Talk to your teen about sex, 1999

BridgeSquare.69.1: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 16 Sep 1999 12:15:52 CDT
TV! Computers! Radio! Movies! The Internet! Magazines! THE MEDIA!

Sex is everywhere, so….

How do parents manage the visual or verbal impact
of the media’s influence on their children’s
sexuality and behavior?

As part of “Let’s Talk Month”, Project SIGHT is sponsoring an online panel discussion and forum here in the NCO Web Cafe to debate, discuss and think about that question. The forum begins Friday, October 1 and continues through Thursday, Oct. 14.

Panelists:

Camille Cooper: Committee for the Empowerment of Young Women, Hollywood, CA

Tom Klaus: President of Legacy Resource Group, which provides nationwide training, consultation and resources for programming to youth-serving organizations

Nancy Nelson: Executive Director of the MN Organization of Adolescent Pregnancy, Prevention and Parenting

Scott Richardson: Director of Community Relations, Northfield Hospital

BridgeSquare.69.3: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 30 Sep 1999 06:01:43 CDT (12 lines)
Ok, we’re almost ready to roll.

Panelists and Project SIGHT staff/volunteers, please post a brief note introducing yourselves. Include a little bit about why this topic of the media’s influence on children’s sexuality and behavior is of particular interest to you.

Audience members, please hold your comments and questions till all our guests have posted and you get a signal from me inviting your participation.

Thanks!

BridgeSquare.69.4: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 30 Sep 1999 17:45:42 CDT (29 lines)
While we’re waiting for panelists to sign in, I thought I’d post a few friendly tips about forum protocol for all participants here, both panelists and audience:

- avoid lengthy posts, ie, anything longer than a screenful or two. It’s the equivalent of standing up in a living room conversation and giving a lecture. If you do have a long piece, eg, an article, put it in a “hidden” post, explaining in a separate post what it’s all about.

- use lots of white space, ie, paragraph returns, to make your posts easier for others to read. Paragraphs should be no longer than 8-10 lines, preferably shorter…. even if it violates what you were taught in grammar class.

- This forum could become a little debate-oriented, so just in case there is some controversy, here’s some gentle but firm tips:

* avoid personal attacks on others who disagree with you.

* avoid sarcasm

* use people’s first name when referring to someone else who’s participating here, especially when disagreeing with them. Avoid saying, for example, “John seems to be the type of guy who always….” It’s insulting. So try to talk (write) as if others are right here in a room with you. “John, you seem to think…”

I’ll assess reasonably small fines to offenders. ;-)

BridgeSquare.69.5: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 30 Sep 1999 17:49:57 CDT (17 lines)
One additional note:

The Nfld News frequently publishes a summary article whenever we host a panel and forum like this.

As has been the case in the past, they may use comments posted here as quotes for the article. So please understand that whatever you post here might end up in the newspaper.

If you’d like to post something but NOT have it end up in the newspaper or other media, please flag it at the beginning with a

NOT FOR PUBLICATION BEYOND THE WEB CAFE

Generally, however, it’s best to consider your posts here no different than standing up to make a comment or ask a question at a city council or school board meeting.

BridgeSquare.69.6: Susan Wolf (pswolf) Fri, 01 Oct 1999 11:33:48 CDT (17 lines)
I’m Susan Wolf, Co-director of Project SIGHT, a teen pregnancy prevention program in Northfield and Faribault Minnesota. Our staff and volunteers are thrilled with the opportunity to have this discussion on NCO Web Cafe. Thanks to Griff Wiggley for all his help and patient with our lack of Web Knowledge!

I have been teaching sexuality, communication and issues about sexual behavior for about ten years and find the topic of the media and sex to be one of the most fascinating. This topic generates so much discussion and so many different opinions. In fact, the reason the Let’s Talk Month Committee picked this topic over three others was because the other three were each discussed (pros and cons) for about five minutes; however, when the committee reached media and sex it quickly developed in to a half hour conversation. The other fascinating piece is that for all the talk there seems to be little change in how sex, sexual behavior and sexual images are represented within the media at large.

BridgeSquare.69.7: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 01 Oct 1999 12:03:01 CDT (6 lines)
Hi Sue, thanks for being the first to chime in here. It’s only fitting since you’re the big cheese. ;-)

I’m delighted to be working with you and Jean on this forum, as it’s given me an opportunity to learn lots more about your organization… and since I have a 13 yr old daughter, I have a vested interest!

BridgeSquare.69.8: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 01 Oct 1999 12:06:38 CDT (12 lines)
I’d like to alert people to Project SIGHT’s new web site, currently on the NCO server at:

www.nco.northfield.mn.us/projectsight

By the way, anyone can plop a link like that into your posts here. Just put a “dub dub dub” in front of the address or an “aich tee tee pee colon slash” and the software automatically makes it a link, like these phony ones:

www.griffforpresident.com

http://letsnotbestupid.net

BridgeSquare.69.9: Jean Wakely (volunteer) Sat, 02 Oct 1999 04:58:16 CDT (18 lines)
It’s Saturday Morning, and hello to you all. I’m Jean Wakely, current Chair of Let’s Talk Month for Project SIGHT. Our committee has been talking about this project for two years, and now here we are! Thanks to Martin Gunderson who introduced us to Griff Wigley, we are about to get to talkin’.

As a mother of three (sons ages 24, 25 and daughter age 13) I’ve “been there done that” and am starting all over again. Boy do things change in these short years. With my boys the media consisted of the usual tv, video, games and music. With my daughter the computer has added an incredible dimension to my parenting skills (which I have displayed to Griff as extrememly lacking).

May I just say, Welcome, logon, and hopefully we’ll all learn a little something from each other. Our panelists are extremely kind and very knowledgable about this subject. I thank each one for their time and shared concern for this topic. I’m looking forward to meeting you all on the NCO Web Cafe.

BridgeSquare.69.10: Susan Hudson (shudson) Sat, 02 Oct 1999 18:12:57 CDT (6 lines)
Griff, As I remember, you are also the parent of 2 boys, am I correct? Since males constitute 50% of the sexual population, please don’t think that Project Sight is aimed at your daughter only. As parents we must educate our sons to be sexually responsible as well.

BridgeSquare.69.11: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 03 Oct 1999 03:18:32 CDT (11 lines)
Hi Jean, thanks for your intro and for all your work as Chair of Let’s Talk Month.

Yes, Susan, like Jean, I have sons as well as a 13 yr old daughter, and feel like I’m starting all over again. My sons are three, 18, 21 and 23, and I didn’t mention them initially because the older two have moved out and the 18 yr old is about to. My wife and I don’t have as much influence as we used to re: the media’s affect on them.

But I’m sure they’ll come up in the conversation – where we probably failed and where we may have helped!

BridgeSquare.69.12: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 03 Oct 1999 03:20:01 CDT (2 lines)
Moderator’s note: our panelists won’t all get here till sometime tomorrow (Monday) so I appreciate your patience!

BridgeSquare.69.13: Scott Richardson (srichardson) Mon, 04 Oct 1999 08:14:23 CDT
Good afternoon, I am Scott Richardson, one of the panelists on this topic. I am currently the director of community relations at the Northfield Hospital. I was previously coordinator of the Northfield Healthy Community Initiative and the general manager of the Northfield News. I have also raised two teenagers, one boy and one girl, and we have a third in progress, another son who is a senior in high school. Probably because of my background in media work, I am especially interested in the influence the electronic media has on our young people as it both reflects and shapes our popular culture. I am looking forward to being with you over the next couple of weeks.

