The Dua(e)l of a Teacher Parent after watching Sext Up Kids

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.

 

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9 thoughts on “The Dua(e)l of a Teacher Parent after watching Sext Up Kids

  1. Pingback: The Sexortation of Teenage Frailty: Evil Predators or Everyday Characters? | learn. share. create.

  2. mckillopryan14

    I just watched Sext Up Kids last night and wrote my response this morning, but while I was writing it I was struggling with finding answers to all of my questions. I was able to pick out what I found problematic, but how do we, as educators, advocate for change. I was really interested reading your response from both a parent and teacher perspective. You posed this question at in your response that I think pin points my main concern.

    “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?”

    I think I share the same fears. Do these uncomfortable, but equally important conversations about hyper sexuality and the role media plays take place in the classroom. I think it is worse to turn a “blind eye” to the topic, but I also think there could be backlash from parents, admin, and possibly even other teachers. I would say that a conversation needs to take place with administrators and parents before bringing these topics in the classroom. I would hope that most parents, like yourself, would want their children learning to think critically about their identity both on and offline. Thanks for the post. I thoroughly enjoyed your insight and it helped me dissect this documentary.

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  3. raquelbellefleur

    Thanks for sharing, Andrew! It’s helpful to hear a parent perspective on this issue. I like how you point out that it’s our responsibility as teachers to educate ourselves on these issues so we can educate our students, rather than leaving them to learn through the media.

    You stated your concern about some parents not being aware of issues related to sexual activity and sexting, but I think that as we educate our students about these issues as they relate to digital citizenship, we can also educate their parents. For example, if you have a class Twitter account, you’ll have to send a note home to the parents explaining why you have it and what you’ll use it for. If we make digital citizenship a part of the normal conversation in our classrooms, I think parents will start to understand what types of things they need to be aware of. We can also provide parents with resources, such as links to documentaries like Sext Up Kids and stats from Media Smarts. In that way, we can make sure they are on the same page as we are and will make them more likely to have those conversations at home with their kids.

    I definitely agree that we have to be careful in the ways we approach these topics, but I think we can easily connect them to the curriculum. As long as we have open communication between our administrators and our students’ parents about what we are teaching and why I don’t think it will be too difficult to get parents on board with talking about these issues. After all, they will care the most about their kids being safe online.

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  4. Andrew Gerrand Post author

    Thanks for the reply’s Raquel and Ryan. I hope that parents are going to be on board with allowing teachers to play a role that honestly they may struggle with. The reason why I wanted to include the John Oliver video (outside of the fact that it is hilarious) was in part because he drops that line in the beginning about how the last people that kids want to talk about sex with is their parents. I just swallowed hard after typing that hoping that my relationship with my kids will be strong enough that they can talk to me about anything, but…I remember what I was like in high school and my parents were not the people that I wanted to discuss this with. I was also fortunate enough to have been in school when porn required ID at 7-11 and not so easily accessible.
    My biggest fear, and I have had this happen at work, is that 1 parent who is upset with how I address teaching a more controversial point is allowed to impact what content actually gets taught. I had a parent who was an addict not want their child to be in a presentation where an former addict came to talk to our group. The reasons made no sense, however because of her concerns the guest was not able to come and in my opinion, robbed the youth of taking in an authentic experience.
    I agree that trying to be inclusive to parents is extremely important surrounding these issues, but not unlike the post I wrote about the changing of Halloween and Valentines Day, it does not take a lot of backlash from upset parents to change what can and cannot go on in a school (I am guessing that the majority of parents in public schools would prefer Halloween to Orange and Black day, no statistical analysis on this one though). That is where I get worried, I think that this needs to be taught and what is being taught in schools surrounding digital identity is bare bones compared to what it needs to be. If teachers start throwing around terms like anal is the new oral in class, some parents are going to lose it and as a much as I want to stand up for what I think is important for students to learn, I still have to be conscious of keeping my job (if and when I get one).

    Thanks for the replies R squared, your making my last hour at work have purpose…

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  5. Larissa Mack

    Great post Andrew! I am watching the same documentary right now. It is disheartening to accept that this hyper-sexualized behaviour is on the rise. It makes me feel uneasy about raising children in this environment. It is such a challenging topic for us as teachers. Like you said, I am pretty sure there would be some angry backlash if we talked about a lot of the issues linked to hyper-sexualized beahviour in our classes. I think a great deal of these discussions need to begin in the home! Parents absolutely need to be made aware of just how serious this issue is! Great post, I really enjoyed reading your thoughts 🙂

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  6. leannevarley

    I love you perspective. As I watched that video, I tried to put myself in my own parents shoes and what they thought about the world that I grew up in. However, I struggled in even imagining this because of the family environment I grew up in – which I think you mention in your post. How are we, as teachers, supposed to address this ‘elephant in the room’ when other parents, who are possibly more conservative and uneducated about the dangers of technology and sexuality, supposed to politically and critically address this issue, when other parents are fighting back?
    I remember a while back seeing articles like this https://www.baytoday.ca/local-news/sex-education-protest-coming-to-north-bay-17590 appear on my newsfeed. Essentially, it is what you are talking about – parents in a community fighting back against the school board, demanding that sex ed be taught at home, rather than school. I find this troublesome, because of how many new advancements there are in sexualization of society, that just won’t be taught if left to the home setting.
    I am curious, as a parent and as a teacher, what do you think is the right age to start teaching sex ed and the sexualization of society?

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    1. Andrew Gerrand Post author

      Honestly, you do it all the time without thinking about it. Kids are curious, they want to know why dads parts are different from moms as soon as they can start talking. But the problem lies with the misinformation and/or different information parents give their kids. My daughters were having an issue with a 5 year old boy flashing them on occasion at their babysitters. Now some parents freak at this kinda stuff. For me I have already dealt with my son being 4 and 5 and I know that they are constantly grabbing themselves, peeing outside and sometimes gearing down in awkward situations. If you make a big deal out of it, the kid is going to keep doing it, so I asked the babysitter how they dealt with it and they said they gave the kid a time out. Guess what the same boy did a week later when he was looking for some attention. On our end as parents, I asked my daughters some open ended questions to see their response and made sure the boy was not doing this in a sexual way (which he was not) and than explained the differences about being goofy but making sure they understood if something more inappropriate was going on. Keeping in mind that you do not want to freak your kid out.

      So when should it start in school, it really starts in kindergarten without any curriculum surrounding it. Watch the grade one boys hands in an assembly, at least one will be grabbing themselves… Teaching healthy boundaries and appropriate and inappropriate touching is a classroom management staple in primary years (I am assuming) so in that sense its already being taught without inserting the words SEX in the lessons. I think with what we have seen in the documentary that by grade 5 we need to start having some basic lessons in schools surrounding sexual identity, hygiene and anatomy because at this point if parents are not doing it at home curious and confused kids can start making mistakes.

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  7. whitneyczerwonka9

    https://wczerwonka9.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/sext-up-kids/ I remember watching this video last year and thinking the same thing. The world we live in is hyper sexual and young minds are seeing this as normal. I also did a group project on the hyper feminism in music videos, where we asked students what they see in certain videos, turned out pretty neat. If you want to take a look it’s on my blog at https://wczerwonka9.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/hyper-feminism-in-music-videos/

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  8. Pingback: Gillian Maher and Raquel Bellefleur | Truth is eternal - knowledge is changeable

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