“Sex in the City changed everything for me, because those girls would sleep with so many people!” –Lindsay Lohan
The things that we watch, the music that we listen to, the images that we take in on the pages of magazines or through the computer screen impact us, and the impression that media makes on our kids is even stronger. I noticed this in my own life this past month. Like many of you, my husband and I watched the History Channel mini-series, The Bible; over the course of the month, especially after watching the show, my dreams and my thoughts kept centering on and coming back to the characters and stories that I had seen and that we reviewed as we followed along in our Bibles. Over the past week, I caught up on a show (the title should say it all: Revenge) that was less than edifying that I have fallen into the (bad) habit of watching occasionally, and suddenly my dream life was filled with twisty plots, undercover ops, violence and sensuality. I also found that my thought life was impacted, and not for the better.
When our children and teenagers are exposed to graphic sexual content and violence, it impacts their still-forming minds. Whether it’s a really young child who is exposed to pornography (like one five-year-old boy who started instructing classmates on the playground on oral sex and other activities he had seen through a misguided search online) or whether it’s a fourteen-year-old girl watching the popular teen prequel to Sex in the City, the Carrie Diaries on the CW, we must be more vigilant about what we allow our kids to be exposed to. I wasn’t too surprised when, while I was talking to a group of teenagers and tweens about The Carrie Diaries (which depicts Sex in the City star Carrie Bradshaw as a teenager), I learned that their interest in that show drove them to watch the adult version of the series. Unfortunately, their parents hardy seemed to have noticed. The teen version is filled with a fair amount of both sex and information about life in the city, but the adult version (in case any of you haven’t seen it) is filled with nudity and sex scenes and depicts sex as often meaningless and recreational.
As Linday Lohan said so well, what she took in changed her perspective. Sex in the City (in many ways) legitimized the hookup culture that we now live in; I hardly think that many shows have had such an impact on female sexuality, sexual experimentation and exhibitionism as that one, and yet, so many of the parents that I work with don’t seem to understand that their kids are impressionable and that it’s up to them (to us) to help our kids understand healthy sexuality.
I strongly urge parents to watch all of the TV shows that they plan on allowing their kids to see before approving them. Just because a show is popular or has some (little) edifying value doesn’t mean it’s good or right for your kids to watch. If you do allow your kids to watch mature content on TV, watch the shows with them and have a dialogue regarding what is and what isn’t truthful and healthy about the storyline and characters portrayed.