BridgeSquare.69.14: Nancy Nelson (nanelson) Mon, 04 Oct 1999 10:48:59 CDT
I’m Nancy Nelson,Executive Director of the Minnesota Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Prevention and Parenting (MOAPPP). MOAPPP was formed in 1991 and has grown into the largest statewide group focusing on issues associated with preventing teen pregnancy and supporting teen parents.

MOAPPP is the statewide coordinator of “Let’s Talk Month,” a month where we remind and encourage parents to talk to their kids early and often about sexuality.

Parents are the primary sexuality educators for their children. Research shows that parents have influence over their kids attitudes toward sexuality. In essence, parents can provide the filter through which their children interpet what they see on tv, the Internet, etc.

I’m so pleased that Project SIGHT is sponsoring this forum. I look forward to “chatting” with lots of folks on this important topic in the weeks to come.

BridgeSquare.69.15: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 04 Oct 1999 13:27:06 CDT (11 lines)
Hi Scott and Nancy, thanks for joining in and your willingness to be on this panel.

Scott, I’m glad your including your role as dad in this discussion, as I am. What I often espoused in theory before my kids were teenagers, somehow didn’t always work out quite as I’d imagined. ;-)

Nancy, feel free to point to the MOAPP web site, as I’m sure most folks here aren’t familiar with your organization. I didn’t know, for example, that MOAPP was the statewide coordinator of Let’s Talk Month. Kudos!

BridgeSquare.69.16: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 04 Oct 1999 13:46:50 CDT (17 lines)
I haven’t talked to our other panelists today, Tom Klaus or Camille Cooper today so I’m not sure when they’ll be able to join us… hopefully soon.

But let’s get rolling and they can chime in with their intros when they arrive.

Let’s start with TV, since it’s so easy to beat up on.

MTV and other music video programs are a huge part of American teens’ lives these days. Most parents I know who have cable don’t sit around and discuss the sexual images portrayed in many videos… if they did, their kids would bail from their home in favor of a home where the parents didn’t “intrude.”

Panelists, is there an approach you’d recommend to parents on dealing with this paricular “force” in our culture?

BridgeSquare.69.17: Susan Wolf (pswolf) Tue, 05 Oct 1999 04:10:25 CDT (4 lines)
Just thought I would let you all know that I spoke with Tom Klaus yesterday and he had posted an introduction on Saturday that apparently did not work. I emailed him this morning however he is on the road. I am sure he will join in as soon as his travels allow.

BridgeSquare.69.18: Camille Cooper (camille) Tue, 05 Oct 1999 07:30:16 CDT (48 lines)
* It is not simply the fact that our children are being exposed to sexual images in the media, it is the amount of sex and the attitudes that accompany those images which are of the greatest concern.

* Mixed messages abound in our media culture. At a young age girls are conditioned to believe that their worth lies in how sexy they are and boys worth lies in how much sex they get. We are told that “sex is love,” “sex is power,” “sex is romance,” and “sex is liberation.” As a result we are reaching a critical mass: We have the highest teen preganancy rate of any industrialized nation in the world and girls as young as ten are coming into Planned Parenthood for birth control

* How do we solve this without alienating our children, sheltering them too much or worse, pushing them into a greater rebellion?

* I am a big believer in benevolent dictatorships.

* As parents, sometimes we are so fearful of our children shutting us off that we forget our primary job; showing our children how to make healthy , responsible choices. How can we expect our children to learn to shut out the harmful messages of the media when we have provided the very instrument of their media mis-education? We have given them the TV’s , the VCR’s and the Sega CDroms and in the same breath we say ” Hey! Don’t get any wrong ideas!”

* That said – get rid of your televisions!

* What?! This is not a new concept everyone, and yet we are still reluctant. Why?

* If you had a defensive response to that proposition then it is an indication of how completely addicted we have all become to the media. How will we know what’s going on in the world? How will we be entertained? How will we relax after school? After work?

* The real question is how will we teach our children self worth, moderation, and responsibility when we have become addicted to the media as well?

* In advertising there is a commonly accepted belief and practice called “effective frequency”. Madison Avenue and Hollywood have proven that if you expose a viewer to a product or an idea between 3 and 10 times that it will become embedded in their psyche and motivate them to want to buy in. But, the beauty of a capitalistic society is that we don’t have to buy in…to anything.

* So give it a try and if the idea of going cold turkey terrifies you, then wean yourself off a few channels week by week. My daughter and I have done this and instead of watching TV after school, she has come to learn to entertain herself with her own imagination. She doesn’t even miss it! So let’s put our priorities back where they belong and instead watching TV, let’s read the paper or a book, and let’s spend the family TV time talking and listening to our children instead of letting a corporation do it for us.

* And when the children scream and protest, which undoubtedly they will, remind them that while the “family” embodies the virtues of fairness and justice, it is NOT a Democracy! That’s why parents are parents, and children are not.

BridgeSquare.69.20: Jean Wakely (volunteer) Tue, 05 Oct 1999 09:07:57 CDT (22 lines) Greetings to Camille! It’s great to see you on line with us. I’ve just checked out your lecture video from Carleton College’s 1998 convocation. You had a packed house. I brought by then 12 year old daughter. Having a “hip” looking gal talk about how media images distorts our view of reality really impacted my daughter’s view of what she sees. This is a good video for small groups of guys or girls to check out (middle or high school level) to look at with adults to guide conversation afterward.

When I was in middle school my father bought our first black and white tv. Within a week he noticed cranky kids, lack of homework, and dull minds. He pulled the plug and put the tv in the back of his closet. We didn’t see it again until I was a senior in highschool. We did however, watch Walt Disney at grandmas while still dressed in our Sunday School clothes. It was just that special.

However, the quality of programming has changed. Can you imagine Jack Parr then doing what Jay Leno does now on the Tonight Show? I don’t think so. And Hollywood swears that WE asked for it, that WE demand more violence and more sexual images. Who is WE. I wasn’t asked for a vote. My turning my TV off doesn’t dissuade Hollywood or Madison Ave.’s agenda.

BridgeSquare.69.21: Tom Klaus (twk) Tue, 05 Oct 1999 13:56:39 CDT (60 lines)
Hi, Tom Klaus here. I’ll try again. Actually, I’ve written this thing three times now and, now, we’ll see if the third time IS a charm.

I had a great time in Northfield and Faribault last week. I was really impressed with the kids, parents, and community folks I met during my brief time there. I was especially impressed with the people who are working with Project SIGHT and the work they are trying to do the community. My hat’s off to Sue, Julia, Marcia, Chris, Jean, etc., etc.

My previous attempts to post were written without the benefit of comments from any of the other panelists. Now, however, since I’ve had a chance to read comments from Scott, Nancy and Camille, it helps me “tweak” them some.

By way of introduction, I live in Iowa (it isn’t heaven but its not bad) and I have three teenagers (14, 15, & 18), a cat, a Schnauzer, and a spouse with an incredible amount of patience.

