Break the cycle of the media’s influence on our teen boys and girls. Raise strong and responsible boys with a healthy view of girls.
There’s no two ways about it: teenagers these days are faced with more sexuality than ever before. It’s everywhere you look. Even something as fun as Halloween costumes are being sexualized for girls as young as 12.
In every aspect of media, over-sexuality tells our girls who they should be, what they should look like, and immediately puts limits on how they should view themselves.
When average women are absent from ads and media, it sends the very subtle message that no matter what you do with your life, you’re nothing if not beautiful. This is a terrible message that does nothing but harm for our girls.
Both our boys and our girls are inundated from all sides with this message that women specifically must be at a minimum level of beauty to be valued whatsoever.
But wait, both our boys and girls?
How Does This View of Women Affect Our Sons?
Our boys exist in an entirely different world than our girls. The media they see presents them with women to be desired, to the point that when they watch a movie or see a TV show, that is their norm. They believe it’s an ideal to expect, completely ignorant of the fact that these women have teams of make-up artists, special lighting at all times, and CG to help them look that way.
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So we have boys seeking out the closest examples of TV beauty, which makes girls feel that to be noticed they have to become these impossibly perfect women. This, in turn, just reinforces the boys’ notion that this is normal. If it wasn’t, why would girls be trying so hard? You don’t see guys going through all that trouble.
It becomes a system that feeds into itself, becoming stronger with time.
Breaking the Cycle
There’s no question that this needs to end. It hurts both sides of the issue.
Our kids take what they see, reinforced by what their peers are saying and doing, and they then do their best to come up with answers. Unfortunately, they don’t have all of the knowledge and experience needed to navigate this world of adults.
As parents, we need to show them the truth.
1. Teach our sons and daughters the truth about media.
Everything presented to them is a work of fiction, from ads to movies to music videos. We have to sit down with our children and explain how what they’re seeing is unrealistic. For more information, there are resources parents can access to help teach this.
2. Get outside.
Instead of letting them focus on electronics and hyper-focusing on their looks, get your kids outside and taking part in physical activities with school. Not only is the exercise good for them, but it teaches them to appreciate their body instead of how they look, which does far more for self-esteem.
3. Find their voice.
With all of this critical thinking and confidence, they’re going to need to vocalize their opinions. This is great! With peer pressure and other sources trying to tell them what to think, it’s important they can feel confident in voicing their disagreements and opinions.
Helping our children understand the difference between fiction and reality, not just in movies and books, but in appearance and sexualization, gives them the confidence to strike out and discover who they really are.
Our daughters learn to respect themselves and their minds, and our sons learn to respect women as people, and not just objects to be chased down and obtained. This all comes together to build stronger relationships and happier lives for our kids.
Tyler Jacobson is a husband, father, freelance writer with experience with organizations that help troubled teens and parents. His areas of focus include: parenting, social media, addiction, mental illness, and issues facing teenagers today. Follow Tyler on: Twitter | LinkedIn