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Getting Curious; how the skill of guided curiosity can protect our kids from today’s sexualized culture

The ONE simple skill that will enable our children to resist the temptations of today’s sexualized culture: Getting curious through the skill of critical reflection.

We already know that it is no longer a matter of if our kids become exposed to pornographic content, but when – and that’s not an encouraging thought by any means!  But what is encouraging is the knowledge that there are ways we can get the front foot in helping our children safely navigate their way through the hyper-sexualized world we live in today.

In this post, I will highlight ONE simple tool you can begin using with your child today as a way to help build resilience and resistance to pornographic content… and the best part? It’s so much fun!

The POWER of curiosity through reflection

Our love of visual content has seen a rapid increase of social media activity with more than 3 billion people across the globe each month now actively using platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat.

It is incredibly easy to mass consume content without even giving a second thought to what we’re letting into our minds. Have you ever found yourself scrolling through Pinterest or Instagram and before you know it an entire hour (or let’s be honest – hours) have passed by?

The POWER of getting curious through reflection creates space to pause and consider the effects, both positive and negative, of all the content we are letting into our lives each day.  

With all the harmful messages mass media portray today and the sexualized images ourselves and our kids are being exposed to, we need to practice the skill of getting curious through reflection as a way to better understand ourselves and our experiences of the world around us.

Our kids are naturally curious and as parents that often feels like more of a burden than a blessing. However, there are ways we can tap into this natural curiosity and guide their questioning as a way to help our children understand more about the content they are exposed to and learn how to question it in a healthy and safe way.

 

Fun ways to practice critical reflection in our everyday lives

So how do we incorporate this one simple tool into our daily life?

Here is an example I use often:

Take any advertisement you are seeing a lot of lately and invite your family to practice getting curious by applying the 5W’s: What. Where. When. Why. Who.

    • What is happening in this advertisement?
    • What product is being promoted here?
    • Where is this product available?
    • When was this ad created? When did I see it last? Is it still relevant?
    • Why does this product exist? Why are the models dressed and/or acting the way they are?
    • Who is the creator of this advertisement? Who is this ad targeting?

Maggie, a mother of three teenage daughters, used the 5W’s recently to practice reflection with her family on an advertisement for a popular tanning product. Here’s what she shared:  

“An advertisement for a tanning product came up for what seemed like the hundredth time while we were watching one of our favorite TV shows as a family after dinner. We decided to use the 5W’s as a way to practice ‘getting curious’. What we learned through sharing with each other was astounding! One of my daughters asked, ‘Why do people have this obsession with looking bronzed?’ to which my other daughter responded with, ‘Yeah it’s crazy, people in Asia go to so much effort to look whiter!’

What we were able to acknowledge together from just one question being asked was that the beauty industry doesn’t actually care what color our skin is. They just want to sell their product. While this isn’t rocket science, it certainly brought to the forefront of our minds that we don’t always have to ‘buy in’ to the standard that beauty advertisers are setting for us today”.

You would be surprised to see how much interesting discussion this opens up over a family dinner or in a TV ad break!

If this level of understanding can be achieved by asking one question, imagine the conversations that will open up for you and your family when applying this simple tool to ALL the content we are exposed to each day.

This is just one of the ways we can practice getting curious in a healthy and safe way. And this doesn’t have to be serious. Guided reflection can actually be a lot of fun! Do it as a family like Maggie, or with friends. Make it part of dinner conversation or as an icebreaker at work. Find ways to talk about the latest TV series by asking questions with your friends and family like:

    • “What are your thoughts about the show?
    • “What messages do you think the director is trying to communicate?’
    • “What do you think would happen if we acted this way in real life?”
    • “Do you know anyone who is like these characters?”
    • “How would living this way affect us as a family or community?”

You can also turn this into a game! Challenge your family to think up as many questions as possible about a particular product, advertisement, TV show, or even a music video. The person with the most questions wins!

 

So, how will the practice of reflection through curiosity protect our children?

Consider how easy it is for advertisers to influence our behavior to buy a product with just a short television commercial, for instance – as mentioned previously, feeling the need to buy a tanning product to get that bronzed look advertisers are telling us we need. Similarly, a very brief viewing of sexualized content can influence a child’s attitudes about sex, about their own bodies, and how to treat the people around them. In research on how pornography harms children the American Bar Association states:

“Excessive media use, particularly where the content is violent, gender-stereotyped, and/or sexually explicit, skews children’s world view, increases high-risk behaviors, and alters their capacity for successful and sustained human relationships.”

Empirical studies of all stripes show, that our young people struggle with decisions made in the heat of the moment. We know through the science of childhood development that the ‘thinking’ part of our brain, otherwise known as the pre-frontal cortex, isn’t fully developed until our mid to late 20’s.

So making decisions as a young person can, as I’m sure you’ve witnessed more than once as a parent, look quite impulsive and not fully thought through for our young people.

But, here’s the interesting part. When it comes to decisions that allow our children time for reflection, evidence suggests a young person’s skills can be on-par with a fully-grown adult!

Getting curious through reflection is a simple tool we can easily implement throughout our day to day lives as a way to get the front foot on how our children will process and react to the harmful content they are exposed to.  

The more we encourage and practice healthy curiosity in the lives of our children the easier it will be for them to ask themselves the same questions whenever they are exposed to questionable or harmful content.

When healthy questioning becomes second nature our children are less likely to be affected by the harmful content saturating our world today. Curiosity through reflection builds resilience and resistance by fostering healthy and informed decision making, especially when it comes to what we click on or continue watching. Reflection through guided curiosity helps us form our own observations, judgments and informed responses to the content we are exposed to on a daily basis.

Take-away action points

    • Start practicing guided curiosity on current advertisements by using the 5W’s: What. Where. When. Who. Why.
    • Make the most of family dinner times, TV ad breaks or traveling to and from school or the shops to open up space for reflection discussions on all that has been viewed in the day.
    • Look for opportunities to practice this outside of your family. Use the 5W’s as an icebreaker at work, or through conversations with friends by unpacking the latest movie.
    • Above all – HAVE FUN! Getting curious opens up the space to have many interesting conversations and learn more about ourselves and the people around us. So enjoy the process!
Since 2014 Renee Chopping has been an advocate of child’s rights through her work within the anti-trafficking sector as Director of Aftercare Operations for Destiny Rescue International, and as an international educator of online safety, sexuality, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence. Renee’s passion and life’s work is in equipping and empowering communities across the globe with the tools necessary to safeguard themselves and live with increased resilience amidst today’s ever-changing culture.

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