Last week, I had the opportunity to watch the CBC documentary Sext Up Kids as part of my ECMP 355 class. I had heard a lot of hype around the video, and prior to watching I expected to be surprised and disgusted by its contents. However, after watching the documentary, I can honestly say that it did not shock me in any way. We live in a hyper-sexualized society where kids have more access to media and information than ever before as a result of increased technology. As usual, my thoughts and opinions on the matter are a jumble. So instead of a well written, fluent post, here are my random musings:
- Parents are not solely to blame for the hyper-sexualization of children. I have seen a lot of comments and posts on the internet about how parents need to learn to control their children, and how the hyper-sexualization of children is a result of poor parenting. I am not a parent, so obviously I do not have experience with this. I have very trusting parents. My parents encouraged open and honest conversations about sex, dating, social media, etc. They encouraged me to consider my actions, and post, write, and say things that I could be proud of. They never told me to act or dress a certain way, and never censored my views of the media or blocked websites on my computer. Do I think that their parenting styles shaped me into the individual I am today? Definitely. Did I still make mistakes in real life and on social media that I continue to regret today, even though they were awesome parents? Absolutely! The societal pressures facing kids today can lead them to do things that they regret, on and off the internet. When parents have honest conversations with their children about the societal pressures they face, I believe that the risk of regret will lessen, but there will still be risk.
- Children are not solely to blame for the hyper-sexualization of children. I’m sure you’ve all seen them. The countless memes that mock “kids these days” based on everything from their technology use to their clothing and makeup. People are so quick to judge children, and yet they don’t even consider the world that they are growing up in. Technology is more accessible than ever before, with children being exposed at a young age. A plethora of social media platforms now exist, most of which have pretty flexible and easy to get around age guidelines. Media bombards children with messages about the importance of maintaining an idealistic appearance. Yet somehow, people are still shocked that the hyper-sexualization of children is a thing. So what do we expect? Do we expect children to ignore the pressures of society, swear off media and technology of all kinds, and view themselves as confident, self assured people who do not need the “perfect” body, clothes, makeup, and life to feel great about themselves? Do we expect children to do all of this and more, without first educating them on, and talking to them about, the constant societal pressures that they will face?
- The slut-shaming needs to stop. Slut shaming is defined by Geek Feminism Wiki as “the act of criticising a woman for her real or presumed sexual activity, or for behaving in ways that someone thinks are associated with her real or presumed sexual activity.” My classmate Raquel writes a much more eloquent blog post about the topic than I could ever hope to. Slut-shaming is not a new thing, but it seems that since the rise of social media and texting it has become a lot more prevalent. I think most women can remember at least one time that they have been slut shamed. I have been a number of times, but will share my most “blog appropriate” anecdote. After dating my grade nine boyfriend for around two months (dating in this context meant texting each other sappy messages, teasing each other at school, and watching movies occasionally) I broke up with him because, well, I was 14 and having a boyfriend didn’t seem that great anymore. After breaking up with him, I received a slew of texts from strangers calling me names such as “dumb, ugly whore” and “ungrateful slut.” After receiving these texts, I just remember feeling like I had been punched in the stomach. I curled into a ball and sobbed. I couldn’t help but feel (unnecessarily) guilty, and just remember thinking “if people are thinking things like this about me just for breaking up with a guy I’ve been dating for two months, what happens when I actually start going on dates? and having sex?” I had actually completely forgotten (or more likely blocked out) this memory until watching Sext Up Kids. In the documentary, girls share their own experiences with slut shaming as a result of sending sexts or nude pictures to boys. Yes, I get that most people will just think that the girls shouldn’t have been sending such sexually explicit pictures and texts if they didn’t want others to see them, but shouldn’t we be more concerned that both boys and girls alike felt it perfectly appropriate to slut shame these girls for their actions?
Basically, this post is just one long ramble of things that crossed my mind during the documentary. As for what needs to happen to change these “sext up” kids? Children need to be taught the importance of being safe on the internet, but also the importance of taking pride in what they post. This is a concept that I explored in a past post on digital identity. They need to feel that they can turn to the adults in their lives, namely parents, guardians, and teachers, and have open conversations with them about the pressures that they are facing. When it comes to having conversations on sexualization, I think my classmate Zachary explains it best in this blog post: “Instead of attacking sexualization as morally unacceptable, we need to remove stigma, and open ourselves to meaningful conversations about sex and sexuality with youth. We need to address their deep desires, the ones with which youth have always struggled. We need to change our language, away from shock and revulsion, and towards acceptance and support.”