Protecting the innocence of children was once understood by society to be important. Now, children are being systematically attacked by a culture becoming more determined to remove the safe guards necessary to protect children from an adult culture. Childhood must be a time of safety, exploration, and discovery, not a quick transition from childhood to instant adulthood.
Parents face larger obstacles in protecting adolescent innocence today than simply a few girls giggling and talking sex (Ref. Whatever Happened to Training Wheels? Part 1 – Protecting Our Children’s Innocence). Mass media floods the highways, airwaves, and storefronts daily with images that are destroying the innocence of our society. Children’s clothing options, dating/sexual habits, and movie and television choices are comparatively similar to that of adults. Our children are under attack, and protecting their innocence is as out of fashion today as it would be for a man to wear a one piece swimsuit from the 1890’s to the beach.
The prevailing atmosphere regarding children’s innocence is to move them rapidly toward adulthood indoctrination and further away from childhood sheltering. Why? The perceived desire is to evade hypocrisy (one of the last identified evils) by supplanting it with authenticity, truthfulness, and realism. Although this has an appearance of compassion, that of preparing children for a cruel unfair world, in truth, it exchanges the gift of innocence with the ruthlessness of reality.
A few examples of the dismantling of children’s innocence are worth mentioning:
- Children’s Clothing – If you are a parent of a daughter, I don’t need to say much. This fall as my six year old daughter and I shopped for school clothing, I was troubled by the adult nature of the available choices . The clothing was more appropriate for an indiscreet teenager than for a six year old who could still wear some toddler styles. Low cut blouses highlighting cleavage, shorts and skirts too short to modestly cover, and spaghetti strap and midriff t-shirts leaving little to the imagination, were in the majority.
- Dating & Sexual Habits – Dating in 2006 is not what it was even 10 or 15 years ago. Today, it is marked by reckless sexual encounters with some children starting prior to becoming teenagers. Young adults don’t date, they “Hookup.” “Hooking up” is a term for sex, oral or otherwise. A good “hookup” is one not involving feelings. These trends of sexually active children with turned off emotions are a common theme of movies and television programming directly marketed to them. Sexual intercourse continues to be portrayed in ways which robs it of its intimacy and meaning. The effects of this can be directly linked to the explosion of sexual activity among children.
- Movies & Television – A new trend has been developing in movies and television over the past 10 or more years. Family movies and television are hot. You would think that this was good for family and the innocence of children. Wrong! Even though young families desire age appropriate entertainment, what they get is adult content camouflaged as kid friendly. Consider these animated features produced and promoted as kid friendly: The Ant Bully (PG), Barnyard (PG), Antz (PG), Atlantis: The Lost Empire (PG), Bionicle: Mask of Light (PG), Home on the Range (PG), Hoodwinked (PG), Ice Age (PG), Ice Age: The Meltdown (PG), The Incredibles (PG), Lilo & Stitch (PG), Madagascar (PG), Monster House (PG), Open Season (PG), The Powerpuff Girls Movie (PG), The Road to El Dorado (PG), Robots (PG), Rugrats Go Wild (PG), Shark Tale (PG), Shrek (PG), Shrek 2 (PG), South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (R), The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (PG), Titan A.E. (PG), Treasure Planet (PG), The Wild Thornberrys Movie (PG), and Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie (PG). The majority of these movies are PG because of adult humor or violence. Yet, they are animated and promoted as kid movies.
Another area of concern is PG-13 movies. PG-13 was originally promoted as a way of protecting children from inappropriate content. Now, PG-13 is the old R. When PG-13 first started being used, nudity, sex, large amounts of violence, and language were all restricted. Now, brief nudity, sexually explicit content, gore, and the “f” word are becoming more commonplace.
These examples are not a complete list of attempts to subvert children’s innocence, but they are the most prevalent. Exposing children to adult ideas, themes, and content prior to their ability to understand or assimilate what it is they are being exposed to is much like insisting a child carry baggage outweighing them on a 2-1 scale. Robbing children of their childhood in these ways is worst than cruel, it is abuse.
For our children’s sake and for the future of our world, we must protect the innocence of children. Innocence is a wellspring of life. How else does one explain grandfathers wrestling with grandsons in the living room…or grandmothers, who otherwise have difficulty getting out of a chair, finding themselves chasing and catching little ones with giggles and grins? A child’s innocence reminds us of our own childhood. We long to be young again, and through the innocence of their eyes, we are.
Plato said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” This might be true, but I believe instead, youthful innocence is the mother of invention. It is the curiosity, energy, and the innocent courage of the new generation that challenges and invigorates the older one. If these little ones curiosity and innocence were damaged or stolen, then they would be just like most of us older ones, tired, bitter, and worn-out.
No, innocence and youth must be kept together. We need innocence just as much as our children. A world without children would be a dismal place. What would restrain humanity from becoming totally depraved? It is because of the innocence of children that we are reminded of our humanity. And our humanity demands that we protect their innocence.
Even though some believe it is better to take off the training wheels of innocence for the sake of complete realism and authenticity, the reality is children still need their “wheews.” Therefore, it is our responsibility as parents, grandparents, and adults at large to provide that protection.
But how do we do this, where do we start, and how can we become our kids training wheels again? In the third and final installment in this series of articles, I will discuss strategies any parent can employ to protect their children’s innocence. Further, I will tell how to teach your children to detect society’s methods of destroying their innocence. Finally, I will discuss how the world needs examples of families as signs and symbols to remind them of the importance of children, innocence, and family.
Copyright © November 2006 by Taylor W. Kendrick
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