Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Or will they? Since my article in the Enquirer on inappropriate dancing at jr. high mixers ("We have a responsibility to guide children" - June 2, 2008 - also posted on blog below) I have become somewhat of a dance crasher. Last weekend I slipped into another dance as the song "Let It Rock" was starting to the roar of delighted tweens and teens. I couldn't tell whether it was the edited version or not, but it doesn't matter; the kids know and enthusiastically sing the explicit version. If you're not familiar with the lyrics, they include "Panties drop. And the tops. And she gunna rock 'til the camera stop" - and becomes even more explicit. Not nearly as explicit as last years' seventh and eighth grade dance hit "Crank That Soulja Boy". (Do yourself a favor and Google the lyrics to that song!)
Words may not be all that can hurt our children; after all, a picture is worth a thousand words. One glance at any Myspace site and you're sure to cringe. The big trend now is to take a photo of yourself from above as to highlight your cleavage, some including peeping nipples. And it get worse. It's popular, seemingly legal, and no exaggeration, kiddy porn.
It's no wonder children are sending each other nude photos over their cell phones, and jig humping each other on the dance floor. I'm going to say what I said before, "I just don't get it."
The good news is, parents can make a difference. A few months ago I was invited to meet the head chaperone at a jr. high dance, whom I had sent my article. I was a little nervous and feeling a bit like Dana Carvey's character, The Church Lady. The chaperone's warm welcome and and even warmer smile was a relief. In fact all the parents involved were very upbeat. One of them had a sign pinned to his back that read "Zero tolerance for inappropriate dancing!!" There were similar signs on the DJ's desk, and the DJ announced it throughout the night. How did the children react? They said it was no fun. Was attendance down at the next dance? No, in fact it was up.
The best advice I ever received from a veteran parent was to "keep your kids close". Knowing where they are, what they're listening to, and watching is crucial to their emotional health. I check my children's phones and websites frequently. This formable time in their lives is not a time to give them their privacy or give in to trends. In spite of the initial reaction you'll get from them, they'll not only thrive on, but crave boundaries. All children want is to have a little fun, and be safe in the process. Many parents came up to me and thanked me for my previous article, and that felt great. But what really made my efforts worthwhile was when an eighth grade girl thanked me. Now that's what it's all about.