It’s a common parental fear that their children will be exposed to the sexual kaleidoscope of horrors that can be found all too easily on the internet, but research presented yesterday at the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting shows that the internet only accounts for 16% to 25% of exposure to sexual content by children ages 10-15.
While this may easy your fears about the internet, it leaves a seemingly innocuous (and much more insidious) presence as the main provider of sexual content to our kids.
Surprise, surprise: The research suggests that the real culprit is TV, which accounts for 75% of the exposure to sexual content, followed closely by music, at 69%.
Of course, this isn’t really a surprise, is it? Not when our kids are singing along to Rihanna’s “S & M” and Britney Spears’ latest sex-centric song in the back seat of minivans across America (and the world).
Michele Ybarra, of the nonprofit research group called Internet Solutions for Kids, presented the data from her ongoing national Growing Up With Media survey, which began in 2006. The study has collected data from 1,588 children, ages 10-15, and will continue through next year when the kids will be ages, 16-21. It’s goal is to identify the association between violence in new media and seriously violent behavior. It covers several areas of concern for parents, including cyberbullying, sexting, and on-line harrassment among young people. The results will be published in journal Pediatrics.
I’m as big a sucker for a pop tune as anyone and can easily forget that the words to songs on the radio are influencing my children, but songs like Kelly Rowland’s Motivation really bother me when they come on and I will always switch the station if the kids are with me. I’ve made mis-steps with movie choices, as well, recently paying the price for not vetting Ace Ventura more closely before watching it with it my boys… an accident that resulted in my receiving the dreaded “phone call from a concerned friend” after my nine-year-old son gave her son some rather shocking information about alternative sex acts (you can read about what happened here) during a play date.
Television and movies are at least somewhat manageable to control, if you are fastidious enough to go through all the parental controls available on your cable box, but how do you handle suggestive music on the radio? Do you turn a blind ear and assume your kids are doing the same, or do you try and keep their ears innocent for as long as possible?
Is it ever too soon to have the birds and the bees talk?