Sex as a consenting adult is a something to be enjoyed, something to look forward. But we all have our boundaries and our rules. We understand what is right and what is wrong. Sure we’ve probably all had some not so great experiences but in general we respect ourselves and our partners. We might not think we have the greatest bodies in the world but we have enough self-esteem to not let anyone push us around or make us feel bad about ourselves.
Now how do you explain that to children? How do you teach them how to respect their bodies and those of others? How do you give them the confidence to talk to you if something happens that they are not comfortable with?
I’m not just talking about sexual abuse by adults, which in itself scares me completely but about abuse from their peers. It may not be seen as abuse but that is what it is and it is happening at a younger and younger age. Whilst talking to a friend the other day, she explained how her 9 year old son had come home from school with pictures of a naked 9 year old girl which his friend had sent to him. There were also pictures of that boy “fumbling” with the girl. The scary part was the friend’s son didn’t seem so concerned about it; as if it was normal.
Teachers at the Teachers Union conference at Easter repeatedly voiced their concerns over easy access to pornography, an over-sexualised culture and low self-esteem and body image. In many cases children’s first experience of sex is not through sex education classes at school or through “birds and the bees” conversations with their parents but through porn. In an article written by the Sunday Times in June, one 14 year old boy said ‘internet porn is what you use to find out stuff about sex. It’s all we’ve got,”. Another asked: “How else are we meant to know what to do?”. The problem is porn is not real sex. Its often violent, demeaning and exaggerated. If children are learning about sex from porn websites then they will think this is how all sexual relationships should be. The Sunday Times has launched a campaign to restrict the ease of access to porn sites on the internet and already it has started to work with the main internet companies agreeing to take more effective action to remove child abuse images from the internet and offer more funding to the Internet Watch Foundation to do so. The IWF will now be able to proactively seek out and remove this illegal material. Talktalk and a few other internet companies have also agreed to allow parents to opt out of the ability to access porn sites. But frankly more needs to be done. To support the campaign, please go to ttp://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/public/protectourchildren/.
Stopping access to porn sites is just one small step, another and frankly I think more important step is teaching our children self-respect and self-esteem. Our culture is full of images of beautiful models using image to sell one thing or another. We live in a celebrity obsessed world where the likes of Rihanna can appear in music videos wearing almost nothing and this is seen as the norm. Its hard enough being a tween / teenager without being reminded of every perceived imperfection you think you have by the media. Wanting to be popular and doing things to “go along with the crowd” or because “everyone else is doing it”, whether you’re a girl or a boy, can be a dangerous starting point to a lot of trouble. Teaching children to value their bodies and those of others as well as making them realise that some things are not ok and not acceptable, whoever says that it is, is a fundamental basic. Whether you have a son or a daughter, educating them on what is right and wrong and letting them know you are there should they ever have any questions or feel uncomfortable with something someone is asking them to do is an important part of being a parent.
Which is why the latest campaign by the NSPCC is one that should apply to all children, not just young ones, boys and girls. The Underwear Rule is a simple way that parents can help keep children safe from abuse by teaching them that:
- their body belongs to them
- they have a right to say no
- they should tell an adult if they’re upset or worried
Using PANTS is an easy way for you to explain to your child the key elements of the Underwear Rule.
Privates are private. No one should ask your child to touch or look at parts of their body covered by underwear.
Always remember that your body belongs to you. No one has the right to make them do anything with their body that makes them feel uncomfortable.
No means no. A child must understand that they have the right to say “no” to unwanted touch – even to a family member or someone they know or love. This shows that they’re in control of their body and their feelings should be respected.
Talk about secrets that upset you. Your child must feel confident to talk to you. Whether they are 4 or 14, they need to know you are there for them.
Speak up, someone can help. Tell your child that if they ever feel sad, anxious or frightened they should talk to an adult they trust.
For more information, go to http://www.nspcc.org.uk/help-and-advice/for-parents/keeping-your-child-safe/the-underwear-rule/the-underwear-rule_wda97016.html?utm_source=130709-IG-underwear-rule-campaign&utm_medium=email&utm_content=textlink-rule-body&utm_campaign=ig-warm or watch their video campaign http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72Sh-wjmdzw&feature=player_embedded
We all know that children grow up way too fast these days. Technology, the media and our culture does its very best to drag them into the adult world a lot sooner than they are ready to be there. Protecting them for as long as possible without wrapping them in cotton wool is every parent’s responsibility so please support the NSPCC and the Sunday Times to help keep our children safe.
- NSPCC asks parents to talk PANTS (creativereview.co.uk)
- Half of parents have never spoken to their children about sexual abuse (telegraph.co.uk)
- Someone is Suing Apple Because the Internet Has Porn On It, Yes Really [Video] (geekosystem.com)
- guardian tecnologia: Internet pornography: never again | Editorial (guardian.co.uk)
- Internet giants decide to get tough on child porn (yorkshirepost.co.uk)
- Google Is Building A New System That Will Make It Virtually Impossible To Find Child Porn On The Web (businessinsider.com)
- More kids committing sexual abuse (stuff.co.nz)