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Parents must deal with pop culture's sexual saturation

By Amy Johnson, Sex in the Suburbs

Sexual images in the media are a concern of many parents.

Even with “V-Chips” in TVs as well as blocking and monitoring software on computers, parents often feel they are losing the battle to keep their children from seeing images of an adult nature. Here are some tips to deal with this issue.

Use your V-Chip, blocking and monitoring software, especially if you have young children in your home or if your children and teens are home unsupervised for any length of time. Most TVs now come with the ability to block channels with objectionable content. In addition to security settings on computers, there are numerous software programs that limit what can be viewed to help you reduce the viewable content you find objectionable.

Avoid having TVs and computers in bedrooms or out-of-the-way areas of your home. Have them in high-traffic areas so you can observe what your children and teens are viewing.

Watch and surf the Internet with your child or teen, and have a conversation about what they are viewing. Ask a question or make a comment, like: “Hmm, that’s an interesting take on gender roles. What do you think?” or “I wonder how many of the kids in your school look like the kids portrayed in that school.”

Answering a question, especially if it is not a simple “yes” or “no” question, engages a different part of the brain than the part used when the person is just watching. Doing this can also help open conversations with your children about what’s going on in their world.

Play a game with the content. Watch a show or look through a magazine and count how many sexual references there are. Use this as a jumping off point to discuss how advertisers use sex to sell. Help your child realize this so they can think about it and not be taken in. Many youth will respond to the idea of being smarter than the adults who are trying to trick them into buying something.

Help your child realize that images in media, whether on TV, computers or in magazines, are largely manufactured. Show them the clip from www.campaignforrealbeauty.com about the woman who is made over physically, via computer, to become billboard worthy. Tell them about a documentary you heard about (that I’ve actually seen) where the magazine touched up a photo of Cindy Crawford to make her thighs thinner and reduce wrinkles.

Young people need to know that if they are striving to look like a celebrity or to live up to an image. It’s just that — an image. Not reality. Their self-esteem and self-images depend on knowing this.

Most of all, keep the conversations going. Limit media exposure, ask questions, listen and encourage your kids to think. You all may learn more along the way.

Amy Johnson, MSW, is a professional life and parent coach in Federal Way. She facilitates faith and sexuality classes for youth, and parenting classes at the Federal Way Community Center. Contact: comments@diligentjoy.com.

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