Friday, May 27, 2011

So Sexy So Soon : The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids - Diane E. Levin, Ph.D & Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D

Summary:  Thong panties, padded bras, and risque Halloween costumes for young girls. T-shirts that boast "Chick Magnet" for toddler boys.  Sexy content on almost every television channel, as well as in books, movies, video games, and even cartoons.  Hot young female pop stars wearing provocative clothing and dancing suggestively while singing songs with sexual and sometimes violent lyrics.  These products are marketed aggressively to our children; these stars are held up for our young daughter to emulate--and for our sons to see as objects of desire.

Popular culture and technology inundate our children with an onslaught of mixed messages at earlier ages than ever before.  Corporations capitalize on this disturbing trend, and without the emotional sophistication to understand what they are doing and seeing, kids are getting into increasing trouble emotionally and socially; some may even engage in precocious sexual behavior.  Parents are left shaking their heads wondering: How did this happen?  What can we do?

So Sexy So Soon is an invaluable and practical guide for parents who are fed up, confused, and even scared by what their kids--or their kids' friends--do and say.  Diane E. Levin, Ph.D., and Jean Kilbourne, Ed.D., internationally recognized experts on early childhood development and the impact of the media on children and teens, understand that saying no to commercial culture -- TV, movies, toys, Internet access, and video games -- isn't a realistic or viable option for most families.  Instead, they offer parents essential, age-appropriate strategies to counter the assault.

Filled with savvy suggestions, helpful sample dialogues, and poignant true stories from families dealing with these issues, So Sexy So Soon provides parents with the information, skills, and confidence they need to discuss sensitive topics openly and effectively so their kids can just be kids.  (Summary from book - Image from )

My Review:  “Beth” usually wears a skintight top and low slung jeans. Like most girls, she worries about her weight and wonders whether boys find her attractive. She wants to be a superstar, like Lady Gaga, and loves singing along with I Like it Rough, while swaying her hips to the music. Beth isn’t 18, or 14, or even twelve-years-old. She’s seven. She wants to be “sexy,” and she has no idea what that means.

In recent years, a startling number of children, tweens, and teens have demonstrated signs of “early sexualization.” These children show an alarming interest in sexual behavior, language, and the exploration of sexual relationships, long before such behavior is considered developmentally appropriate. This sexualized childhood manifests in a variety of ways but is easily visible in the way young children dress, speak, and interact.

If you’re like me, and this trend scares you senseless, then So Sexy So Soon might be one of the most important parenting books you’ve ever read. Without proper guidance, children of all ages and genders can become confused by subtle and not-so-subtle messages found in popular culture (e.g. books, magazines, movies, television, the internet, music, music videos, video games, etc.). Through a series of unsettling examples and well-researched studies, this book shows the negative effects that early exposure to inappropriate imagery can have on our children. It also serves as a scathing indictment of industries that value profit over principle, targeting children through advertisement and spreading the idea that appearance determines an individual’s worth or personal happiness.

While we can and should control the flow of media into our own homes, our children will still receive mixed messages while standing in the checkout line, on the playground, from friends, or even older siblings. So Sexy So Soon alerts parents to possible dangers, but also provides useful ways to counteract harmful messages that slip through the cracks and promote healthy, age appropriate sexual development. For example, the authors describe how to establish relationships where children will feel comfortable asking questions or voicing concerns. They also provide tips for dealing with teenagers, combating negative stereotypes, teaching children how to evaluate images they encounter, and much more.

I read So Sexy So Soon with my three young daughters in mind, but there was plenty of information for families blessed with Y chromosomes. The authors’ explain how media and the early sexualization of young girls can negatively influence the perspective of young males. They also show how unrealistic standards of masculinity are established and maintained through early exposure to violent video games, music videos, toys, books, and other social media.

This book was a brutal wake-up call – the smack you in your face kind. It wasn’t always an easy read and occasionally blew things out of proportion, but it validated many of my concerns, helped identify other areas that need special attention, and offered reasonable solutions to problems I might encounter. I recommend this book as a compelling and invaluable resource to every parent who is concerned with the current trend towards sexualized childhood and looking for ways to limit media influence in the home.

My Rating: 5 Stars.  *I feel like I should qualify my rating because I'm wavering between 4 and 5 stars, depending on the day*  Occasionally this book slides into the sensational and scary.  In other words, it tries to scare the pants off you and most likely will succeed.  I gave this book five stars because I feel this book does a reasonably good job of addressing a subject that every parent should consider, NOT because every solution is perfect or the writing is amazing.

For the sensitive reader: Some frank discussion of sexual topics and media that kids might encounter. Some of the language used could be considered offensive, but I really felt it was necessary to illustrate the problems our children are likely to encounter.

Sum it up: A must read for any parent.

To learn more, visit the So Sexy So Soon website at or click here to read the introduction.


Amy said...

Wow, you have really hit something that has really been making me crazy lately. I have even been banning shows from Disney Channel and Nickelodeon in my home if you can believe it. I am really discouraged about this trend. This sounds like the book for me. I think I even feel a blog post coming on!! ;)

Editt said...

It is now on my to read list. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction. I'm always looking for good reads in parenting books.


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