Tuesday, February 25, 2014

So Sexy So Soon -Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne

Title: So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids
Author: Diane E. Levin and Jean Kilbourne
Publisher: Ballantine Books (Random House), 2008 (Hardcover)
Length: 211 pages
Genre: Adult; Nonfiction, Parenting
Started: February 24, 2014
Finished: February 25, 2014

From the inside cover:

Thong panties, padded bras, and risqué Halloween costumes for young girls. T-shirts that boast "Chick Magnet" for toddler boys. Sexy content on almost every television channel, as well as in books, movies, video games, and even cartoons. Hot young female pop stars wearing provocative clothing and dancing suggestively while singing songs with sexual and sometimes violent lyrics. These products are marketed aggressively to our children; these stars are held up for our young daughters to emulate - and for our sons to see as objects of desire.

Popular culture and technology inundate our children with an onslaught of mixed messages at earlier ages than ever before. Corporations capitalize on this disturbing trend, and without the emotional sophistication to understand what they are doing and seeing, kids are getting into increasing trouble emotionally and socially some may even engage in precocious sexual behaviour. Parents are left shaking their heads, wondering: How did this happen? What can we do?

So Sexy So Soon is an invaluable and practical guide for parents who are fed up, confused, and even scared by what their kids - or their kids' friends - do and say. Diane E. Levin, Ph.D., and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D., internationally recognized experts on early childhood development and the impact of the media on children and teens, understand that saying no to commercial culture - TV, movies, toys, Internet access, and video games - isn't a realistic or viable option for most families. Instead, they offer parents essential, age-appropriate strategies to counter the assault. For instance:

  • Help your children expand their imaginations by suggesting new ways for them to play with toys - for example, instead of "playing house" with dolls, they might send their toys on a backyard archeological adventure. 
  • Counteract the narrow gender stereotypes in today's media: ask your son to help you cook; get your daughter outside to play ball. 
  • Share your values and concerns with other adults - relatives, parents of your children's friends - and agree on how you'll deal with TV and other media when your children are at one another's houses. 
Filled with savvy suggestions, helpful sample dialogues, and poignant true stories from families dealing with these issues, So Sexy So Soon provides parents with the information, skills, and confidence they need to discuss sensitive topics openly and effectively so their kids can just be kids. 

I've been picking up a lot of books like this lately: books on issues that relate to raising a girl in today's modern culture. Granted, I think it's equally hard raising a boy or a girl nowadays, but being a parent to a girl comes with unique challenges that I began to notice when I started teaching and were fully affirmed when my daughter was born. 

Kids are under assault by inappropriate sexual content in today's media, a lot of it actually aimed at their age group. When I had difficulties finding a Halloween costume for my toddler that wasn't a princess or a "naughty kitten" (actual wording on package), I knew this was a major issue. I'd been noticing examples for years: the types of tween shows airing on the Disney channel (which aren't allowed in our house), Bratz/Monster High/Ever After High dolls, the kind of clothing available for girls once they outgrow toddler sizes, the lack of strong female role models in the media, and the prevalence of violent role models for boys. And the consequences are there as well: students exposed to sexual concepts they aren't emotionally ready for (beyond the pure mechanics we are expected to explain to them), early exposure to pornography (try digesting that the first time you hear it from a 10-year-old), children imitating sexual behaviour without knowing the ramifications of that behaviour, and teenagers and young adults having very warped ideas of sexuality and relationships. 

This book begins by explaining exactly how this trend began and examples of it in our culture (from anecdotes as well as research studies). The book then goes on to address the consequences of this trend and how parents can counteract this in both younger children and teenagers. The suggestions are actually pretty good and are similar to ones I've gleaned from other sources, and are ones I can picture myself using with my students or my own daughter. The resources and notations listed in the back of the book are extensive, so anyone who's interested can further their research that way.

An excellent book on the issue of sexualized childhood in our modern culture and how to combat it on a personal and wider level. 

Thoughts on the cover:
About as good an image that can be used without divulging into questionable content. 

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