I’ve become a bit of a documentary person since I watch so little TV so I discover information important to my life online. One documentary that we had great discussions via Facebook but I didn’t write an article about was Sext Up Kids produced by CBC DocZone. I was honored to preview the documentary a few days before it aired on TV and I have not stopped talking about it since first watching it. I immediately took to social media to encourage parents to watch it (even parents with young children). I also mentioned the incredible resources listed in the documentary to our Premier Christy Clark back in October. When I see the reemergence of concerned parents with social media profiling or reading the letter written to Victoria Secret from a concerned dad about their new clothing line called “Bright Young Things” aimed at young teenagers I think of the information all parents need to know if their kids participate with adult tools like social media or devices that connect to the Internet.
The main concern of DocZone experts is our children are moving from toddler-hood to teenagers – the middle gap of childhood seems to be lost with the intense pressure of sexuality. And the surprising (for me) reality for our sons? That they are using their widely accessible electronic devices to access porn. This is where they are learning how to treat our daughters and the amount of time spent watching porn is causing desensitization to violence by watching sex in such an aggressive forum. I can see both sides of this documentary having both sons and daughters but I have to say the learning curve on how I need to parent my sons really was a surprise to me. But it’s not hard to believe that this happens. It crossed my mind as a reality when I recently hosted a play date for my oldest son and an electronic device that couldn’t connect to the internet (only because we don’t have a wi-fi password) was brought over to the playdate. If the ipod could connect to the Internet – what would they be watching? I still think of my 10 year old son as my sweet innocent baby, but kids profiled in this documentary say they started watching porn in Grades 4-7. ** Yes, mouth is on the floor **
And the flip side to the pornography issue with boys watching it? Girls feel pressure to become the characters portrayed online – from how to act, look, and perform. Phones and social media only intensify these online relationships with children producing images, texts via sexting, and videos with horrible, horrible consequences. We’ve all heard about children that have been tormented and bullied online from mistakes they have made sending pictures or actions over a phone or Facebook.
On the West Coast, iGirl workshops are one proactive answer to addressing the feeling of not being enough for the pressures of society. Saleema Noon talks about the huge problem of young children receiving adult toys (Smart phones, etc.) and not fully understanding what is private and public. Teens are sending approx. 135 texts per day and social media is re-packaging their image on a daily basis. The documentary also states that girls that text the most, often are most sexually active.
Another BC expert in the fight against online bullying is Jessie Miller who talks to kids about the downside of the sexy side of social media. He tries to educate that just because kids can easily access technology doesn’t mean what they are using it for is right. His no nonsense approach with kids using social media is smart – they need to be educated if they are going to be using these grown up mediums. My favourite part of his speech to teenagers is when he tells them if anyone has a picture of a person under the age of 18 wearing less than a bathing suit on their laptop, iphone, or ipod they are in possession of child pornography. . . which is a crime. Why are we scared to educate our children about this? If we are going to give them adult tools to communicate, they need to be educated on how not to use these tools.
This is the list I provided the Premier when she reached out to local bloggers concerned about online bullying in BC. I told her our Province is already filled with experts – why not gather a team to go into schools and educate on this huge problem with a taskforce? I didn’t hear back about my suggestions. I’ve listed them again to help parents:
iGirl Empowerment Workshops created by respected sex educator Saleema Noon: http://www.saleemanoon.com/igirl/
Mediated Reality created by Jessie Miller: http://www.mediatedreality.com/ I would love Jessie to speak at my children’s school – the no nonsense approach to social media is fantastic.
Author Peggy Orenstein wrote ‘Cinderella Ate My Daughter’ award winning writer about issues affecting girls and women: http://peggyorenstein.com/
And other great resources quoted in Sext Up Kids documentary can be found here. I make lots of mistakes with parenting but I prefer to do it with my eyes wide open. Watching this documentary is important for parents to watch – even parents with young children. There are lots of examples of how to curb accelerated behavior and modelling at a young age. I talked about this documentary when it first aired and I keep referring to it. The world has changed and here is a lesson in how we can adapt.