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Parents: Boys Are Sexting More Now Than Ever– What You Need to Know

Today_aug2013I was on the Today Show this morning talking about teens and sexting.  A new study suggests that boys are sexting more than ever–  aiming to get the attention of girls in profoundly inappropriate ways.  Here are some questions parents have asked me– and some answers that I hope will be helpful to you as you navigate today’s high tech culture with your children.

(1) Is this the new normal?

This kind of behavior has become a lot more common likely because there is so many messages out there that are telling young people this is the norm. Pornography is just a few key strokes away.  Objectication and sexualization is part of the natural landscape of advertising and marketing to teens today.  (3) Hook up culture is celebrated in many TV shows and reality shows for teens. And don’t forget (4) Real life politicians, sports heroes and entertainers are made into household names for doing it, make excuses for it and are excused for doing it.  These messages happen 24/7 so their frame of reference is, this is the norm.

(2) What should parents do?

When I’m presenting to parents or educators I tell them that they must look & listen, Engage & explain and Be a powerful example.

  • Look/Listen:  What is my child doing?  What is he watching?  What kinds of texts is he sending? What is he saying about girls?  To his friends?  To girls?
  • Engage & Explain: Ask directly. For example; Dr. Robyn was saying on The Today Show that boys are sending texts to girls about hooking up and having sex—is this happening in your world?  What do you think about it? Be very clear that what he is seeing and hearing on the internet and on TV is not the norm.
  • Provide a powerful example: There are too many messages out there that are telling your children that hook up culture is to be expected—so show them what it means to have a meaningful relationship based on respect, kindness and character.

(3) When should parents talk to their children about it?

Parents need to start talking to their children about the power of the media, their bodies and treating people with respect and kindness from a very early age.  This is not one conversation but a series of conversations we have over a childhood so that when we move into sexting, dating, hook up culture and sex, it’s not strained or strange—it is a natural continuation of countless conversations you have had with your child.  We can’t just have “the sex talk” we need to have the relationship talk, the character talk, the technology talk and many others to raise a healthy, respectful child. Conversation not only with boys—but absolutely with girls too who may have more power than they think to change the way boys talk to them and relate to them.

(4) Boys are acting with clueless aggression that is fueled by anonymity so I tell them that a good litmus test is– Would you be embarrassed if this text was seen by your mother or your sister?  If yes, it’s probably not something you should send.

What do you think?  Is this a concern of yours?  How do you deal with it?

Dr. Robyn Signature

 

 

 

Dr. Robyn on The Today Show: Vintage Ads Say Thin was Not Always In

These days, the word “fat” comes with a lot of baggage.  Studies tell us that fat is continually associated with unflattering words like lazy, ugly, blameworthy, gross, and unpopular.  But it wasn’t always that way.  If you look at some of the vintage ads, thin was definitely NOT always in.

vintage_weight1-222x300“Enjoy life!” “Put on 5 pounds of flesh!” “Left out because you’re too skinny?” Vintage ads paint the picture that full-figured women were the beauty standard of their era.

Over the last 100 years the celebrated standard of body beauty in advertising has morphed from one that was more voluptuous (signifying vitality, wealth, and happiness) to one that is thin (signifying, sometimes erroneously, health, perfection and self control). In the early part of the 20th century actresses and models demonstrated the voluptuous trend—prompting beauty products and subsequent advertising to address the desire to put ON weight. Things changed dramatically in the 60s with the introduction of Twiggy, in the 80s with the fitness craze (think Jane Fonda), the 90s with the introduction of the waif, and now, we still receive messages (and the studies reflect this), that to be thin is to be beautiful, sexy, controlled, successful and good. Beauty products and advertising has followed suit.

vintage_weight3-157x300These days it seems that people say the word “fat” like they are spitting it out on a plate.  This can be really confusing and upsetting for young girls who are going through puberty—a time when it’s very normal and natural to gain an average of 25 pounds! As a young girl or women is gaining weight, many look at it as “getting fat.” It’s common that people bemoan ‘I feel fat” or call themselves ugly names like “whale,,” “pig,” or “heifer.”

vintage_weight2-157x300What would it have been like to live at a time when people thought it was more beautiful to be buxom that thin? Or is the pressure the same whether it’s to be thin or to gain weight in order to fit in?

It seems like a lot more women would have fit the ideal standard if we weren’t told that we all needed to be impossibly thin to be considered attractive. But then, naturally thin women would have been left out to the definition of beauty.

