‘So Sexy So Soon’ Hinsdale Central PTO talk spurs conversation
Updated: February 25, 2013 11:31AM
HINSDALE — Stunned silence — the profound absence of sound — is rare at Parent Teacher Organization meetings.
Yet stunned silence resonated at the “So Sexy So Soon” Hinsdale Central High School discussion after the audience viewed a brief montage of prime time television scenes involving sexual attraction, kissing and seduction. Many of clips featured high school-type settings—lockers, gyms and classrooms--with actors portraying teens.
That’s what our kids are exposed to watching such TV shows as “Glee,” Gossip Girl,” and “Pretty Little Liars.” The high school students in those shows act in much more adult ways than the characters in “The Brady Bunch” or “The Partridge Family” did.
Consider that over the course of a week, teens experience 75 hours of media exposure, which includes internet as well as television, nearly twice as much time as they spend in a classroom. That startling fact came from Barb Barrett, a health educator from the Robert Crown Center. She is the one who assembled the TV montage and who spoke to the parents — almost all of whom were moms — at the meeting.
“What are your reactions?” Barrett asked at the end of the video clip.
Her answer was that very loud and uncomfortable stunned silence, broken by one mom’s vehement comment: “disgusting.” If I could have spoken, I would have said “disturbing.”
Barrett’s point was to discuss the media’s effect on our daughters and how they view themselves and on our sons and how they in turn view women. But, it was also a gentle elbow nudge to all women, not just teens. While moms and grandmothers are encouraged to be younger, look younger, dress younger we encourage our young girls to dress and act more adult like.
Barrett’s presentation also reinforced that powerful parenting edict that we lead by example.
“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It’s the only thing,” said 20th century theologian and philosopher Albert Schweitzer.
What you the parent say and more importantly how you act sends a powerful message, and parents are still the number one influence on their teens, Barrett said, so keep talking to them.
One suggestion was to start conversations with your kids in an indirect manner. Ask about behavior in their peer group. For example, don’t say “are you smoking?” Instead, ask “How many of your friends are smoking?” or “Is it true that such-and-such a behavior is happening on the school buses?” Leading questions can promote discussion without making the teen defensive.
Pediatrician Erin Flanagan provided some startling statistics, such teens in DuPage County have the second highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases in Illinois, behind only Cook County. Also that among 15- to 19-year-olds, 56 percent of girls and 73 percent of boys had not spoken to their parents about sex.
She encouraged the use of the HPV Vaccine, which helps to protect against certain strains of the human papillomavirus and especially the cancers those viruses can cause.
Both guest speakers reminded once again that “there is no such thing as privacy on the Internet.” Even the latest fads that kids think of as impermanent and fleeting can have lasting repercussions and trail them.