Camille, I appreciate your point about getting rid of the media in our homes and it was a big “touche” with regad to us (as parents) being the ones who’ve provided it for our children. I fully agree that it is important to eliminate the media where we can and otherwise limit it. What my three teens have taught me, however, is that they will nonetheless be exposed whether we have it in our home or not. They will be reached by the media in the homes of their friends, in department stores, malls, even in school (e.g., Channel One). This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to, nonetheless, limit our children’a access to media (and its access to them), but it seems we need to have another strategy as well.

A couple of weeks ago I was working in Salina, KS conducting a series of school programs and parents meetings similar to those I did in Northfield & Faribault. One parent raised the issue of the media’s influence with the parent group with whicch I was meeting. One parent gave a response that has stuck with me since. She commented that when she can’t limit her teen’s exposure to the media, she looks for indications that they are able to discriminate between what is “real” and what is “unreal” in the media. She said that she takes some comfort when her kids indicate their ability to do this.

I think I like what she is saying. If the media were not successful in influencing people, the people behind the scenes wouldn’t be spending the big bucks they are to create the images we see and sounds we here. The media is so successful in creating images that, for all you folks might know, I’m really Harrison Ford or Mel Gibson when I’m appearing in the context of the popular media. That seems far fetched (especially for those of you who do know what I look like), but we often forget that the media magic is so powerful that we probably wouldn’t really recognize either of these two gentleman if we met them on the street because they wouldn’t be made up to look like “Harrison Ford” or “Mel Gibson.”

Like the mom in Salina, the first line of defense would seem to be to limit (or eliminate) the influence of the media. Failing that, I would like to know that my kids can recognize that most (if not eveything) they see/hear in the media is not real. That’s my first “two cents” worth. Thanks for listening/reading. (Let’s hope this posts now!)

BridgeSquare.69.22: Nancy Nelson (nanelson) Wed, 06 Oct 1999 03:02:12 CDT
I agree that ending a child’s exposure to the media is probably the best approach — in an ideal world. However, like you said, Tom, it’s tough. If we take away their TV, their Nintendo, their Internet, etc., our kids, especially our freedom-loving teenagers, will just up and move to someone else’s house to get their “fix.”

Having raised three kids, I’ve come to believe that one of the most effective ways of immunizing our kids against what they see through the media is just to talk to them about it early and often.

Granted, our teenagers probably don’t won’t let us sit and watch videos with them, but most 8-9-10 year olds will. And that’s a real appropriate age to start helping them understand what they’re seeing and work with them to develop their own attitudes and values about sexuality. These are the “teachable moments” for our kids.

By the way, the MOAPPP web site is at www.moappp.org. We’re in the midst of updating our site, but we’ve just uploaded the latest county-level and statewide data available on teen pregnancies and births.

BridgeSquare.69.23: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 06 Oct 1999 04:27:16 CDT (8 lines)
Welcome, Camille and Tom. Delighted to have you both join us…. from wherever in the world you are this week!

I’d like to open up this discussion to audience members now. Over 25 people have joined this topic thus far, and I expect we’ll get quite a few more over the next week. I’ll be sending out another NCO newsletter this week to alert folks, and Jeane has a letter to the editor in Friday’s paper.

BridgeSquare.69.24: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 06 Oct 1999 04:48:10 CDT (16 lines)
I’d like to invite audience members to say a little bit about what their experiences have been with trying to deal with TV’s impact.

We turned off the TV in our house about ten years ago when the oldest of our 4 kids was 13. There was some griping for a month or so but we weathered the storm and never looked back… until a few years ago when we noticed that our kids more and more started hanging out at OTHER kids’ homes where they had unlimited access to cable. SIGH.

We weren’t willing to change, but in retrospect, I find myself wishing that the boys and their friends had hung out here more often, giving us more opportunity to initiate conversations and influence their thinking about what they were being exposed to. It became out- of-sight, out-of-mind for us as parents.

Anyone else have a story?

BridgeSquare.69.25: John Hatch (jhatch) Wed, 06 Oct 1999 18:50:41 CDT (24 lines)
I guess I come at the media and teenage sexuality from a different perspective than most folks posting here so far. I’ve never seen the media, that is TV, movies and now the internet, as the source of the problems. It feels to me like that’s giving credit for too much power to something that is more of a mirror of our fanatasies. Actually more of a fun-house mirror.

So our kids have always watched the same movies we have if they were interested. None of us watch a lot of TV but just because it is mostly unwatchable and we have other stuff to do. When we want to watch something, we tape it and skip the ads. The main thing is that we talk about the stuff we watch. Not in the sense of us teaching them something; more just talking things over.

Maybe I don’t get this because I don’t watch much TV. Could someone run down for me what problems the media are believed to be causing and how? It’s not that I am defending the media. I believe that they are capable of incredible stupidity and egregious bad taste. I can even see them as part of a mix “affecting impressionable young (and old) minds.” What I don’t understand is the power ascribed to them.

This is a pretty disjointed post. I’m home sick with a cold and I’ve been typing stuff in and tearing it out. I think I’m going to post what I have and go to bed. Nite all.

BridgeSquare.69.26: Scott Richardson (srichardson) Thu, 07 Oct 1999 03:07:29 CDT
I think we always walk a thin line between allowing our children to participate in the popular culture and still remain faithful to the core values of our families.

But I go back to Dr. David Walsh’s remark which I believe he borrowed from Ghandi, that those who tell the stories shape the culture. The media is telling stories that most often conflict with the values we would wish for our children. The antidote is to make sure parents embrace and act on their leadership roles within the family and monitor what their kids are watching (I don’t think MTV is necessary for every household), continuously talk with your kids about what they are watching and listening to and help them become critical thinkers.

Ask them is this show or this song reflect the kind of values we promote within our families? We will not make the “media” go away. We need to help our kids become discriminant consumers of entertainment by telling our stories day-in and day-out, stories that reflect the values we desire for our kids. Parents still have a the power to unplug the set. They need to use that. Benevolent dictator, maybe. I prefer the enlightened despot.

BridgeSquare.69.27: Susan Wolf (pswolf) Thu, 07 Oct 1999 04:22:00 CDT (25 lines)
John you posed a question regarding the *power of the media* on teen sexuality and I am so pleased you brought it up. First I*d like to say that the media includes magazines, billboards, music etc* so its power comes from repetitiveness, and the sheer magnitude of the business. In terms of TV and the movies it has the additional power of being both a visual and auditory stimulus. But most importantly I believe the media gets its power when we give it to them and allow it to become a major force in our homes and lives.

I actually don*t want to get rid of the TV (or media) in my house. I relish Friday nights (at the end of a busy week) when we are actually all at home and the family orders a pizza and rents a movie together. Part way into the movie we find all the children curled up on our laps warm and cozy. There is some definite entertain and family value here. However, there is potential for the TV and other media to become too important so I monitor, discuss, and limit. (All of which has been previously mentioned).

One last thought: teen sexuality includes body images, gender role expectations, dating rituals etc and doesn*t start at 13. Their values, ideas and concepts are formed from the time they are born and throughout those 13 years of growing.

I hope you feel better John and your posting was great – not disjointed at all!

BridgeSquare.69.28: John Hatch (jhatch) Thu, 07 Oct 1999 05:55:10 CDT (31 lines)
I tried to expand on what I was thinking last night and then found the above two posts, which were both good. I am going to just post what I have and respond to them in another post.

