So Sexy So Soon: The new sexualized childhood and what parents can do to protect their kids
(August 2008) by Diane E. Levin and Jean Kilbourne. Ballantine Books. www.dianelevin.com
CEASE member and Wheelock professor of education, Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne, an authority on advertising, have written an invaluable and practical guide for parents who are overwhelmed by the impact of the media on children and teens. The authors explain that today’s children spend more time involved with electronic media than doing anything else but sleeping. Disturbingly, sexual content is infused throughout much of the advertising and media they see (including TV programs, videos and computer games and the Internet). The authors write that the focus of advertising serves the interests of manufacturers and marketers, but is very harmful to children. The authors explain that products marketed to girls encourage them to focus on their bodies (being skinny) and appearances (being “sexy” or “hot”), and that provocative clothing is commonly marketed to very young girls. Boys are taught to be tough, strong and ready to fight, while girls are urged to focus on makeup and accessories.
The authors emphasize that children today are learning very narrow definitions of gender and sexuality that focuses primarily on appearances. We are reminded that young children should have positive, age-appropriate experiences that lay the foundation for healthy sexual relationships in the future rather than learn to treat themselves and others as objects. Diane and Jean offer parents essential, practical and age-appropriate strategies to counter this media assault. The authors state “We must work at all levels to create a society that supports parents’ efforts to raise healthy children, instead of one that makes their job harder at every turn.” I especially appreciate how the authors provided knowledge, skills and most importantly, confidence for parents to enable them to discuss this sensitive topic openly and effectively and to take action to create a safe and healthy environment for their children.