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Entries in Childhood (5)

Thursday
Oct252012

Porn Before Puberty? Film Explores Childhood, Parenting in Sex-Saturated Culture

Sexy Baby(NEW YORK) -- "Is this slutty?" Danielle, having just put on a skirt, asked her friend Winnifred. Lady Gaga's "Monster" played in the background. "Just dance but he took me home instead/Oh oh there was a monster in my bed," the girls sang along.

"That's a good length," Winnifred answered. "It's short, but in a cool way, not, like, a slutty way."

Winnifred and Danielle are modern-day 12-year-olds. But they're not playing dress-up -- they're getting ready for a Lady Gaga concert.

Winnifred carefully curates her online profile, pushing her budding sexuality to jack up her Facebook "likes."

The documentary Sexy Baby, which was featured at the Tribeca Film Festival, follows Winnifred's adolescence from age 12 to age 15, and delves into the world of porn before puberty. Winnifred's journey in the documentary reflects that of many pre-teens today, and through her eyes parents worldwide get a glimpse into the hyper-sexualized culture their children are facing today.

"I know I look like I'm down to f---," Winnifred says in the film.

The film explores how much social media adds fuel to the hormonal fire. Winnifred posted a revealing picture of herself with her bra showing. Why?

"It's awkward, and we're getting messages from everywhere that are saying, 'If you dress this way, you are going to be either treated well or you're gonna feel powerful,'" Winnifred told ABC News' Juju Chang.

Sex is power, and that's how a lot of girls and boys seem to feel these days.

Winnifred's mother, Jenny Bonjean, is a feminist who says she's trying to raise an uninhibited, empowered girl.

"My message to my daughter is, sexuality is a wonderful, beautiful thing. You should embrace it. ... It's not the only type of power you're gonna have. Unfortunately, it is in the culture the first power that they feel ... where 13-year-old girls can have influences on grown men," Bonjean-Alpart said.

"You don't think they realize that?" she continued. "It feels good to have power. ... You don't want to abuse it. Don't take it for granted. You need to find a balance."

Winnifred's father, Ken Alpart, described the two reactions he and his wife have to balance.

"We don't necessarily want her to dress certain ways," he said. "At the same time, we are raising our child to be an independent thinker."

Jenny Bonjean argued that early freedom could help prevent extreme acting out later on.

"We all know those women that went to college that had really, really strict parents who didn't let them experiment with anything, and they went wild in college. ... Girls gone wild, you know, is a phenomenon, and so many of those girls come from households, in my opinion, where they were tamped down on."

The risk is that allowing a child too much freedom to express her sexuality can lead her to act on it.

"I can put a very sexualized photo of me on Facebook and make it so my parents don't know, but every guy at my school does," Winnifred said. "So that does become a self-fulfilling prophecy, because when you make yourself look a certain way, people are going to expect you to be that way."

"I can make your bed rock," Winnifred, then 12, sings in the film. The song is rapper Li'l Wayne's "Bedrock."

Did she and her friends know what the song was about?

"We did realize how obscene it was [when we sang it in the film]," Winnifred told Chang. "I think because it was so mainstream, it wasn't shocking to us. ... If you hear that song f---ing three times a day for two weeks, they're easy to understand -- even when you are 12 or 13."

Music is just the beginning. Pornography itself has become mainstream and ubiquitous -- accessible even to kids.

"When I can reach into my back pocket [for my smartphone] and basically pull out some porn ... you can't really blame a bunch of children for not understanding how to deal with that," Winnifred said.

Winnifred said that when she was in eighth grade, boys watched porn on their phones at school.

According to the award-winning filmmakers of Sexy Baby, Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus, one in every five kids between ages 9 and 11 has watched porn. They hope their film will start a conversation between parents and their kids about how to maneuver the sexualized social media world.

The film includes a former porn star named Nicole who is an unlikely voice of reason about what porn sex is and isn't.

"It's definitely not making love," Nicole says. "Making love is the kind of sex that you wanna cry afterwards, just because it's so beautiful, and so emotional, and so powerful."

