Thursday, 26 March 2015

Sexualisation

Wow that's a heavy title. Here goes.

Parenting comes in stages. Some distinct, some merged together so you don't see the join. In the beginning your baby is tiny. You are frightened. Keeping them alive and everyone's sanity is a full-time job. Topics of discussion are sleep (or lack of), feeding, weaning, tantrums, potty training, development, activities. I found all the first bit pretty tough I must admit. I loved them completely and did everything I could but often found it difficult and always exhausting.

What next? School, friendships, reading, writing, sibling rivalry, homework battles, attitude. Difficult in a different way but with hopefully more sleep.

And during it all, it's always there. Are you doing this right? Should you be doing things differently? Are they eating too much sugar, watching too much TV, playing too many computer games, doing the right activities? You could drive yourself mad.

And then there's that thing on the horizon.

Growing up. Sex.

Always difficult to deal with but in our age more difficult than ever. I learnt last night that 40% of teenage boys watch hardcore porn regularly. That children in year five and six (that's next year, bugger) are sexting. I mean what the hell? That can't be right. It's the modern day equivalent of "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" I guess but with the possibility of the photos heading all over the world with a touch of a button.

It's children playing adult computer games with adult words and content. It's pictures of women semi naked and photoshopped everywhere you turn. Pop singers dressed provocatively and wholly inappropriate videos on MTV.

Surely I can protect my children. They aren't old enough for this. They don't have mobile phones or tablets. They access the internet with supervision and filters. But it's not enough.

Our children might see this stuff on other children's smartphones and computers. They will hear the language we want to protect them from in the playground, on computer games and in other people's homes. And as for sexualised images of women, well they are everywhere. TV, newsagent shelves, billboards.

Sure you can do your best to limit their access to it but mine won't be in my protective bubble much longer. Two years until secondary school. A blink of an eye.

In Sheffield there is a parenting workshop run by thechat.org.uk. Just attending feels like I am doing something about the one thing I don't really want to think about.

It's the opportunity not only to share concerns with other parents but to learn some strategies.

From the session last night it is clear that the parents who went really need this - we couldn't stop talking. And we will carry on talking. Hopefully in the future with a few ideas up our sleeves of how to cope.

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