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Sexual Health

Sexuality and the Media: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers

​​​​Connecting with Children

The media sends messages about sexuality, relationships, stereotypes, and body image. Children need to develop skills to understand these messages. Take the time to talk to your children about:

  • family beliefs—so they have a basis to understand the messages
  • the real world—to help them understand what’s fantasy and what’s reality
  • what you expect—so they have rules to live by

Tips for Ta​lking

  • Choose a good time to talk.
  • Talk often.
  • Ask what they think. Try not to lecture.
  • Listen carefully. Make sure you understand questions before you answer them.
  • Set limits about how much screen time is allowed and have consequences if expectations aren’t followed.

Find a Teachable Moment

  • This is an “in the moment” chance to connect an experience (e.g., what was just seen on TV or online) to a family belief, value, or expectation.
  • Spend time together. Watch TV, play games, and do activities with your children.
  • Help children think about and understand media by teaching skills to understand the meaning of what they’re watching.
  • Children learn by example—be a good role model and set limits for your own media use.

Conversation Starters

Talk in a non-judgemental way. Ask open ended questions. Direct questions might stop them from talking. Try starting conversations with:

  • How do you feel about…?
  • What did you think about…?
  • What does our family believe about…?
  • Does what you just saw online happen in real life?
  • Why do you think that topic was presented that way?
  • What will you do if someone sends you a text that upsets you?

Activities to Try with Your Child

Choose a video from YouTube.com to talk about.

  1. Watch the video with the sound off.
  2. Talk about what you saw.
  3. Play the video with the sound on.
  4. Talk about the words and images. Did the words and images send the same message? If not, what were the differences?

(Adapted from Families are Talking, SIECUS 2001)

Choose an advertisement to talk about.

  1. What product is this ad selling?
  2. What does this product actually do?
  3. What do the images make you think the product can do?
  4. What is the underlying messaging that’s being given?
  5. How does this message compare to your own beliefs?

(Adapted from teachingsexualhealth.ca)

Children and Teens are Connected to the Media

  • Media is anything that communicates meaning (e.g., TV, online, music, videos, books, magazines, radio, and advertising).
  • Children 8 to 18 years old spend about 7½ hours a day using technology and media (Common Sense Media, 2015).
  • In one week, children spend more time in front of screens than their parents spend at work (Participaction, 2012).

Other Facts

  • Research has shown that seeing sex in the media is linked to having sexual intercourse for the first time at an earlier age.
  • Talking about sex leads to healthier decision making. It also helps them resist peer pressure.
  • In Canada, children and teens rank school, friends, and parents as the most valuable sources of sexual health information.

For More Information

  • Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868

Current as of: November 24, 2017

Author: Sexual & Reproductive Health, Alberta Health Services