Eight-to-ten year-olds obsessed with love notes, boyfriend and
girlfriends, and the like is very young but not unheard of.
In some cases it is like a dog chasing a car. It looks like
fun, but the dog doesn't know what to do with the car when they catch it. So
too with the kids.
The notes and friendships are in part a game and in part rehearsal
for adolescence. With kids of this age many are "rehearsing" and playing
out the behaviour they see of teens and their teen idols. Television shows like
Canadian and American Idol do have young girls swooning over dreamy contestants.
One need only view the television audience to see the effect on some of the
very young viewers. Further, they see other role models such as teen pop stars
who blatantly use sex for self-promotion. But the issue isn’t the role-playing
or rehearsal per se. The issue is how far they take the game or role-playing
and does it lead to trouble.
Early sexual exposure and experimentation can lead to trouble.
In one community, 4 kids (ages 10 - 12) were involved in sexual activity. It
became known when one girl disclosed to a friend who in turn told her mother.
In this case the kids were acting out the various sex scenes they saw on Internet
porn sites. Although consensual, the behaviour went far beyond conventional
sexual activity and was far beyond the normal imagination of children at this
age. It was very disturbing. It is important to note, these were otherwise good
kids from good homes. They had never been in trouble before. They were role-modeling
behaviour from an obscene source in the absence of supervision or other activities
to occupy their time.
Kids in our society are being exposed to sexual information
and material far beyond their maturity to manage or understand and some do mimic
If you want to put a little ice on youngsters’ sexualization,
here are a few tips:
1) Talk with them about relationships and what it means. Given their ages, this
is sometimes best done one-to-one. If done in a group, kids of this age may
degenerate into giggling and nervous laughter. Parents are generally the best
persons to have these conversations with their kids. The parent should also
be role-modeling appropriate interactions with their intimate partner when in
view of their kids.
2) Keep kids in public view. Kids in public view are at less
risk of getting into trouble. In other words, keep an eye on them and have them
participate in many activities that can avoid trouble while having fun. Know
where they are and whom they are with.
3) Parents MUST keep the home computer in the kitchen or some
other open area where they can wander by. It is difficult for kids to surf for
porn or any other dangerous websites when in plain view of mom or dad. Don’t
give in to whining if they object.
4) Many TVs have "parental controls" built into the
remote. Parents are encouraged to block channels or specific programs that show
explicit sexual content. Even if the kids do not go there intentionally, they
can catch a glimpse when channel surfing. A glimpse is enough to capture their
attention and lead them astray.
Following these recommendations can decrease kids likelihood
of young sexual experimentation, delinquency, drug and alcohol use, and getting
pregnant when they become teenagers. The important thing is for parents, educators
and other adults in positions of trust and responsibility to start when kids
are very young. These recommendations should form a normal part of their lives.
Let their life be filled with the fun and excitement of age-appropriate, healthy
activities. It’s a prescription for better, safer kids!