Well that reads better this morning than it did last night, but I still don’t know if I expressed what I was thinking. The media makes use of sexual imagery to sell anything. The reason that works at all is that sexuality has a huge unacknowledged influence. Even with all the stuff out there in the media, this is something we have difficulty thinking or communicating about.

I don’t think that our culture understands itself in the area of sexuality. If you want to control something that you do not understand, you have to have feedback built into the process so that you can learn as you go. You have to understand that failure and mistakes are part of the process. Distributed processing also helps; so you want kids who think for themselves, with information flowing both ways, rather than needing you to think for them.

We are the dominant species on this planet because we have outbred and outconsumed everything else. Others succeed to the extent that they can fit into the niches that we have opened up. So human sexuality is a pretty potent force. Intelligence may be overrated. We’ll see.

I don’t know if that made anything any clearer. Feel free to tear anything I said apart; anything I think is a work in progress and input is welcome. I really appreciate everyone who is willing to take part in these discussions. And I am, by the way, the John that Griff refered to back in Posting 4 who “always seems to…”

BridgeSquare.69.29: John Hatch (jhatch) Thu, 07 Oct 1999 10:53:11 CDT (13 lines)
Scott, I liked your quote from Ghandi about those who tell the stories shaping the culture. I think that much of what I’ve passed on to my kids, for good or ill, has been through the stories I’ve told. Certainly it’s one way that I learn from others; especially from my daughter and sons. My “kids,” by the way, are grown; the youngest is 18 and there is now a 6 week old grandson to subvert.

One of my sons, Russell, was reading this over this afternoon and offered the opinion that if you wanted to have a positive affect on young people sexuality, consider keeping the TV and home schooling your kids, at least for the middle school years.

I’m late for work; gotta run. More later.

BridgeSquare.69.30: Tracy Hartke (tracy) Fri, 08 Oct 1999 03:25:00 CDT (38 lines)
Hi, everyone! I just read through all the posts and am enjoying the discussion very much. I have three daughters, ages 6, 9, and 11, and I’m just getting into those dreaded middle school years.

First, I want to say “kudos” to Camille for suggesting that throwing out the television is actually feasible. One of the things that really bugged me about the book “Reviving Ophelia”, which I read several years ago, was that though the author did a terrific job of diagnosing the problem, I don’t think she had much to offer in the way of solutions. If I remember correctly her approach to TV in particular was, “Gee, it would sure help immensely if we could just unplug our kids, since that’s where about 80% of the most harmful messages come from, but of course that’s not practical in our society.” We’ve been on and off TV through the past several years (right now we’re off) and I have to say that, even though I’m despondent about not being able to watch my nightly reruns of “The X-Files”, and my kids whined for a month about not being able to see “Pokemon” it’s been well worth it.

It was especially timely since my kids started school for the first time this year (we’ve homeschooled up till now), and navigating the shoals of the different kinds of societal pressure they’re now encountering on a daily basis has taken a lot of time and focus. I’m glad we can concentrate on working through some of those issues without the added complication of TV time-wasting, images, etc. etc. ad nauseam. However, I’ve found that if we choose a movie to watch together, it often provides a springboard for talking about sexual issues or body image or male-female relationships or women’s “roles” (I HATE that word– it sounds like something we put on or play at). So in that sense “the media” can be used constructively even if we don’t particularly like or agree with what we’re seeing.

This is getting too long-winded and I don’t think I’m contributing much that hasn’t been said before. I’ll shut up now. :-)

BridgeSquare.69.31: Susan Wolf (pswolf) Fri, 08 Oct 1999 07:12:08 CDT (36 lines)
Hi again, glad you could join us Tracy. I*m very interested in some of the ideas that John put forth. Having been a sexuality educator (of multiple age groups) for over 10 years I would definitely have to agree that our culture gives very mixed messages about sex to adults and children. I am not sure that is a lack of understanding about the power of sexuality or a desire to control it because of fear of its power. Either way I think that the mixed messages our children receive make it very difficult to develop healthy and positive attitudes about sex.

Because of these mixed messages I think it is essential that we discuss or process * great word John – this information with our children. As Tracy pointed out TV can be a great spring-board for discussion. We have three girls and stayed up to watch 100 years of Women a few months back with our oldest. That led to really good conversation about not just the women*s movement but drugs and depression (Billy Holiday, Janis Joplin, etc) and how our family roles played out.

I also think that you can still monitor and just say there is only so much TV time so pick and choose your TV time wisely and there are just some things you can*t watch because they are contrary to our values. When you grow up you can watch anything you want but you have to wait until then. Teaching our kids to wait for things to come or to be old enough for something is a positive * remember the marshmallow experiment?

Last item for those who want to keep the TV. Some further ideas for this are: – to ditch cable and save $35 a month,

- to use the ratings that are provided by the TV and movies as a guide,

- to start this process early with your children so they aren*t shocked when you suddenly start limiting them,

- and to know you can change your mind if you feel that after watching a show for awhile it not appropriate or just junk

BridgeSquare.69.32: Jean Wakely (volunteer) Sat, 09 Oct 1999 05:04:39 CDT (24 lines)
Hi Tracy, John, et al… who have logged on. Thanks for joining in. I was listening to Paul Harvey. My father — my hometown — listens to Paul Harvey religiously. So listening to him puts me in the same room with my dad in my mind and makes me feel warm and loved. So Paul said the other day, Why do we tell kids that R rated and X rated and violence are only for adults? What are we telling them about Adulthood? And, as an adult parent, those are the very things I don’t want. Remember when your folks or grandparents modeled good behavior and good morals — even when things went badly wrong? How do we explain our dual message – or our hypocritical message to our young viewing audiences? It goes back to my concern (and I heard it again last night on some odd tv show) that the viewing audience “demands” more sex and violence. Who are those audiences anyway?

I am also trying to square things in my mind about the internet and our encouragement of children not to tell the truth – to fictionally lie – and to yet not speak to strangers – over the internet. How can I guide my child through that maze of thinking when I find it completely mind boggling myself. Adults who are having “relationships” outside their marriage on the internet…is it “sex” or is it “typing?” I think Webster Dictionary will have to start coming up with some new submeanings pretty soon. (Sorry, I’m starting to sound silly.) Any thoughts out there on how to grapple with the internet issues? I’m stumped. Thanks for tuning in…Jean

BridgeSquare.69.33: Scott Richardson (srichardson) Mon, 11 Oct 1999 03:27:29 CDT
I’ve really gotten a lot of good ideas for my talk tonight at the Family Ed center on media literacy by reading your comments. Thank you for that. I’m also encouraged by the leadership all of you parents are exhibiting and promoting. For me that is the key.

There are all kinds of threats out there that can sidetrack our kids – television is only one of them. But when you have established a pattern of positive communication with your kids, you’ve tilted the odds decidedly in your favor. No guarantees, but it gives you an edge.

BridgeSquare.69.34: Susan Wolf (pswolf) Mon, 11 Oct 1999 04:39:23 CDT (15 lines)
Has anybody heard of or seen the new movei “American Beauty”? It was the hot topic of our staff meeting this morning because two staff people had seen it and did not fel it was beneficial to our cause.

I have not yet seen it however I was extremely bothered by an interview I watched with the 17 year old who plays the teen daughter. She was asked how she felt about having to strip form the waist up for the movie. Her answered (paraphrased here) was: It didn’t really bother me because it wasn’t gratuitous. It was essential to the show and character. My character has had loww self-esteem all her life and the scene is where she really starts to feel better about herself because she is stripping in front of the window while the boy accross the street video tapes her.