At the end of the day, it still comes down to marketing. As long as there has been women’s beauty products and advertising, there have been (and there will be) messages that tell girls and women that they are not good enough, not beautiful enough, and not worthy enough unless they buy these products…and use them.

How do you think it would impact YOU and the women in your life if their was pressure to gain weight rather than lose it?

drrobynsig170

 

Unschooling: Is radical homeschooling right for your child?

Unschooling is a radical form of homeschooling that throws the books out the blog_unschooler-196x300 window on traditional learning. School [School newly corrected: Learning] takes place out of traditional school doors and on the child’s own terms. Today, I sat down with Matt Lauer on The Today Show, to discuss it.

How can this work?

(1) Know your child. Some children thrive in a less rigid, less structured, more free form education process. Some children are self propelled, self motivated, and ready to learn in many different kinds of ways. Other children thrive with structure and adult guidance.

(2) Know yourself: It may not sound like it, but this is an investment on the parents part. Self directed not mean by themselves.Unschooling doesn’t mean only exposed to what’s in front of you. Parents must be willing to get out, get their hands dirty, and take the road less traveled.  (There are lots of sites and blogs where parents and young people are sharing their experiences so you can see what this entails).

Why would people do this?

(1) Some parents may be dissatisfied with the local school system, their personal education growing up or even what traditional schools provide today.

(2) Some parents may have an exceptional child who has specific gifts that they believe would be better suited outside of the traditional classroom structure.

(3) They may want to nurture a passion of their child’s that they don’t feel the traditional local school has the time or curriculum to do.

Note: Some unschoolers will take a college class if they feel that this will help them to grow and learn what they are interested in as many they believe all avenues of learning should be tapped.

As a parent who may or may not be considering this– you may have some questions:

(1) Are there longitudinal studies? There are no long range statistics on if it’s working, not working, what’s working and what isn’t. Right now we’re going on faith and anecdotal evidence. Hopefully, studies will be provided in the coming years.

(2) Will there be gaps in their education? If the children are hyper-focused on one or two things, there may be concern that the fundamentals may be lost or delayed if they are not as exciting to learn. Even though unschooling is self-directed, parents will need to encourage some balance. After all, in order to delve into many topics of interest, reading, writing, and math are necessary. The philosophy here is; the children will learn what they need to learn at the time it’s necessary to learn it.

(3) What about socialization? Parents of all home-schooled children need to provide the socialization their children need to grow up as a well-rounded, social individual of our society. All children need to exposed to other children, away from parents, so they learn how to be with other kids.  If they aren’t in school, and other avenues aren’t provided, socialization can be an issue. (This is where programming like 4H, scouts, martial arts classes, sports, community theater and camps come in- many home-schooled children will take part in after-school programming or even get together with other home-schooled children during the day and learn together).

(4) Will they be exposed to enough variety? Parents need to ensure that their children are receiving diversified exposure that allow them to discover all their passions aside from the one they are already nurturing. If a child is really interested in one area, we still need to expose them to much more than that…or how are they going to discover all the passions they may have?

(5) Are they learning to persevere through tough subjects? Parents need to ensure that all children learn how to persevere and endure through subject matter that kids may not find all that intriguing but is necessary for their development. All children need to venture out of their comfort zones, try new things, and overcome challenges.

If college, then what?

If unschoolers want to go the more traditional route, they’ll have to do what every other student does and take the necessary tests to get placed. However, there is one major difference: they’ll provide a resume of learning rather than a traditional transcript. Some unschoolers will have to learn to take tests and focus in larger seminars if they haven’t been in that circumstance before. Only time will tell if there are significant gaps and when unschooling is right for a specific child.

What can we learn from unschooling?

Just as unschoolers can supplement their education with traditional school classes, those who go the traditional route, can supplement their child’s formal education with experiential learning in areas that truly excite them. Use some of your weekends, summer vacation, winter breaks, and after-school times to go the nontraditional route. Your child may want to do science camp in the summer, take trips to the zoo, dig in the dirt to learn about bugs, camp in the forest, or draw on a mountainside.

There are great things to learn out there beyond the school walls whether you are interested in unschooling, homeschooling, or traditional structured schooling. If you take nothing else away from the segment, I think that’s the bottom line here. The “recipe” for success is different for different children and different families– parents can and should explore a variety of different approaches to see what can work best for their child.

Let’s chat about it! Join me on Facebook or Twitter!

drrobynsig170