According to Sexy Baby, 30 years ago, 40 percent of adults said they watched porn, and now it's 80 percent.

Nicole, the former porn star and stripper, told the filmmakers she used to have to drive far and wide to find an adult store at the mall to buy her strip-club outfits. Now, she said, she can walk into any mall, look in the windows and stripper clothes and shoes are everywhere.

Perhaps ironically, given the "pornification" of America culture, the filmmakers are editing a tamer version of Sexy Baby for educational use -- to spark the healthy dialogue they see as vital.

Winnifred agrees. "I think if parents are able to talk to their children, and their children are able to feel comfortable talking about what real love and real sex later on is, I and most of the kids I know would trust our parents over two porn stars that we've never met."

Watch the full story on Nightline Thursday night at 11:35 p.m. ET


'Sexy Baby' is playing in theaters in New York and Los Angeles and will be available on iTunes and Movies on Demand Nov. 6. A 60- minute educational version for children 14 years old and up is available too. For more on the documentary, go to sexybabymovie.com.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun192012

Childless by Choice: Why Some Americans Pass on Parenthood

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Shannon Chamberlain doesn't want kids, but most people think she'll get over it.

"They keep telling me I'll change my mind," said 29-year-old Chamberlain from Alameda, Calif. "Or they assume you're infertile. At least that staves off the questions!"

Chamberlain, who's currently pursuing a PhD in English literature at Berkeley, insists her decision to forgo parenthood is both voluntary and final. And she's not alone. One in seven non-parents of childbearing age is childless by choice, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"I have a great life," said Chamberlain, who enjoys exotic trips and lazy Saturdays with her husband. "Adding something else into the mix could make things worse. I suppose it could also make things better, but that's not really a chance I'm willing to take."

Chamberlain defended her stance on spawn in an essay for Slate magazine, writing, "Having kids is making a decision to live a life with strollers, diaper bags, breast pumps, sleep deprivation, and the withering looks from strangers like me, who wonder why you thought it was a good idea to bring your toddler to a Victorian painting exhibit."

It sounds selfish, Chamberlain admits.

"But I do care about myself, and I know I wouldn't be a good parent if I was unhappy," she said, describing the thought of attachment parenting as her "own personal nightmare."

Birth rates are declining, according to the CDC, as more Americans put parenthood on hold in uncertain economic times. But a relatively stable 6 percent of U.S. adults decide to skip kids for reasons beyond their estimated $234,000 per head price tag.

Heather Gentry, 26, said she chooses to be childless because kids are like parasites.

"To have my body distorted beyond recognition for an alien-looking creature to live there for nine or 10 months and use up my food and energy storage? To have doctors poke and prod at my most private places because that's where it'll be born? Then, to be free of the creature on the inside, but to have to care for it for years and years, while it eats my food, lives in my house, and takes up my energy?" she wrote in her essay for Slate. "No, thank you, I will not have kids/parasites for reasons that will probably insult you."

Gentry, who works as a waitress in Summerville, Ga., said she knew her kid-parasite comparison would be controversial.

"It's kind of a hot-button issue. Mamas love their sweet little babies," she said. "I don't have anything against them; I just don't feel like I can do it. I'm kind of glad there are people like them and people like me."

The opposing views provide a necessary balance, Gentry argued in her essay.

"If I can suffer through your alien ultrasound photo on Facebook or grin at your crying kids without vomiting, then you can be grateful that women like me will always be around to organize an occasional girl's night out and to keep the population in check."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug172011

Creepy or Cute? French Company Sells Lingerie for Girls 4 to 12 Years Old

Used to be "dress up" meant putting on a pair of Mommy's shoes. Ryan McVay/Thinkstock (PARIS) -- Little girls, clad only in bras and underwear, pose carelessly cool, wearing sunglasses and heavy makeup, in an online photo gallery of Jours Après Lunes' new clothing line. They're far from the age where they might need bras, but the "loungerie" line is meant for girls as young as 3 months.

While the French company's babywear consists of typical onesies for infants, click on the fille (girls) section of the site and find little girls dressed in lacy, frilly, silky undergarments with tousled beehive updos and mascaraed stares.