Does this comment bother anybody else?

BridgeSquare.69.35: Spencer Hunter (shunter) Mon, 11 Oct 1999 08:27:31 CDT
re: posting:34 Several friends have recommended that I see _American Beauty_ as being my “kind of movie,” so I would need to determine from watching the film whether the actor’s comment about stripping was true or not. The important point, I think, has already been made here before: all “entertainment” is really education in disguise, and the best we can do for our children is to help them develop ultra-critical thinking skills when regarding anything in the media.

I’ll be following this topic with interest, since my son has just turned nine and the hormones haven’t hit yet. I have no idea how to talk to him about sex! My wife and I try to model appropriate behavior, and we have done almost too good a job turning him off to television–he prefers reading (the Goosebumps and Harry Potter series are big with him) and old radio programs like Jack Benny and Burns & Allen (I’ve already had a talk with him about the prevailing racist and sexist attitudes of that age, and why cigarette advertising was considered non-offensive back then). My big fear is that he may not fit in socially when he gets older.

BridgeSquare.69.36: Jean Wakely (volunteer) Mon, 11 Oct 1999 17:47:44 CDT
Hi Spencer and Sue,

Thanks for the movie review. Based solely on that review I will be most happy to give the thumbs down to my 13 year old should she say she’d like to see the movie. Yes it bothers me that the actess didn’t mind stripping for the camera. I hope Camille logs on soon and addresses this Hollywood issue – asking younger and younger girls to take off their clothes and yet not call it B or porn for the sake of movie art. The saddest thing is that I’ll bet the young star was coached on that question so that she answered it correctly for the favored parent approval rating. However, the err in the logic is that though she didn’t get paid to do it, she did get paid to do it. Therefore, they imply that a Pay Check with SS withholdings is different from cash stuffed down your…whatever. Right?

Also, all the young gals who will go in and see it might want to identify with this (I assume) lovely young actress…if she can do it than so can I. What a nice way to “build self-esteem”. Should call Jean Illsely Clark on that for her “Self-Esteem: A Family Affair” book.

The movie commercials that flash into the house drive me nuts as well. You are watching a perfectly good program (by all parental standards) and bam – they hit you with the juicy 3 second shot of a new movie. I get so frustrated.

Don’t worry Spender, hormones will hit. Your son will miraculously become “normal”, and you’ll wonder whatever happened to that sweetest little boy. Just keep on doing what your doing and enjoy every minute of it. Speaking as a mom of two older boys, with friends who have older boys, they all started out sweet and just loving life. So did our daughters. My husband tells me, however, that since I was never a boy I really don’t know that much about it. I certainly deferr to you Spencer. The worst and the best that can happen is that your sweet one will simply turn out “just like you”. That’s what DNA will do for you when you have children.

Question: The linolium companies have decided that putting naked women laying on freezing cold linolium will appeal to the women of the household who is making the design decisions. True/False?

Night all –

BridgeSquare.69.37: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 12 Oct 1999 02:15:32 CDT (19 lines)
What about magazines?

Rolling Stone and Spin?

Seventeen, etc? (is there a counterpart for boys?)

And what about the dozens of women’s magazines that the womenm of Northfield must buy, judging from the number displayed on the racks at the grocery store checkout stand? Most have very sexy women on the cover, with juicy tag lines. I rarely hear anyone bemoan the effect that these magazines have on women or girls. What should parents be saying to their kids about these magazines? And more importantly, what about the example they set when they buy them?

There’s also a new crop of men’s magazines, like Maxim, that stop just a little short of the nudity in Playboy and therefore they can be displayed on the magazine racks without being shrinkwrapped… but I don’t yet see them at the checkout lanes. What should dads be saying and modeling?

BridgeSquare.69.38: John Hatch (jhatch) Tue, 12 Oct 1999 03:10:21 CDT (22 lines)
Susan, I’d say the interview sounds about par for the course for actors doing promo spots for a movie. By the time they’ve given the interview and it’s been edited into sound bite sized chunks, anything resembling intelligent thought will have been removed or reconstituted. One of my sons saw the movie and liked it, but we tend to like odd-ball quirky stuff. A couple of days ago, I was trying to think of a movie that reflected some of our family values. All I could think of was maybe something by Hal Holbrooke.

I think I would second what Spencer said about entertainment and education fitting together. Personally, I get the most out of watching, thinking about and discussing something that makes me uncomfortable. One way I am willing to do that is if it is “entertainment.” So, rather than try to insulate our kids from everything out there, I see some of these movies, etc. as opportunities. If they or I can look straight at something and see what is there, that’s food for thought. If they can talk to others about what they see and what they think, they get a lot more than just the “message” of the image or the story.

Spencer, I wouldn’t worry too much about your son; he sounds like a neat kid.

BridgeSquare.69.39: Majka Ordman (mordman) Tue, 12 Oct 1999 08:01:36 CDT (35 lines)
hi all, although i don’t get back to northfield as much as i’d like (being in college), it’s always good to catch up on the goings on and discussions in the community. while i sympathize with the arguments stated so far about the negative impact of the media on youth, especially in the area of sexuality, i’d also challenge those who have written to comment on the ways in which the media can be used positively by parents to start discussions with their children and by children to start discussions with their parents.

my mother and i had great discussions about many aspects of sexuality. however, tv shows and movies gave me a chance to see images of other teenagers going through the same situations i was, dealing with the same experiences and coming out the other side. no matter how much conversation there is, adolescents still feel like they’re the only ones who have had to go through this and that their parents don’t really understand.

seeing a tv character struggle with the same questions and embarrassments can be reassuring. watching things like this with friends presents a chance to talk with peers about sexuality and other issues in a non-threatening way, because you’re talking about the character, not yourself. especially in my experience, as a questioning youth growing up in northfield, i was very reliant on media sources to present positive, negative, any images of sexuality to which i could relate. over the last few years, i’ve used movies, comic strips, books, the internet, and magazines both to connect with a community and to help introduce my family and friends to that community.

i think what needs to be emphasized is not how to protect your kids from the media, but how to teach them to be wise consumers of it and how to judge for themselves whether or not it is appropriate for them. “American Beauty” as an example was a movie which i considered to be not only well-made, but thoughtful. in it’s context and for an audience that is mature (meaning in regards to behavior and sexuality, not age), the window scene was not objectionable or inappropriate. in fact, i thought the movie had some interesting things to say about how adults and teenagers use sexuality.

BridgeSquare.69.40: Susan Wolf (pswolf) Tue, 12 Oct 1999 08:56:23 CDT (33 lines)
Hi all, I find myself having to think about all the great thoughts and ideas that have been presented before I could actually post something and I hope I can come up with something half way intelligent!

I agree with the concept that entertainment can be made educational (and of course sometimes we just want it to be entertained)! However I don’t think that means we don’t has parents set limits as well as have discussions. The power of having both a visual and auditory stimulus while be entertained is tremendous. I think many times we as parents don’t recognize that power. If children start seeing sexual information (or violence whatever..)presented at too early an age I think it builds up a tolerance and has a more lasting effect because than its repeated in many media throughout the years. So as children grow the limits and monitoring decrease, the conversation continues and they take more control through the teenage years.

