Do remember when you first learned about sex? I'm not talking about that anatomy lesson from fifth grade health class. I mean the moment you really understood the non-biblical reason people had sex. I don't think I really figured it out until my teens, so I was a late bloomer by '90s standards, and by today's, I was practically ancient. That's because kids in the post-millennial world lose their innocence years before older generations did. New research suggests childhood is over at age 12. But in a world filled with headlines like "9-Year-Old Gives Birth," I'd say many kids stop being kids much younger.
Of course we moms and dads try to keep them young, but how can we succeed with so much working against us? Nearly 75 percent of parents say that their kids are losing "childlike qualities" well before the teens. Even worse, 1 in 10 said it was happening before 10. Only 1 in 50 parents were lucky enough to report they managed to keep their children from growing up too quickly before age 16.
Most parents (nearly 90 percent) felt that society was forcing their kids to mature entirely too fast. And they are right. They know so much more at age 7 than most of us did. Just look at what they are exposed to. It used to be that promiscuous behavior, violent brawls, or drunken nights were things to be embarrassed of. Now it's celebrated in our culture. Being outrageously wild is a path to stardom -- just look at Snooki and the rest of the Jersey Shore cast. Even worse, the Bad Girls Club. And what about the racy subject matter in magazines and movies? Then there's the fact that they idolize young-looking pop stars who get involved in sex or nude picture scandals.
But pop culture isn't the only problem. We didn't have the access to the Internet like they do now. One Google search exposes them to things I didn't even see until college. Seriously. I think we parents have become a little too relaxed too. I can't tell you how many tweens I see wearing tight, midriff-baring clothes. But keeping your child innocent is no easy task. It takes a lot of monitoring and being on top of what our children are doing all the time. With busy work, after school, and home duties, that is hard to do. But the alternative is just too scary.
Then, of course, there is the problem of their friends. You can do your best to shield your child from things, but you can't change what their friends are exposed to and then readily share. A friend of mine told me she overheard her 11-year-old daughter gabbing with a buddy in her bedroom. (Yes, she was eavesdropping.) They were talking about cute boys in their grade. Then the conversation took an alarming turn when the other girl started talking about blow jobs and how it's OK to do because it isn't really sex. Needless to say, the mom freaked out. She found an excuse to go in and send the girl home early. Now she is struggling to figure out how to talk to her child about something no 11-year-old should need to talk about.
Bottom line is, I don't think there is a surefire way to keep our kids totally innocent -- unless you move to some remote farm and homeschool. We should continue to try, of course, but it could be just luck of the draw.
Have you figured out a way to keep your kids from growing up too fast?
Image via mikebaird/Flickr