By Jennifer Bioche
I guess I missed the memo about being surprised at performer Miley Cyrus’s sexual tirade at last month’s MTV Video Awards. Even conservative websites I usually chime in with got it wrong when they erupted all over social media with “Sign petitions to demand standards from MTV!” Standards from MTV?
This is the network that brought us “Sixteen and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom.” This is a network that appears to be working hard at drawing attention to, and indirectly glamorizing, the sexual indiscretions of underage Americans.
This is only one arm of the sexing of America’s children; the church of “they’re going to do it anyway” has been working diligently at making sure parents accept that sex for children is inevitable. I was in some way glad that Ms. Cyrus raised awareness.
It started by removing the word “sex” from most of the necessary conversations parents need to be having with their children. Planned Parenthood is leading this effort. I got a sobering understanding of this when my teenage son came home last year and casually mentioned the abortion provider paid a visit to his health class.
I knew what was coming next. He described condoms on the bananas, the casual mention that “yes sure, abstinence is a good thing, but your other options are … .” Before this “lesson” there was no parental heads-up or notice sent home for opting out. It was brushed off as “health” class and Planned Parenthood has made “health” and “sex” misleadingly synonymous.
Likewise on their radio spots on Cedar Rapids’ radio stations, you’ll hear Planned Parenthood’s young and perky, hired voice-over actress inviting your teen to free “health” sessions.
Let’s unpack that message. By “health” session, do they mean the four food groups? Exercise and a good night’s sleep? That’s usually a recipe for a health discussion. By substituting the word “health” for sex, Planned Parenthood is implying that two 14-year-olds having intercourse is part of a balanced diet. A terribly misleading message.
Additionally, we have lowered our tolerance for sexual content in our children’s media. This summer, I had to intercept songs like “Up all night to get lucky” and “Your sex takes me to paradise” that played ad nauseam every time we turned on the radio.
The high school-themed TV show “Glee” was lauded a few seasons back for an episode that featured “two pairs of teens “finding love.” meaning engaging in sex. Here the word “love” like “health” is synonymous with sex, and again the message is incredibly misleading.
Social media, not to be left out, contributes to the oversexing of our children by driving the wedge between parent and child. This leads to some young people having online “relationships” their parents aren’t aware of. These relationships can become sexual over time, and because of the sanitized setting of the computer or mobile web device, the risks appear less.
And parents, overwhelmed by the cyber world, and the variables that affect their ability to control who contacts their children, are trying to catch up.
But the good news is, some brave parents aren’t taking this sitting down. A friend of mine revealed how she just made a new policy of no opposite-sex contacts of any kind online — not on Facebook, not on email, after her middle school friend started “dating” a fellow middle schooler via instant messaging, thereby skirting the household rule of “no dating until high school.”
Another friend of mine just said no to Snapchat, a fast-growing application targeting teenage girls, for similar reasons. And in the Bioche home, we’ve had a long-standing rule of no electronics left in a child or teen’s bedroom over night.
So don’t blame Miley. We did not get here by accident. We did not get here overnight. But parents can start to pull in the reigns, and create boundaries to protect their children from these influences. Draw clear lines in the sand.
And yeah, those award shows? Skip them.
Jennifer Bioche of Marion has four children and has written for a variety of print and online publications. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org