible, The Body Book For Girls, to watching Orange Is The New Black, a.k.a. bad girl bible. Perhaps I can chalk it up to a life lesson -- thirteen episodes on why you should stay out of prison?
It reminded me that at the same age my daughter is now, my friends and I discovered porn magazines in the woods that abutted our school playground. I don't know where the teacher on duty was during that recess, but no one discovered our secret. Those magazines were not Playboy or even a Hustler. They were hard core.
Up until then, my only definition for sex was of the birds and the bees kind. In one recess, that definition was stripped away and replaced by stripped women in compromising positions. Yet I continued watching Little House On The Prairie without wondering what Ma and Pa were up to under the covers. I still hung out with my friends and talked about boys we liked, not about having sex with them. So unless you count a little tryst with spin the bottle later that year on that same playground, I think my friends and my brief encounter with porn did not turn us into sexual deviants, but not everyone would agree.
Good Morning America quoted Diane Levin, author of Remote Control Childhood? Combating the Hazards of Media Culture, "The kind of increased sexual images that children are seeing in the media and in their toys has a parallel with when they get a little older. They start becoming sexually active earlier."
Good Morning America also stated, "Research shows that during the 1970s and '80s, an increasing proportion of kids were having sex in their early teens. By the mid-'90s, more than 24 percent of girls and 27 percent of boys had had intercourse by age 15."
What really influences our kids?
When I finally gave my virginity up at age 17, I don't think those revealing porn mags in the woods had anything to do with it. It was a combination of love and not having the same taboos about sex before marriage that my mother might have had. And although it may have been movies like Risky Business or music videos like Madonna's "Like A Virgin" that helped those taboos disappear, watching them didn't make me run out and jump my boyfriend any faster.
Recently, a school in New Jersey discovered two kindergartners stripped down naked in the bathroom claiming to have had sex. Immediately, there was an outcry. First, for the teacher to be dismissed. How could she leave two children unattended long enough for that to happen? Second, to identify the outlet responsible for putting it in their heads in the first place. Was it television? The Internet? The scarier question, who exposed them to that outlet? A parent? A caregiver? And more seriously, was it sexual abuse?
Looking back at what happened to me
No one touched us, but someone left those magazines behind. Someone put those images in our head. It's especially scary to me now as a parent because we didn't tell anyone what we found. Was there a pedophile watching us play? Did he take pleasure as we read his stash? Maybe it didn't give us the inclination to go out and actually do what was in those photos, but it certainly made us aware of them.
Unfortunately, no matter how vigilant we are as parents, some sexual messages are going to creep through. It may not be as graphic as reading porn, but it's bound to happen. So even if I'm a bad parent for inadvertently exposing my kid to what goes on under the prison covers, I'm happy she told me and we were able to talk about it. The key is to make sure she keeps talking because technology is the new pedophile in the woods and there are a lot more places to hide.
More from KnowMore