There is no arguing that sexually suggestive images and references are everywhere these days. The old adage that “sex sells” seems to have been taken to a whole new level. We see advertisers using scantily clad women riding mechanical bulls in order to sell, wait – what were they selling? Oh, that’s right, hamburgers. And, sitting in a room with your children when a Liquid Plumber commercial airs has become downright uncomfortable.
Over the years the line between appropriate vs. inappropriate topics in the media seems to have blurred. Especially when it comes to the time frames reserved for general family viewing and/or listening. That is, if there is such a thing anymore. Between the music, TV shows, commercials, and even the news, there does not appear to be a topic or image that is off limits.
As a consequence, we are becoming immune to behavior and topics and that were once considered inappropriate for common consumption. So what affect is this having on our children and us overall?
What’s Happening to Our Children
A consequence of all this openness and freedom of topic is the exposure of our children to things that they should have years before having to think about as a young adult. When your child asks why an erection lasting more than four hours is bad after watching a poorly timed Cialis commercial, you have to wonder if we have become too open. There are several other negative outcomes as well.
Overly sexualized children. The lyrics to even the radio-edited versions of many of the most popular songs today are wildly suggestive. And a great deal of TV available during what used to be considered family viewing hours makes sex seem like no big deal. Not to mention what children can be exposed to on the internet. As a result, we have children who are too familiar with topics that are completely beyond their years and are far too complex for them to understand.
Early sexual experiences. Although sexual experiences in the teen years have been happening for ages, they haven’t always been so overt. Kids have become used to the idea of sex. And some things, like oral sex, have become a matter of course for many.
Distorted view of intimacy. Whether its teens or adults, too much exposure to sexualized information can create a very superficial view of intimacy. We start to lose what is special about intimate relationships because it is all made to seem so casual and commonplace.
Desensitization. When we see and hear something over and over, it no longer seems like a big deal. So when we see body parts, witness experiences, and hear discussions that should all really be kept private, our sense of privacy goes out the window.
Is There Anything Positive Here?
Positives in this case are debatable. However, there may be a few outcomes that have helped us turn a good corner.
Discussion. The normalization of formerly off-limits topics like sexuality and sexual health has pushed many parents into having frank conversations with their children. It has been said that knowledge is power. If this is to be believed, then arming our children with information that is influenced by our own family values is likely to be positive.
Awareness. Because we have had to, we have likely told our children more about the things they should watch out for. Inappropriate advances, sexual conversation and images are all topics that many of us have been forced into discussing at an earlier age, and in a more direct manner than ever before. Additionally, technology advances have brought on new issues such as social media friending or picture requests.
Acceptance. Our children, even more so than us, are becoming more tolerant of differences in people. Regardless as to your opinion of people’s lifestyle choices, our children are growing up with a greater acceptance of people’s differences and the differences in families. Tolerance as a whole is more often a positive than a negative.
What Does This All Mean?
The bottom line is that we are living in a world where boundaries are becoming more and more fluid. The definition of what is appropriate and inappropriate is more subjective than ever. That tide is not likely to turn.
It is possible that we have made some gains in certain areas, although some may think we have simply lost sight of the line between decency and decadence. For our children, however, we have likely opened the gate to inappropriate material far too wide.
As individuals, partners and parents, we have to be more aware than ever of what is coming into our home and what is accessible to our kids. What is okay for adults has always been different than what is okay for children, but now we can no longer assume that anyone in the media actually cares about that difference. No one else is watching out for our kids’ best interests but us.