Having the Sex Talk: Is Your Tween Too Sexy Too Soon?
How to have the sex talk with your tween, plus how to handle 5 dilemmas on kids' sexuality
Eight-year-olds wearing makeup? Nine-year-olds singing about “hoes”? Ten-year-olds wanting six-pack abs or big breasts? Experts tell you how to counteract the sexual messages that surround our kids, and help them stay young a little longer.
Kathy Smith's 10-year-old son, Mason, and his friends often ogle the buxom women and muscular male characters in video games. The boys make comments about the women's breasts, but they also talk about the men, she says. “They'll zoom in on one of the guys and say, ‘Look how big his private parts are,’” says Smith. Now Mason often asks his mom, “When am I going to have a six-pack?” “I told him ten-year-olds don't have six-packs,” says Smith. “He says he can't wait until he's twelve so he can work out on the adult floor of the gym. I try to stress that being healthy is the most important thing.”
Situations like this are all too common these days, and they're affecting kids at younger and younger ages. When you think about the explicitly sexy images and themes children are exposed to in video games, television shows, and music videos, it's hardly surprising that many start to imitate some of the behavior they see daily. Idols like Miley Cyrus seem to morph overnight from wholesome Disney TV star to strutting video vamp in leather. Lindsay Lohan's youngest fans know her as both the freckle-faced girl from The Parent Trap…and an out-of-control young woman in trouble with the law.
What's alarming is that new research shows that sexual images and messages can take a serious toll on your child's well-being. According to Diane Levin, Ph.D., coauthor of So Sexy So Soon and professor of education at Wheelock College, in Boston, the message kids are taking away from these images is that buying the “right” things and looking the “right” way—and, specifically, appealing to the opposite sex—are what determine their value as people. That message is a minefield for children.