I started, stopped, started again and then had to take another break before finishing the documentary” Sext up Kids“. My aversion to watching it all at once has to do with parenting two young girls and how terrified I am that they are going to be exposed to a hyper sexualized world that a lot of parents are not prepared for. But that is not the only reason why I had to stop and start. I see some of the subtle behaviours that were discussed in the documentary with the kids I work with. I see my sons obsession with his phone and curiously wonder how much time he is spending on explicit sites. The documentary also got me thinking about my experiences during internship and wondering how much of the hyper sexualized behaviour was going on underneath the watchful eyes of teachers.
Rather than dissecting the documentary I think that I want to come at this from an angle of a teacher who is a parent. I see that this is a problem and when you see a problem you want to find solutions. The problem is that the solutions start with allowing people to have real conversations to kids about this hyper sexualized digital world that has filtered into the physical world. I believe that one of the teachers comments was, “how do you get them (students) to think critically”, about what the media is throwing at them. He also refers to the influx of pornography as the “elephant in the room” in schools. So if we know that this is happening and we know that it is a problem, who is going to take on the responsibility of talking to kids about it?
This is where I see the issue. If I am going to teach grade 8 sexual education to students, I feel pretty confident and comfortable about delivering this curriculum. However, to address this information from the documentary to students, I know as a parent that there will be some uneasiness about discussing these realities, if the information is coming from a teacher. Personally I feel that if a teacher presents the material in a way that allows students to critically analyze this information and ensure that appropriate discussions are being had, then I want my daughters to be engaged in these classrooms. But not all parents will agree with me and not all teachers will be comfortable or effective in delivering this content. I think that because of this it will continue to be the “elephant in the room”.
From the teachers perspective, as important as it is to have these discussions, is it worth it to go out on a limb and deal with the backlash from administrations and parents if you want to have real discussions about the content in the documentary? Because some parents will not want teachers to go there with their kids, even though the documentary said that 20% of teenage females had performed anal sex within a 2 month period, why take the risk. The statistics suggests that there needs to be a dialogue, but I do not think any teacher would risk their job to address it. In the US you might not even be able to have any type of conversation about it.
There needs to be ways around this, and sending a girl home because the principal thinks her skirt is too short is not it. I can have these discussions with my daughters at home. I can make them aware of what is out there both in the digital and physical world. But not all parents know because not all parents will watch these documentaries. This lack of knowledge prevents a dialogue at home and it needs to happen somewhere. If that somewhere is not school than where else will young boys learn that porn is not real or that girls do not need to feel invisible if they do not feel comfortable dry humping an enormous wrecking ball while wearing a thong in the rain. Teaching about body image, self esteem and sexEd is one component to this but I feel that this is where the conversation stops in most schools. Parents, teachers and administrators need to get comfortable and literate about this phenomenon fast or we will be left in the digital dust. Leaving our kids to learn about these issues from pornstars, disney, miley and the beebs… Now that is scary.