I thank everyone for the input on the movie “American Beauty”. What had bothered me was that a girls self-esteem improves when a boy wants to see her breasts and how true is that in real life? Does that just buy into the concept that how you look defines how you feel about yourself?

That brings us to Griff, magazines and body image. People has an article about how the unrealistic “Hollywood” body images have become even more unrealistic. Focused on females it shows pictures of women with “perfect” figures 2-5 years ago having lost even more weight to fit into the beauty and thin category. It just astounded me when I compared the shots and could see the difference.

If our kids see too much of this – no matter how much we discuss it can it still impact them so they buy into the concept?

BridgeSquare.69.41: Nancy Nelson (nanelson) Tue, 12 Oct 1999 14:33:09 CDT
Hi everyone! I’m glad I logged on when I have. The discussion seems to really be going strong.

I believe the whole issue of the impact media has on our society — and I do mean all of society, not just kids — is one of the most important topics on our social agenda. It truly affects nearly all aspects of our lives. Can we control our exposure to it? Realistically speaking, no. Do I believe we can control the impact it has on us and our families? To some extent, though I question whether we can filter out all of its messages.

I like your last question, Sue, because it brings up that point that makes dealing with media so frustrating. Can we really immunize our children against the affects of mass marketing? Looking at the dollars and time invested in research and development of effective advertising and “entertainment,” how can we, as parents and as a society of caring people, really stand a chance against that billion dollar industry?

For example, did you know that the recent tobacco settlement, which included millions for a youth-oriented tobacco prevention mass media campaign, was designed by the tobacco industry specifically because they know that prevention marketing to children is virtually ineffective. Through market research, they know that the only way to prevent children from smoking is to prevent adults from smoking. So in Minnesota, we’re throwing millions into a project that seems good, but the industry knows different. Insidious.

I think the media is much the same. They know what works. Bottom line, sex sells. Maybe the lesson we can take away from the tobacco settlement is that the most effective thing we can do as parents is not to partake, ourselves — lead by example. Maybe not watching and reading these magazines, television shows, advertisements, moves, etc., is one of the best ways we can develop a strong filter through which our children will view these media, as well.

Obviously, talking with our kids is key — communication means so much. But maybe modelling appropriate behavior is as important.

I don’t know the answers, hopefully this is some food for thought.

BridgeSquare.69.42: John Hatch (jhatch) Tue, 12 Oct 1999 18:10:34 CDT (15 lines)
Majka, good to hear another voice joining the conversation. I liked what you had to say about how you’ve used the media and about the limits of parental input. Too often we, as parents see the limits on our influence as a threat rather than as a necessity or a resource. And since our kids see us every day, we probably can’t very convincingly portray ourselves as “experts.”

And yet, I know that we have a large influence every time I open my mouth and hear my father’s voice coming out of it.

I sometimes think of parenting as being in a controled skid. If you worry too much about the other cars coming at you or the telephone poles on the side of the road, if you are just looking at the threats, you will unconciously steer toward them. You have to keep your eyes on where you want to go and let your steering follow your attention.

BridgeSquare.69.43: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 12 Oct 1999 18:18:37 CDT (28 lines)
Majka, ditto what John said, great to have you join the conversation and give us your perspective as a current college student who grew up in Northfield.

You’re saying that some of the exposure you’ve had to sexually oriented media since you’ve left home has been helpful to you. Good point!

I wish there was a web site that had a directory of movies and books with sexual themes that have the potential to be helpful. One that does this in a broad way is called Teach with Movies http://www.teachwithmovies.org

and here’s a review that I found interesting, because the authors acknowledge how the sexual content could be great teaching material.

**Pleasantville 1998 – Director: Gary Ross — “This is a fabulous film about a brother and sister who are magically transported into the world of the brother’s favorite sitcom. The film explores the meaning of passion, sexual promiscuity, adolescent outsiders … and more.

“However, many parents will object to it because it shows premarital sex with only mild criticism, nudity (in a painting), the sit-com mother discovering her own sexuality by masturbating in the bathtub. There is one fight scene. If you can see your way through these scenes to showing this film to children there is a tremenduous amount to recommend this film for children 13 – 15.”

BridgeSquare.69.44: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 13 Oct 1999 02:15:36 CDT (29 lines)
Does anyone know of a movie that portrays two teenagers gradually falling in love, and which also portrays their level of sexual intimacy progressing in stages, appropriate to the growth and depth of their relationship?

We tried to teach this to our sons, rather than complete abstenance, or just a “don’t have sex but if you do, use condoms” type of message.

We saw it as a values approach to the old “getting to first base, second base, etc” analogy. For example, I could be very appropriate for two 17 yr olds who’ve been dating for many months to be “at second base,” which in my day meant fondling breasts. Unless the couple can talk about the level of sexual intimacy involved at this stage, they shouldn’t progress beyond it. Frank sexual talk indicates a level of maturity.

I asked Tom Klaus about this approach to sex education and he said it was fairly common in some countries in Europe. He seemed to indicate there was merit to it, but that any organization in the USA that was operating with public money couldn’t take this approach, because of the backlash it would generate.

The same is true for talking to kids about the benefits of masturbation, as Dr. Jocelyn Elders found out. Which is one of the reasons I got a kick out of the movie “Something about Mary” because it depicts a very funny scene of a kid masturbating… and like Majka’s point, there were probably a lot of guys who saw that movie and thought to themselves with relief, “jeesh, I’m glad I’m not the only one who does that” because no one’s ever talked to them about it.

BridgeSquare.69.45: Marcia Morris-Beck (marcia) Wed, 13 Oct 1999 02:46:33 CDT
Hi, I’m one of the two Project SIGHT staff members who have seen “American Beauty” and I just saw “Pleasantville” on cable this week- end. I thought both were excellent movies because they were well done and they make you think (and hopefully discuss) the themes. If you just read the review Griff quoted about “Pleasantville” or the interview Susan mentioned about “American Beauty” you miss what the film makers were commenting on. The character of Janie in “AB” has a very low self image. She’s bought in to society’s image of beauty and she’s not receiving positive feedback from her family or friends. She’s even saved up for years for, to quote her, “a boob job.” When this (admittingly creepy) teen-aged neighbor starts paying attention to her, and she realizes he’s attracted to her and not to her gorgeous friend, she is able to see her own beauty. This speaks to some very real teen concerns and it’s worthy of discussion.

I agree with the reviewer about “Pleasantville” as being a good family movie to enjoy and then start a dialogue about sex and self fulfillment. It offers some very creative ways of showing generational differences, and how teens (and adults for that matter) of the 50s were vastly different from those of the 90s showing how we are now much more open to talk about and experiment with sex.

I’ve really enjoyed reading the comments here and I’ve been somewhat hesitant to chime in because I’m not a parent, but because I work with teens in the schools through drama and I’m employed by a teen pregnancy prevention organization, I can’t stress the “Let’s Talk Month” theme enough…”Talk with your kids about sex…everyone else is!” Role modeling is important, so is monitoring the age appropriateness of media images on children, but it is mandatory that adults keep the communication lines open with kids so we can learn from and share with each other.

BridgeSquare.69.46: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 13 Oct 1999 02:53:11 CDT (3 lines)
Welcome, Marcia, I’m delighted to have you join the conversation and contribute your perspective. Sometimes we parents can learn a lot from non-parents!

