Communicating openly with children to counteract negative cultural messages

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Communicating openly with children to counteract negative cultural messages

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Marketers have found that babies, at the age of six months, can recognize corporate logos, so that's the age at which they're starting to target our children. So we need to start talking to our children when they're toddlers, talking about body parts and using the right names for them and answering questions in an appropriate age-appropriate way. The single most important thing that parents can do regardless of the problem, sexualization, drug abuse, anything, is to have honest open conversations with their children. That's very important to create an atmosphere in which the child feels completely safe coming to you with any kind of question or any kind of problem and will know that he or she won't be shamed or made to feel as if it's inappropriate to be asking those questions. And if you can establish that kind of environment where your child feels that kind of safety and comfort in talking with you, then you can deal with any problem that the culture throws at you. So when it comes to sexualization, what's important is to be able to talk with your kids about sex early on, really early on. So it's important to have these kinds of conversations, it's also important to bring things up. So to watch television, for example, with your children and if there's something that seems inappropriate to you, and there will be, to ask them, "How does that make you feel?" and then to encourage them to talk to you further about it. Of course, it's important for parents to do all they can with our own individual children. It's also important to recognize that we're raising our children in what I call a toxic cultural environment, an environment that surrounds them with very unhealthy messages constantly. And when people say, corporations say that it's just up to parents, don't let your kids watch this stuff or something like that, that really is like saying, "Well, if the air is poisoned, don't let your kids breathe." You know, it's impossible for parents to save our children sort of child by child, house by house. We need to work together to create a much healthier, safer environment for all of our children.

Learn about: Communicating openly with children to counteract negative cultural messages from Jean Kilbourne, EdD,...

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Jean Kilbourne, EdD

Author & Social Theorist

Jean Kilbourne is internationally recognized for her groundbreaking work on the image of women in advertising and her critical studies of alcohol and tobacco advertising. Her films, lectures, and television appearances have been seen by millions of people throughout the world. She was named by The New York Times Magazine as one of the three most popular speakers on college campuses.

She is the author of the award-winning book Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel and So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids. The prize-winning films based on her lectures include Killing Us Softly, Spin the Bottle, and Slim Hopes. She is a frequent guest on radio and television programs, including “The Today Show” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” She has served as an advisor to the Surgeon General and has testified for the U.S. Congress. She holds an honorary position as Senior Scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

According to Susan Faludi, “Jean Kilbourne’s work is pioneering and crucial to the dialogue of one of the most underexplored, yet most powerful, realms of American culture —advertising. We owe her a great debt.” A member of the Italian Parliament said, “Hearing Jean Kilbourne is a profound experience. Audiences leave her feeling that they have heard much more than another lecture, for she teaches them to see themselves and their world differently.”

She has received many awards, including the Lecturer of the Year award from the National Association for Campus Activities. A more unusual tribute was paid when an all-female rock group in Canada named itself Kilbourne in her honor.

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