Many parents cherish the thought of their children as cute little moppets learning their ABCs, but perish the thought of their offspring growing into awkward teenagers requiring that talk about the birds and the bees. How do parents take on the task of telling their children about sex in a culture that has already taught them all the wrong lessons about it?
In an article for the Abstinence Network, Baylor University professor John F. Tanner Jr. came up with six simple rules to raise children to get through their teenage years without the burdens or perils of premarital sex. Start the conversation early. Set rules about dating. Don't let your own past hold you back. Talk about the future, and how dramatically sex can change that. Realize that abstinence is a lifestyle, not a single make-or-break decision. And finally, and perhaps unavoidably, use the media to start conversations. Tanner says children consider parents "a much stronger influence than they do the media, but they have to know what you think to be influenced."
It's the last part -- using the media to start conversations -- that troubles. The logic is reasonable in one sense. Children are being bombarded by sexual material every day, and it's folly to presume that my child is immune from the onslaught. It's best to address it, and not deny it, but address it how?
Today's children are likely to find sex talk within moments of turning on the tube, on nearly every sitcom and drama, even on the so-called "family shows." Oral sex, masturbation, vibrators, threesomes, gay relationships -- youngsters can hear all about these subjects from watching a few weeks of network TV.
A lot of the sex on the tube takes place between consenting adult characters, and that's bad enough. But an even more pressing issue is how Hollywood's TV titans present the struggles of teenagers. Perhaps the wildest new example of caricatured teens is an ABC show pretentiously titled "life as we know it," with no capitalization.
The show centers around three teenage boys: Dino, Ben and Jonathan. To give us a clue about how low this show sinks, the series begins with Dino and Ben harassing Jonathan into a scenario where "you have to sleep with one of these two people" -- Mom or Dad. To say the series goes downhill from there is almost inconceivable -- but it does.
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