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So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids [Hardcover]

Diane E. Levin Ph.D. , Jean Kilbourne Ed.D.


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Book Description

Aug. 5 2008
Thong panties, padded bras, and risqué 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 daughters 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 to 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 in 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. For instance:

• Help your children expand their imaginations by suggesting new ways for them to play with toys–for example, instead of “playing house” with dolls, they might send their toys on a backyard archeological adventure.
• Counteract the narrow gender stereotypes in today’s media: ask your son to help you cook; get your daughter outside to play ball.
• Share your values and concerns with other adults–relatives, parents of your children’s friends–and agree on how you’ll deal with TV and other media when your children are at one another’s houses.

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.

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Product Details


Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

The authors (Levin is a professor of education; Kilbourne, an authority on the effects of advertising) accuse the media of sexualizing children. Constantly, American children are exposed to a barrage of sexual images in television, movies, music and the Internet. They are taught young that buying certain clothes, consuming brand-name soft drinks and owning the right possessions will make them sexy and cool—and being sexy and cool is the most important thing. Young men and women are spoon-fed images that equate sex with violence, paint women as sexually subservient to men and encourage hooking up rather than meaningful connections. The result is that kids are having sex younger and with more partners than ever before. Eating disorders and body image issues are common as early as grade school. Levin and Kilbourne stress that there is nothing wrong with a young person's natural sexual awakening, but it is wrong to allow a young person's sexuality to be hijacked by corporations who want them as customers. The authors offer advice on how parents can limit children's exposure to commercialized sex, and how parents can engage kids in constructive, age-appropriate conversation about sex and the media. One need only read the authors' anecdotes to see why this book is relevant. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Advance praise for So Sexy So Soon

“If you want to make the world safe for both the boys and the girls you care about, you must read this book. Diane Levin and Jean Kilbourne really understand what we’re fighting against, and they also show us a way to transform the world for our children–and make us feel empowered in the process.”
–Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabees

“This book–by two of America’s leading experts on the effects of media on children–is powerful and profoundly useful. It is packed with great stories and poignant examples of the stress children face in our sex-soaked culture. Best of all, the authors offer sane and practical solutions for all of us who want to make things better for children, parents, schools, and the culture at large.”
–Mary Pipher, Ph.D., author of Reviving Ophelia

“So Sexy So Soon is a most timely and important book. For parents who are troubled and worried about what their children are seeing and hearing, it offers helpful guidance and support; it not only documents the trends but provides parents with many useful strategies to combat them.”
–David Elkind, Ph.D., author of The Hurried Child

“Levin and Kilbourne, two of the nation’s most astute analysts of media and youth, have produced the definitive book on the sexualization of childhood. Complete with sample conversations, guidelines, and practical advice, this book will teach you how to keep your child healthy as you navigate the minefields of popular culture. Essential reading for parents, educators, and health professionals.”
–Juliet Schor, professor of sociology, author of Born to Buy

“Every parent should read this eye-opening book. It is a rallying cry to take a stand against the commercial sexualization of children. I highly recommend it.”
–Alvin F. Poussaint, M.D., professor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, and director of the MediaCenter at Judge Baker Children’s Center

“Levin and Kilbourne show us how children, from their earliest years, learn about sex, sexuality, and relationships. Best of all, they give us concrete strategies to fight harmful influences and help us nurture children toward loving relationships now and throughout their lives.”
–Nancy Carlsson-Paige, author of Taking Back Childhood and Professor of education, Lesley University

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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  35 reviews
37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eloquent and practical support for parents! Aug. 26 2008
By Christine Gerzon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
It doesn't sound to me that one of the previous reviewers, Mr. Males, bothered to read the book. If he had, he would recognize that the main premise is ALL children from a very early age are learning toxic lessons from the media about sex, gender, body image and human relationships that have devastating effects on every aspect of their development. These effects can not be measured solely by statistics.

Anyone who spends time with children knows that the lesson that corporate America teaches them (especially girls) is that self-worth is based on appearance and acquiring material possessions. The main purpose of this constant barrage (children spend more time with the media than with their own parents according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study) of commercialism into every aspect of children's lives is to increase corporate profits. When a culture is more concerned with money than healthy human growth, it is obvious that our children are at risk for a host of physical, cognitive, emotional and social problems.