BridgeSquare.69.47: Jean Wakely (volunteer) Wed, 13 Oct 1999 09:31:27 CDT
Hi all, I’m reading, catching up, and sometimes feel inspired and sometimes feel scared about all the above. I am very pleased to hear what other parents and college-age folk are doing/thinking.

I’m getting ready to take my 13 year old on a week long trip, and I have plans to use this trip to talk about stuff we can’t do within the confines of the home due to homework, telephone, interruptions, door bell, sports and church schedules, and regular household chores that keep us “occupied”.

I often feel very ineffective as a parent making conversation with my child (children) on things I think need comment. My boys (now grown) learned to watch stuff away from home. If I didn’t see what they were watching then we didn’t have to discuss it. And my youngster covers her ears and whines “I don’t want to talk about this — I just want to watch it by myself”. (I for sure had a comment to make about that.)

So, that leaves me in a bit of the lurch. I sometimes feel the need to take conversation classes, or find some sort of “tone” that engages kids to speak. However, something tells me that this issue is not just “me”, but kids (teens here) wanting autonomy and independent thinking skills away from me.

I am not happy about kids solely seeking peer counceling or peer discussion on matters of sexuality because it’s much like the blind man asking the other blind man what an apple looks like.

I remember watching the tv “90210″ episode where the oldest son finally has sex with his high school sweetheart and his parents find out about it. Since my teens then thought this program to be the “ultimate”, since they learned “so much”, that this particular program would show a role model to parents and to teens about first time sex. The model shown was simply the father asking, “Well son, do you have any questions?” “No dad, I don’t”. Then the fade out while father and son have a game of basketball in the drive way each with a happy and satisfied smile on their face. There certainly was no “parenting” message there for me to sink my teeth into. However, I certainly didn’t engage in a satisfying game of basetball with my teens when I learned of their teen sexual activity. Am I all wrong?

Is there is difference between the way Mom’s approach teen sexuality and the way Dad’s approach it — Mom’s with daughters, Mom’s with sons, vs. Dad’s with daughters, or Dad’s with sons? Tom Klaus posed this question as well, if you could only talk to the son or only to the daughter about sexuality, who would you talk to, and why?

BridgeSquare.69.48: David Koenig (dkoenig) Wed, 13 Oct 1999 13:56:04 CDT (15 lines)
Griff, The message that I got from Pleasantville was this:

“Sex outside of marriage will open your eyes and reveal to you all of the colors of the world that you are missing.”

This shouldn’t sound too unfamiliar as it hearkens back to similar temptations in the Garden of Eden told to us in the Bible. Note the “death” introduced into Pleasantville along with the color.

It’s a very subtle message, but one that shouldn’t be left undiscussed. Maybe having such a discussion would be a good reason to watch the movie as I would guess we all could discuss some of the consequences of the decisions that we have each made.

BridgeSquare.69.49: Curt Benson (cbenson) Thu, 14 Oct 1999 01:43:43 CDT (16 lines)
A few weeks ago we hosted my daughter’s birthday party. Bette just turned seven. After the guests left, someone commented that there sure were a lot of blondes at the party. My daughter said, “I wish I had blond hair instead of this ugly brown hair.” Naturally, my wife and I gave her the predictable parental assurances that her brown hair was very nice etc. I don’t think she bought it.

Last night I was reading to Bette from “Little House in the Big Woods” (circa 1932). In this chapter the girls had gotten all dolled up for their first trip to a store. I quote..

“The store keeper said to Pa and Ma, “That’s a pretty little girl you’ve got there,” and he admired Mary’s golden curls. But he did not say anything about Laura, or her curls. They were ugly and brown.”

Thanks a lot, Laura Ingalls Wilder.

BridgeSquare.69.50: Susan Wolf (pswolf) Thu, 14 Oct 1999 07:01:35 CDT (38 lines)
This morning I had the pleasure of once again hearing Pat Richardson speak to parents of third graders. She spoke of gender roles development and included the media a bit — this helped me form more clearly where my concerns with the media lie.

It isn’t the 13-15 years olds watching and discussing “Pleasantville”, or even American Beauty. It’s the 5 years olds who have been watching Soaps for 4 years, the 10 year olds watching Jerry Springer, etc… Some of you may read this and think that those situations are not common however they are much more common than most percieve. Recent studies indicate that the most watched show among 3- 5 years olds is not “Pokemon”, but “Friends”! (Thanks for the statistic, Pat.) This age group (and the 10 years olds watching Jerry) are not developmentally ready (cognitively or morally) to converse or discuss these items. Yet watching these shows definitely will have an affect on them. I also want to say that most parents who allow their kids to watch these shows usually do so believing that the show is above them ot they aren’t really interested in it so it doesn’t affect their child. It isn’t because they aren’t good parents or don’t care.

I do believe that the media is an important tool in teaching as many have stated. Majka, your point about a safe way to discuss issues is great and so true. It keeps blame, judgement, sharing of experiences and other emotions out of the talk so the ideas can really be shared. At the same time there are many good films and shows out there that can be used for discussion and all media has sexuality in it somewhere. So we can still pick and choose especially with our younger children and preteens.

Picking and choosing is a part of the teaching and it also allows us to keep a variety out there. If we are going to teach critical thinking to children then they have to see different things otherwise they don’t get to figure out their own likes and dislikes. It also allows you to let kids watch certain shows on their own just for the sake of being entertained and not with the purpose of teaching something. Many youth keep very busy schedules and just need to relax and watch.

BridgeSquare.69.51: Susan Hudson (shudson) Thu, 14 Oct 1999 17:31:22 CDT (47 lines)
My Wednesday posting that failed to post:

In our home, the TV is on much of the time, but the view on the set is more often than not sports related. Baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, tennis, we watch it all. However, even in a sports world, the media’s influence of sex is strong. Therefore, I have taught my children to do chores, or leave the room during commercials. The media loses it’s hold.

We watch Dawson’s Creek together as a family. It is the Wednesday night discussion at the dinner table. Since my three teens are 18, 16, and 14, this “drama” is as close to their life as TV gets. My daughter is especially impressed with a certain new show “Popular” and how the writing focuses on issues that are pertinent to her life (after the first episode, anyway). As a parent, I am impressed with the writing in Dawson’s Creek. It is intelligent, something that is missing in most TV programming. Besides, so far Dawson has remained celebate.

One thing in the media that really struck me this summer was the advertising on the Sports pages. So many “Personals”, “Call Me” ads. Also, ads for those “Gentlemen Clubs” or strip joints. I encourage my teens to read the newspaper. They go for the sports page first. Do I have to screen the ads, too? I can’t remember if this was in the New York papers or in the Star Tribune. I believe it may have been in the out of town papers, and that’s why I was caught off-guard.

On vacation this summer we shared one TV for two weeks. I watched more than my share of MTV and I was pleasantly suprised. At night, there aren’t as many music videos and lots more programming. “Real World” teaches some real lessons – like how to accept people whose sexual preference is different from yours without hate and ridicule. There’s alot to be said about watching people process this issue. I loved the Tom Green Show. I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time. VH-1 does an excellent job with their “Behind the Scenes”. It is a documentary into the lives of popular musicians from the 50′s through the 90′s. Since so many of the performers tie sex, drugs and violence into thier lives, it is a good springboard for discussion.