The Jours Après Lunes website says it is the first designer brand dedicated to "loungerie," calling it an "innovative" and "unexpected" brand in the current realm of teenage and children's fashion.

Some call it fashion. Others call it appalling.

"This kind of marketing does sexualize young girls, it does serve as a model that inspires very young girls to think that minimizing what they wear and revealing as much of their body as possible is appropriate, and 'fashionable' and 'cool,' and that this is the way that they should think of themselves," Paul Miller, associate professor of psychology at Arizona State University in Phoenix, wrote in an email to ABC News.

Jours Après Lunes' did not return calls from ABC News requesting comment.

"The cultural message goes beyond 'lingerie' but to girls' self-image, body image, and what it takes to build a 'good' image of one's self," continued Miller.

But the "loungerie" line is only the latest kiddie fashion craze to cause public outrage.

Two weeks ago, 10-year-old French model Thylane Loubry Blondeau made headlines when she graced the cover of Vogue France. Many believed her high-fashion posing put her in an exceptionally mature position that was too sexual for her age.

This week, clothing retailer American Eagle drew ire after marketing a push-up bra that promises to add two cup sizes to girls as young as 15.

American Eagle's website has one review of the bra, claiming that "it gives so much push-up that other bras don't let me show off," reported ABC affiliate WTVD.

"Girls want to look pretty, but they do not want that icky sexual attention," Ann Soket, editor-in-chief of Seventeen magazine, told ABC News. "They just want to feel good in their clothes, they just want to feel pretty, and that's what these bras are about."

But many child development experts would disagree with Soket. The American Psychological Association recently created a task force to respond to the "increasing problem" of the sexualization of girls in the media, which it found could influence a girl's well-being.

"We don't want kids to grow up too fast," Shari Miles-Cohen, senior director of women's programs for the American Psychological Association, told ABCNews.com earlier this month. "We want them to be able to develop physically, emotionally, psychologically and socially at appropriate rates for their age."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr052011

US Teen Birth Rate Fell to Record Low in 2009

E. Dygas/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Fewer teens are having babies in the United States -- but not few enough, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although teen births dropped 37 percent nationwide over the last two decades to an all-time low in 2009, the rate is still nine times higher than in other developed countries.

Despite the plunge, roughly 410,000 teen girls gave birth in 2009 at an estimated cost of $9 billion to U.S. taxpayers, according to the report.

"Many are enrolled in the Medicaid and WIC [Women, Infants and Children] programs to help them during pregnancy,” said Dr. Amy Thompson, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology specializing in teen pregnancy at the University of Cincinnati.

Only half of teen moms earn a high school diploma by age 22 compared with 90 percent of teens who don't have children, according to the report.

Black and Hispanic teens are two-to-three times more likely to give birth than white teens, according to the report. And girls born to teen parents are nearly 33 percent more likely to become teen moms themselves.

The report suggests fewer high school students are having sex, and more of them are using at least one method of birth control. The proportion of students who reported using two methods of contraception, such as condoms and the birth control pill, almost doubled from five percent in 1991 to nine percent in 2009.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐

Thursday
Nov112010

Childhood Weight Bullying May Trigger Eating Disorders in Adulthood, Say Doctors

(PHOENIX) -- Children who are teased about their weight are less likely to have a desire for exercise or physical activity, say doctors at the Remuda Ranch Programs for Eating and Anxiety Disorders.

Particularly during preteen years, children are more susceptible to developing negative self-image, which can last into their adult years.  Consequently, children who are bullied about their weight are more sensitive to "poor body dissatisfaction," say psychologists.

"We know that weight bullying happens to a lot of children," said Dena Cabrera, PsyD, a psychologist and director of educational outreach at Remuda Ranch.  "Bullying can perpetuate the cycle of lack of exercise as well as using food as a source of comfort."

Dr. Cabrera says that the parents' role is crucial in matters of bullying or self image and that parents must work toward "creating a home environment that fosters healthful eating and physical activity."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio ´╗┐







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