We are at a crucial time in our history when more than ever we need competent creative problem solvers who can tackle the real issues we face as a nation and as citizens of the world. Levin and Kilbourne, internationally recognized educators, authors and social activists, solidly grounded with scholarship and experience provide us with the guidance we need nurture the healthy development of our children. If you want to read a comprehensive, eloquent and practical book on this extremely important issue, this is the one to buy.
38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read for parents and teachers alike... Aug. 25 2008
By Diane Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A quick little story that ties into my review. One day, as I was teaching my class, I had a root beer in a bottle on my desk from lunch. One of my girls asks me, "Teacher, are you DRUNK?" Before I lost my top, I explained that it was soda. You would think that I teach a high school or maybe junior high class. But no, these are FIRST GRADERS. They are six. Although we could automatically blame the parents, who knows where she got this information?

SO SEXY, SO SOON, is co-written by Diane E Levin, and Jean Kilbourne. Jean has also written the book, CAN'T BUY MY LOVE, about how advertising gets us seduced into the world of consumerism. That was also a great book.

I am not a parent, but every year to me, it seems like the students are becoming more and more aware of things that they probably shouldn't know about yet. The authors state that it mostly has to do with the media. There is technology everywhere you turn, and when you don't have that on, you can look at the half naked models on the billboard on Sunset. Sex is all over, and as I was watching a commercial previewing a popular TV show, where all of the actresses are in sultry red dresses and biting into apples, trying to be sexy, I was staring open-mouthed at the screen, and I got it. I think that sometimes we get sucked into it. We are adults and we are "allowed" to watch whatever we want. But, the advertisers don't care about the young kids. They want to make the children a shopper for the rest of their life. That's it.

The authors claim that it's just not just about sex. Children and teenagers have been exploring sex for a long time. It's about how they are to think of sex. What used to be something to be shared between two people who care about each other, is now something transient. "Hooking up," not caring about anyone, just doing it cause it's there. I recently saw another commercial on TV where two people just met, they were talking back and forth while undressing, "I have never been to New York." "This isn't even my apartment." As they are taking off their Levi's and getting ready to have sex. So, basically, you just met, broke into someone's house, and now you are going to do it. This was on during the day.

In other books, you would probably read that if you just say NO to everything, your child will be fine. But, these authors take a different view. Say no to things that are inappropriate for their age, of course, but then...watch things with them. Be their filter. Talk about it. Or their parents and teachers will be the media, and you will have lost them. Most teenagers are going to do what they want anyway, with or without you knowing about it. But, if they go into the world with some information, and they respect themselves, they will be better off. Studies show that the parents who keep open communication with their teenagers are less likely to get into drugs and become pregnant.

As for the book itself, I found it a great read that I could hardly tear myself away from. I read it in a day, it was easy to understand, and it made me think about things for the rest of the night. It even gave you scripts to help you through some difficult conversations with your children. The reason I scored it a little lower was because some information was repeated in the book.

Highly recommended!
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Intelligent and Common Sense Approach Aug. 11 2008
By nbm16 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I responded to the intelligent and common sense approach to dealing with the issues at hand. I appreciated the emphasis on communicating with children about the things that society is forcing upon them. Rather than just having to say, "No, no, no - ban, ban, ban!", parents will be helped by this book because it provides tools for children to use out on the streets. Like it or not, this is what they are facing. It always seems as though the people who have the most difficult time in life are the ones who were brought up in a shell with parents who tried to protect them from the world. The successful people are those who were given the opportunity to gain "street smarts" and coping skills, along with the ability to make choices based on good information, such as that provided in this book.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very pertinent and compelling issue June 9 2010
By Anyechka - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Even though I don't have kids yet, I found this book very helpful, not only in giving me information on what to do when I do have kids (esp. if I have a daughter), but also in understanding some things which I didn't have an insider's view on, such as how a young child's definition of a word like "sex" or "sexy" often has a more innocent connotation than an adult's, as illustrated in the story of kindergarteners Jason and Ashley. Jason got in trouble when Ashley told her parents he told her he wanted to have sex with her, but it turned out that he really meant he wanted to kiss her, and in his juvenile mind interpreted that grownup word in the way he would think of expressing affection. I also liked the information on how children understand the world and evolve in their understanding of more grownup concepts, like weddings, popularity, and where babies come from, by creating movies in their mind, adding a new scene every time they get a new piece of information. Since I was one of those kids who read too much and understood too little, I could understand what this meant, like when Kara told her dad she'd have to have two weddings if she married her female friend, so they could both have babies, even though she didn't question why her parents' lesbian friends only had one wedding and already had a baby together. It also illustrated the right and the wrong way to handle troubling things, like when preteen boys tell their teacher or parents they saw porn online, when a young girl breaks down crying because she thinks she's fat and wants to be popular and sexy, when preteen girls want to wear clothes that my parents would have never let me leave the house in, let alone even own period, when I was their age a generation ago, and when preschool kids are doing dirty dancing and playing teenagers by making out during creative play time.

