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Age of Sexual Exploration
Latency age is considered to be between five or six and puberty. During these ages kids are more typically caught up in activities made available by school, parents or independent play. Their activity is influenced by a desire for fun, adventure, learning and skill building. While gender may factor into decisions regarding activities, sexuality is not typically the driver of children’s engagement.
Adolescence is quite different. While still involved in all sorts of activities, sexuality emerges as a more influential driver of teen engagement. No longer are kids making decisions on just the basis of fun, but on how to have fun in the context of their developing sexuality and attraction to others. Adolescence has traditionally been the age of sexual exploration and experimentation in a social context.
Enter the Internet and enter advertising. As a result and influence of both, the age of exploration in a sexual-social context has become steadily younger and younger.
The Internet provides exposure to decontextualized sexual behaviour – that is to say, sex for sex’s sake independent of an intimate emotional relationship between the participants. Whether accessed the result of curiosity or accident, younger and younger children are exposed to sexual content the likes of which just wasn’t available in prior history.
Advertising, keying on latency aged children’s desire to role model older kids, has capitalized on sexual expression to capture market share on any given commodity. Kids are taught through advertising media, that their value and worth will be more determined by the sexual responsiveness they can engender in others towards themselves, than by academic, artistic or athletic accomplishment. Gone are the days of feeling good about oneself the result of skill development and mastery and here is the time of worth being a reflection in the glint of someone else’s eye for sexual desirability.
As such children are exposed to and chasing sexual behaviour in the absence of a cognitive or emotional capacity to appreciate their actions, more and more kids are getting into trouble. Today’s children are at greater risk of sexual exploitation and voluntarily engaging in behaviour that undermines moral development. These owls come home to roost come adolescence and young adulthood, when the skills of relationship building are confused with sexual behaviour.
The best medicine in view of these issues is preventative medicine. Parents are cautioned to be aware of children’s on-line activity and to provide limits and guidance with regard to the choice of clothing, activities, and yes, even friends.
Now more than ever parenting as a verb, an action word, takes on more weight. We cannot afford from a social, moral or even behavioral developmental perspective to idly assume our kids are safe from harm, even when tucked in their own beds. Computer access still should remain in public places within the home and communication devises should sleep outside of the bedroom when the child sleeps inside the bedroom. Parents must have access to all children’s on-line accounts and before checking one’s own social media page, parents must first check that of their child’s.
We didn’t let our kids wander aimlessly into dark forests, polluted ponds or dart out between parked cars to busy streets. Now we must provide guidance and supervision as our kids engage the most dangerous highway of all, the super highway called the Internet and we must provide limits upon the influence of marketers whose sole purpose has only to do with profit share over welfare.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
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