Flipping through television stations at night with my thirteen-year-old, highly impressionable teenage daughter could be hazardous to her moral compass. I have noticed an increasingly hostile environment to teenage modesty and chastity on the airwaves in the past several years. It turns out I wasn’t just paranoid due the years I spent advising the Chairman of the FCC on indecency issues.
The American Psychological Association recently published a study that suggested the sexualization of teen girls was harming their self-image and healthy development. And this week, the Parents Television Council confirmed my fears in a study about the sexualization of underage girls in many of the most popular television shows during this past season.
A pedophile would certainly be happy with the PTC’s findings, to say the least. Underage females are participating in more sexual situations at a much higher rate than their older, adult female counterparts (47 percent – 29 percent), and only five percent of the time do the underage female characters show any sort of dislike for those situations.
I cringe at the mere thought that my own daughter is being programmed to believe that underage promiscuity is normal or cool, or even worse, what young men are being told is “normal” when it comes to the girls they see everyday. Hollywood has become obsessed with sexualizing our teenage daughters, and sadly, many supposed role models have bought into the detrimental concept.
Exhibit A is Miley Cyrus, who personified the American teen girl in her Hannah Montana television show and was a role model for many tweens. In the past few years, she has seriously crossed the line in a number of very public bad decisions. In 2009, she performed a provocative pole-dance at the Teen Choice Awards. That same year, she posted photos of herself on MySpace half-dressed. Her latest video is so edgy that it’s clear she’s consciously crossed the line to salacious.
Last week she was caught in a scandal involving a new synthetic drug called “salvia,” which is an intense drug that, when smoked, delivers sensations similar to marijuana or even LSD. Miley’s bad decision was caught on camera and uploaded to YouTube for the entire world to see.
But here’s the kicker. Currently, both Wal-Mart and Target are hawking over 50 different kinds of Hannah Montana toys, books, movies, and CDs all for children on their websites. Great. Just in time for Christmas. Maybe they can brand a line of Hannah Montana thongs to display by the Hannah Montana play set.
Hollywood uses kids and then tosses them aside; often so damaged they have difficulty in finding their way. Sometimes, kids from “normal” families make terrible choices and wreck their lives. All of it is horrific and sickening to watch. Good parents zealously guard their kids’ hearts and minds, purposefully teaching them right from wrong and how to discern truth in a culture that rejects it.
In this struggle, it is so unhelpful when broadcasters and companies stop thinking about their customers and promote a product to our kids that has, frankly, become as tainted as any toy with lead paint. In this case, that poisonous product is Miley Cyrus. Disney and others won’t get a call from the Consumer Product Safety Commission about her, but parents should tell them to pull her products from their shelves and airwaves immediately.
Parents need to also take control of what their kids are watching on television. If my daughter and her friends want to watch "Gossip Girl," which recently featured a full on girl-on-girl high school lesbian sex scene she will get a resounding “no” and those shows are password protected in case she is tempted to watch and I am not around.
Yes, I am a "mean" mom but it’s my job and I embrace it without any ambivalence.
Parents are rightfully the first line of defense to our children’s innocence and we need to take back the responsibility of teaching our kids about behaviors that are normal and healthy versus ones that are immoral and hazardous to their emotional, physical and emotional well-being.
Networks, retailers, advertisers, producers, and celebrities have bought into the concept of sexualizing our teen girls and see no problem. Clearly American parents view things differently and now we have the data to confirm our worst fears.
This Christmas season we need to consider the moral implications of the dollars we spend and the entertainment we allow into our homes. If we don’t step up, who will protect our girls?
Penny Nance is CEO of Concerned Women for America.
Penny Young Nance is president and CEO of Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest women’s public policy organization. She is the author of the forthcoming book "Feisty and Feminine: A Rallying Cry for Conservative Women" (Zondervan 2016).