It was extremely disturbing to read about all of this age compression (since when do *preschoolers* even know how to dirty dance and what grownups in relationships do?), though I was surprised to learn that the majority of the blame is really on advertisers and people in the media who heavily market creativity-devoid toys, adult clothing, and vulgar music to kids who haven't even graduated elementary school yet. I had always assumed it was because a lot of parents today don't know how to set boundaries, give in too easily, and are too busy trying to be their kids' best friends instead of authority figures. It definitely made me rethink the idea of letting my own future kids watch tv at that age. I have never believed in censorship or shielding kids from reality (after all, children a few hundred years ago were routinely exposed to things considered R-rated today, and no one thought they were traumatised for life), but I also don't believe in rubbing stuff like violent movies or vulgar music videos in their faces or letting them watch or listen to such things when they don't have the maturity to understand them. I also was surprised to realise how little creative play children do nowadays; everything is either electronic instant gratification or toys themed on movies or tv shows. Apparently a lot of kids today don't know what to do with blocks, clay, paint, or normal dolls and stuffed animals. I've always been annoyed at how so many toy stores sex-segregate toys (God forbid a girl might want to play with Legos, a football, or toy trucks, or a boy with dolls, stuffed animals, or My Little Pony!), but I wasn't really aware of the true extent of how many toys nowadays really discourage creative play. Even children's birthday cards are sex-segregated nowadays, even if a card with a train on it doesn't even contain the word "boy." Hopefully the advice in this book will help me to raise my future kids as people and not stereotypes.

The book also contains information on how to deal with raising a teen in today's oversexed climate. I acknowledge that I was extremely rare to have had no interest in dating at that age (I always believed in the old-fashioned idea of dating towards marriage and not just random casual serial dating to have a good time), but there's no telling if my future kids will be as old-fashioned as I was or if they'll want to start dating or sexually experimenting while they're underage. The authors stress that setting boundaries, talking to and treating your kids on an age-appropriate level and like their concerns matter to you, living what you preach, and limiting/screening the amount of television and pop culture that comes into your house from an early age make it more likely for children to become teenagers who dress appropriately, know the value of money, don't see themselves and relationships as cheap, meaningless, and disposable, know how to use their imaginations, and value themselves for what's inside instead of basing all of their worth on their body size, popularity, and whether the most popular boy sits near them at lunch. The resources given at the back of the book are also wonderful, and provide a lot of extra reading material and things to think about.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This should be mandatory reading Nov. 30 2008
By Stephanie Jones - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I first heard Jean Kilbourne lecture at The Harvard Medical School
over 30 years ago. Her lecture was transformational, and I never
saw the world in the same way again. Since then, I have followed
her career closely. She brought her message into print form
with her first book; "Can't Buy my Love". Dr. Kilbourne's
raison d'etre is to educate the public to unconscious and conscious
psychological devices that keep women and girls in a one down
position. She described the way in which sexism is ingrained in the media, which both reflects and perpetuates cultural stereotypes. Her message is extremely effective in inoculating women and girls against the negative effects of the media. She was decades ahead of her time, and a lone voice of warning. Unfortunately, she tells us that things have only gotten worse. Now, once again she is the messenger of our times who sees so clearly the crisis which is happening to our girls. Both her books are a must read for anyone who cares about girls and women. Dr. Kilbourne's newest book, So Sexy So Soon (co-authored with Diane Levin) is a greatly needed therapeutic intervention for girls and their concerned parents. The American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls also concurs with Dr. Kilbourne and they too recommend early media education awareness in schools and community centers in order to fight sexualization of girls and counter the negative effects which Jean so masterfully describes in her book. I would recommend both of Dr. Kilbourne's books for anyone who wants to fight sexism and educate our society to the negative effects of the media on female potential. Her books will begin the much needed healing process for any one who reads them. I cannot recommend this book more highly. It should be required reading for anyone in the education system and helping professions as well as parents of girls.

Stephanie Jones, Ed.D.

Founder of the Girls Institute for Empowerment.

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