What messages are we sending our children and youth??
This past week for class for my EC&I832 Media Literacy class we had the choice of a few videos to view for this weeks assignment. A few weeks ago on television I watched a documentary along with my husband called Sext Up KIDS. This documentary happened to be one of the choices for this weeks assignment. During the documentary it discusses and “reveals how our hyper-sexualized culture has hijacked childhood and what parents and educators are doing to fight back.” (*Warning: I encourage you to watch it alone without young children as this documentary is geared for a mature audience as it has profanity and highly sexualized images.) My husband Damon and I do not have children yet, but we hope to soon start a family. This video led to a lot of good conversations about social media and rules that we would want to see in our family in terms of cell phones, computers, tablets, etc. My heart dropped as I watched this video and I started to think about my nieces, nephews, younger cousins, and my students. This documentary introduced me to a new acronym that I have never seen or heard before called KAGOY:
Our children and youth are exposed to so much media through television, music, movies, magazines, advertisements, Youtube, Internet, and all the different forms of social media. In this video it discussed sexualization and how outfits for young girls designed for the tween age group look more like outfits designed for older females. Children are only young once and should not have to pressures to grow up faster because childhood seems to go by too fast already. Toys have also become more sexualized as it discussed Barbie dolls, the Bratz dolls, and the Monster High Dolls. The toy market is growing and more children are viewing advisements of the different products while they watching television or YouTube videos, playing games, or searching the Internet. Later on in the documentary it went on to discuss young girls playing princess and how many girls grow up wanting to be one of the Disney Princesses. I can remember playing princess with my friends and how I loved Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I never really thought and reflected on that form of play before. A lady in the documentary commented how for many children that this is their one form of play that children take part in for a long time and how as they got older it went from wanting “to be the prettiest girl to being the sexiest girl.” During the documentary it talked about a workshop in British Columbia called iGirl empowerment. It is great to hear that there are fabulous workshops and programs for students. At our elementary school we have a program called girls circle that grade five and six students get to join. They talk about a lot of important topics and some high school girls also attend as well. The high school girls are positive mentors and role models for our students for the elementary students. Our school is hoping to start a boys circle soon to allow for male students in our school to have a place for positive conversations and to be able to interact with male high school mentors as well.
Does your school or community have any programs or workshops that your students can take part in?
This documentary gave a powerful message how youth are not just consuming images online, but producing images now as well. Taking photographs and videos is so easy now through using all the new technologies that have been invented. When I was young pictures had to be first developed before we could even view them. Now with a touch of a button photos and videos can be shared for the whole world to see if a person wanted to share them. It is scary to hear that some youth are sending sexual pictures of themselves and how those pictures are being shared with others without their consent. In the documentary the girls discussed how that one mistake of sharing their photo has led them to face peers and other people calling them names, being humiliated online and in person and being publicly shamed. Have you lately critically looked at media lately? There are a lot of music videos that showcases women in a very sexualized way by the clothes they are wearing, the style of dancing, or how they are interacting with others in the video. Also sit back and listen to the lyrics in many of the popular songs. A lot of those songs discuss drinking, drugs, sex, name calling, and many songs contain a lot of profanity. A few weeks ago at our school dance I had many students who requested songs that I could not play in school because one or many of the reasons mentioned above. During the documentary it discussed Miley Cyrus growing up and wanting to move away from being her Disney Hannah Montana image. What are the pressures that our children and youth are going through growing up in the 21st century? We need to make sure we teach our children and youth to be more critical than ever when viewing media and what it means to be in a healthy relationship. Children and youth are exposed to more offensive websites, video games, videos, and pressures I believe than ever before. A lot of youth now have mixed messages of what a person should do when trying to pursue a relationship and what a good boyfriend or girlfriend does when they are in a relationship. Parents need to have conversations with children about what a healthy relationship looks like and begin to discuss pressures that they may in counter like sexting. These kinds of conversations are never easy, but it will allow you know what message your child has heard.
Ashley Murray also discussed the Sext Up KIDS documentary in her recent blog post. In her post she shared an article by CBC that discussed and outlined information and issues involving sexting. It is a newer term that may people probably have heard, but I wonder how much they know about the topic. Do people know the laws involving sexting and sharing sexual images? I appreciated that Ashley shared her findings involving sexting laws in Canada. I think it is important for parents to not only be educated about the laws, but youth as well. I wonder how many youth understand that sharing sexual images of people who are young than eighteen is child pornography?
I encourage you to watch another documentary about a young girl named Amanda Todd. The Fifth Estate’s documentary was entitled The Sextortion of Amanda Todd and during the documentary it discusses Amanda’s life. Amanda had a beautiful voice and often posted videos of her singing on YouTube using her webcam. One day she made one mistake in front of her webcam that led to her being bullied at the schools she attended, online, and also being blackmailed online. Now a days so many children and teenagers have access to webcams or other devices that can take photographs or videos just like Amanda and her story could happen to so many teenagers. Throughout the documentary her parents were interviewed and shared Amanda’s story. I will never forget Amanda Todd’s mother words when she said, “we are in a decade of technology that doesn’t go away.” Nothing can be permanently deleted online so more than ever people need to be careful with what they share online using different devices, apps, and what they comment on all the different spaces as well. Genna’s blog post entitled Amanda Todd: Was There Even MORE to the Story? I Believe So… allowed me to look at this story through a different lens. I thought she made some excellent points about how the documentary did “lack of attention to her Attention Deficit Disorder and the magnitude of the impact this carries both offline and online.” I appreciated reading Genna’s post from her perceptive as a special education teacher and all of her thoughtful questions she presented at the end of her post. One of the questions that Genna asked that stood out to me was:
- “What can we do to support our more vulnerable children (those with disabilities and mental health conditions) to ensure they develop positive digital citizenship skills and feel confident about their online presence?“
A lot of people may remember watching Amanda’s video that she posted on YouTube that was published on September 7th, 2012 entitled My story: Struggling, bullying, suicide, self harm. In the video she shares her story by holding index cards that she wrote on with black marker. Card by card she unveiled her thoughts, feelings, and what she enquired in her life. Sadly on October 12th, 2012 Amanda committed suicide. I had to quit reading the comments left because even after Amanda’s death many people felt it was necessary to post negative comments and public shame her. After I watched Amanda’s video I noticed along the side another video called Teens React to Bullying (Amanda Todd). This video filmed teens who are a variety of ages reactions to watching Amanda’s video and then share their thoughts of the video and about online bullying. Listening to Amanda’s story confirms that parents and educators need to start talking and educating our youth. Again they will not be easy conversations, but they need to happen!
I also believe we need to also teach our students and children about self esteem and positive body image! Do you remember Dove’s Campaign that explored how women see themselves and how they see others? It was called Real Beauty Sketches You’re more beautiful than you think.
This video showcases how we are our own worst critique and how we often find so many flaws about our self that other people do not see. This video highlights that we do not see our true beauty. We need to begin to remove all of the labels and start spending time appreciating every part of us. We need to start to love ourselves for who we are because we all are special and unique. Media and technology makes is more difficult for youth, men, and women to have a positive body image when so many of the images in magazines, on billboards, and advertisements have been digitally enhanced. Just take a look at theDove Evolution With some images, all is not what it seems video. It is a short yet powerful video showcasing how images can be transformed and edited so the person appears to look “flawless“. Near the end of the video these words appear on the screen, “No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted.” I could not agree more! I was excited to see that dove also did a campaign looking at the male version of real beauty.