Rap music offends me. Not all of it, but most of it does. I choose my stands carefully. If I don’t hear it, I don’t object. But if I’m in the car, I’ll turn it off if the lyrics offend me. However, I always let my kids know how I feel and why. The whole concept of the music form seems to degrade sex and promote violence. But so did rock and roll many years ago. or so parents thought.

Just some more fuel for the discussion…

BridgeSquare.69.52: Susan Hudson (shudson) Thu, 14 Oct 1999 17:57:10 CDT (42 lines) Today’s post:

The advantage of cable/satellite programming is also important. When we moved to Northfield, we had had cable in past communities, and since Northfield wasn’t “wired”, we invested in a large dish. At that time, most of the programming was free. When other people bemoaned the fact that the networks didn’t provide quality children’s TV programming, we surfed the sky and found quality TV programming on the Disney channel (my kids loved Winnie the Pooh), Fraggle Rock, PBS, and Canadian TV that has many fine examples of children’s programming. With choice, the network’s media influence became less invasive.

Years ago, I taught Values Clarification to high school students. It was a fun activity that I was able to weave in my classroom curriculum. One piece of the program was a video called, “What You Are Now Is Where You Were Then”. The premise of the video is that most of us are value programmed when we were 10-12 years old. Events that happened, things that you are exposed to, at this time of your life shapes your values for life. For example, if you were between the ages of 10-12 when JFK was assassinated, your values would likely include a sense that those who make a difference are murdered. And, if you were 10 at the time, these feelings may have been confirmed when, over the next 5 years, Martin Luther King and even Bobby Kennedy were also murdered. Sue Wolf brings up an interesting point in what 10-12 year olds, and even younger children are watching. They are values processing. How scary to be values processing to Jerry Springer! Parents need to be especially vigilant with the media’s message at these critical times. Besides, can a 10 year old have an informed opinion or discussion on the message being presented at this age? Not if the message is geared to an age double that of the child.

And to answer Jean’s comments about discussions with same sex/opposite sex children, I think that I, too, need a conversation starter class. I do OK with my daughter. Being the same sex, I can relate to feelings and being at that place once myself. But my sons leave me either saying the wrong thing, or not saying anything. I remember finding a Playboy magazine hidden in my son’s closet. My husband said not to bring it up. It is something that a teenage boy needs for discovery. I would rather he discover in a magazine than through a live model, that’s for sure. But I would also feel the need to talk if suddenly (or even over the long haul) there were many Playboy magazines.

BridgeSquare.69.53: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 14 Oct 1999 23:30:07 CDT (19 lines)
Hey, David, Curt, and Susan H, good to have you join the conversation.

This forum officially ended last night, so I’d like to thank our panelists for their participation and let them off the stage if they so desire.

But we’ll keep the topic open for discussion through the weekend at least. If our traveling panelists still want to chime in one last time, that’s ok.

Meanwhile, audience members, let’s keep things rolling. I’m got meetings all day today, but I’ve got comments bouncing around in my ahead related to Curt’s post about “ugly brown curls” and Susan H’s post about her finding a Playboy in her son’s closet. Plus, I’d like to see Pleasantville and American Beauty so I’m not so out of it!

Moderator’s Note: total audience attendance is up to 35 now. And I’ve contacted the Northfield News about doing a follow-up article in the paper.

BridgeSquare.69.54: Tom Klaus (twk) Fri, 15 Oct 1999 09:54:06 CDT (37 lines)
Am I embarrassed! I woke up in the middle of last night to the thought that I hadn’t remembered to check the postings for the this chat. I’ve been on the road quite a bit over the past two weeks and got distracted with my work.

During the past hour I’ve been able to “catch up” some by reading the postings. Interesting conversation! A couple of folks’ ideas really struck me. One was John’s (I think) about those who tell the stories and their power to shape culture. The power of storytelling is often unrated if not forgotten completely. I appreciate that reminder and I agree. The challenge before me as a parent is to find a way for the stories I want my children to learn and remember to be more powerful than the stories they are hearing from others. Sometimes it feels like a losing battle but it is incredibly important that I (and we) continue telling the stories to our children. If we just give up, we will definitely lose the war. If we continue the storytelling, even in the face of apparently insurmountable odds, we might still lose the war but we are bound to win a few critical battles. This is what parenting is about for me — continuing to tell the stories I want to shape my kids — even if they won’t or can’t hear them clearly.

The other idea that stood out to me was from Majka when she spoke about the media providing a non-threatening way for her to talk about issues with friends, et al, because the discussion could be about the character, not self. Very insightful, Majka, and a timely reminder. Thank you. It reminds me that I may occasionally project onto my teens that they are seeing things as I see them (through a usually adult mind) as opposed to allowing that they may be having a different, more positive, experience than me.

I don’t know what I can add to the conversation that has been taking place while I’ve been missing in action. Many good thoughts and ideas, concerns and questions. Obviously, we don’t have a simple, simplistic, or complete answer. But we do have the beginnings of a significant dialogue that can help us wind our way through the maze that is the life of a parent. Let’s keep talking and trying.

BridgeSquare.69.55: Susan Wolf (pswolf) Sat, 16 Oct 1999 07:07:45 CDT (19 lines)
I really liked what you said Nancy about modeling — children learn a lot about behavior, values, ideals while watching adults.

Tom, thanks for reminding me that a big part of what I do as a parent is to tell stories not just set guidlines, give direction, etc. Stories are so powerful and children love to hear them. My smaller children love to hear the stories of them as babies, how they were named, and funny things that occured (and they love to hear them over and over!). The nice thing about our stories is we all have something to share and these stories keep history alive.

I think another important part of parenting is touching our children. Clearly from the dialog here there is no one perfect or right answer that everyone can grasp on to. Sometimes I feel totally lost as to what I should do next – not just concerning the media but just in general. But I can always hug, pat, kiss and love. Touch may be one of the most vital ways we teach our children about sexuality and what love feels like and therefore may be one of the best ways to “manage media”. The media just can compete against a good night back rub.

BridgeSquare.69.56: Nancy Nelson (nanelson) Sat, 16 Oct 1999 14:21:04 CDT
Thanks everyone for the lively conversation. Sue, I think you’re absolutely on target when you talk about love being our biggest defense against the effects of the media. It makes me remember, too, that I can not only show my own kids that I love them, but to take the opportunity to show love to all kids in my life. I may only have the ability to truly, comprehensively impact my own kids. But maybe, just maybe, one moment spent with the little boy across the street or the little girl I meet on my evening walks will help empower them, too.

BridgeSquare.69.58: Jessamyn Becker (jessamyn) Tue, 19 Oct 1999 03:16:23 CDT
Hello everyone in Northfield….I just happened to find this page while trying to find the Nfld News. I was very excited to see this as a topic. While a student at NHS I worked with Sue and Julia at Project SIGHT. In fact, I would love to get in touch with either of them. Sue, I saw your name on previous entries…I will be in town later this week and would love to stop in and see the new place. Let me know either via a posted note or my school email which is beckerj@stu.beloit.edu. Thanks to everyone that has provided such insight in their postings. They were quite compelling to read.

BridgeSquare.69.59: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 20 Oct 1999 00:01:22 CDT (3 lines)
You are welcome, Jessamyn, glad you stopped by. I bet you can catch Sue at the Blue Monday around 8 am. Or email her! (click on her username here: user:pswolf

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