Standing in line at the drugstore, I overheard a mother and her preteen daughter talking about the now-infamous racy GQ photos of the Glee stars. "Where did you see those?" asked the mom, her voice straining to stay calm. "Jamie showed me them. They're online, Mom." Her daughter responded with that note of irritation reserved especially for mothers. "They were kind of gross."
The mother looked a bit stumped about what to say next, and then they moved forward to the cash register to pay for the Halloween costumes she had in hand: some sort of superhero costume for her son and what looked like -- wait, it was! -- a Snooki costume for her daughter.
It took everything I had not to butt in. I wanted to ask the girl whether she'd noticed that the boy from Glee was photographed fully clothed, playing the drums, while the girls looked like Playboy bunny wannabes. I wanted to ask the mom whether there just might be some message her kids were getting about boys having super powers and girls getting power from being sexy super stars. But I stayed quiet and paid for my toothpaste and bags of candy for the impending trick-or-treaters -- all the while dreading that other ghosts and goblins from Jersey Shore will be knocking on my door this year.
The research around the way that highly sexualized images affect girls is alarming -- including lower grades and greater levels of depression. The negative impact on self-esteem has also been directly linked to girls who measure themselves against the sexy stars in their lives. And is this really the way we want our boys to think about girls? The challenge of counteracting these messages necessarily falls to parents. And there are as many different ways of discussing this as there are kids.
In today's world, kids are saturated in sexy images and messages thanks to everything from the TV to their cell phone. Get ideas on how to talk to your kids about what they're seeing in the media.
Is there something your kids have seen on TV or online, that you wish they hadn't? What have you done to help your kids avoid growing up too soon?
More Advice and Tips Common Sense Media:
Talking About Sexting
Managing Media in Your Home
How Do You Manage...
Understanding The Effect of Media on Body Image
Liz Perle, Editor-in-Chief, Common Sense Media