Bringing up kids in a porn culture

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Posted by: Sue Atkins

I am speaking on BBC Radio Leeds later today at 12.20 about the impact violent and sexual images and films have on children – here is just an excerpt from my new book “Parenting Made Easy” that will be out next April 2012 on:

Bringing up kids in a porn culture

I watched Nicole Scherzinger formerly of the Pussy Cat Dolls cavorting and singing her extremely sexually explicit lyrics on the family showBritain’s Got Talent to my horror recently and this is by no means an isolated incident.

Not many people call me a fuddy duddy ( with my hair) or even a Mary Whitehouse, but as I write this the UK government is launching a new inquiry into the sexualisation of children and I for one welcome some sort of crack down on what young children are being exposed to.

Growing up really is more complicated than it was in earlier generations as there are so many other influences on kids other than just their Mum and Dad, grandparents and peers.

Seeing 5 year olds watching music videos of Lady Gaga or Lily Allen that have totally inappropriate images or lyrics going on really troubles me as children learn from observing, and listening .

Kids learn how to speak kindly to others, be tolerant, have strong self esteem, or hold their knife and fork, by listening and watching you; they learn their values from listening and watching you, and they learn about their sexuality and ways to treat men and women from your ways of behaving and interacting in the world too. So what exactly are they learning from watching and listening to Rihanna, the award-winning R&B singer, which shows her character shooting dead a rapist in her latest video?

I think David Cameron was right to be protective of his young 5 year old listening to Lily Allen as her songs contain a lot of explicit swear words. I remember being mortified when I was happily singing along to one of her songs “It’s not Fair” in the car with my own daughter and the words on the CD were totally different from the one played on the radio!

I love Lady Gaga’s music and Rhianna’s music and my daughter is 16 and my son 18 but I have always monitored what they watch, how much they watch and where they watch their TV, videos or DVDs.

I felt it was my duty to care enough about the messages that they were receiving and to be in charge of their viewing as it is hugely influential.

I also talked a lot about the subjects that came up in the music to teach, guide and nurture my kids as I passed on my values to them, but not every parent does.

Music videos look likely to be subjected to tighter regulation after an inquiry into the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood.The independent review, commissioned by David Cameron, is expected to demand an age-rating system like that used for films, to restrict the times when raunchy videos can be shown.

The report, to be published soon, is expected to call for parents to be given a single online portal to make it easier for them to complain about products for children, such as clothing, which they consider to be sexualised.

It is also set to call for adverts with sexual imagery to be banned from sites near schools. Reg Bailey, chief executive of the Mothers’Union, was asked by the Prime Minister to look into the issues. His report follows concerns about the sexual content of videos by pop stars such as Rihanna and Lady Gaga, who have many pre-teen fans.

Mr Bailey is expected to recommend that the retail, advertising and video industries get 18 months to clean up their acts or face tougher regulation.

As a parent you are in a difficult position as it’s a very fast changing, technological world nowadays and your kids are growing up in an increasingly pornographic and hyper sexualised culture.

One of your major jobs is to socialise your children into society healthily.

But it’s not always easy so I think it helps if you get some clarity first about what you feel about certain issues and how you are going to handle, discuss and pass on your values and thoughts to your kids.

Children are being exposed to a heavy diet of soft core porn and these images are now so commonplace that they are almost impossible to avoid. If you think I’m exaggerating, then flip through a magazine at your local supermarket checkout, sweet shop or take a drive to look at billboards, or just watch some prime time TV ads, and you will be bombarded with images that a decade ago would have been considered soft-core porn.

If you want an example of just how hyper sexualised our culture has become, then look no further than the rebranding of Miley Cyrus. She began as a youthful, innocent Disney icon who was loved by millions of girls around the world but after her photo shoot in Vanity Fair, her image has drastically changed.

So as a parent how do you handle this difficult subject with your kids? Let me know your thoughts and how you feel about this whole issue.

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