In the last few days social media has exploded with rants about the Miley’s performance at the VMA’s. Bloggers have expressed opinions about the raunchy nature of the performance ranging from “she should be ashamed”, to “her parents should be ashamed”, to “the entire world should be ashamed”. While I don’t dispute that it was pretty over the top, I think we are missing a big part of the problem. Instead of blasting Miley and saying she is the downfall of society we should all be asking if she is setting the tone or reflecting it.

I mean really, who still thinks that teenagers don’t push the envelope? It happens to all of us. It becomes more obvious when the person is already living closer to adulthood than childhood. This is where most of us are blaming her early rise to a superstar and the adults that managed her career. But despite our short term memory lapse, Miley’s attempts to act older than her age didn’t start after her show ended. Have you ever watched an episode of Hannah Montana with a critical eye? Or, to be fair, any show aimed a tweens and young teens. Check out the hair, make up and clothes. Most of the characters dress like college kids, not the 13 year olds that they are portraying. Are we letting our kids think that is what we expect of them?

Even more worrisome is the over the top sarcasm and rudeness in their words. Most dialogue consists of  a series of punch lines meant to humiliate their friends and any adult that happens to be standing nearby. If I remember correctly, as a teen I was drawn to a bad attitude, I didn’t need my TV heroes encouraging me to go there in elementary school. The people our kids look up to are caricatures that come with their own laugh track and most of the time they are really mean. If we give our kids permission to be jerks it seems a little ridiculous to be upset that they turn out to be jerks.

Please don’t fool yourself and think this issue is limited to girls. Boys get pushed in the preteen years too. The amount of violence and “tough guy” or “be a stud” crap out there is ridiculous. The world tells us that sex and violence sell and they’re right in a big way. Because we keep buying it. The marketing is so pervasive that parents help sell it to our own kids.  Don’t believe me? What products do you have sitting around your house that draw you in with fantasies about sex or violence?

What about books Fifty Shades of Grey? Hunger Games? Twilight?

What about cosmetics and self care products? Big Sexy Hair? Axe body wash?

Magazines that always feature sex? Cosmo? Glamour? Men’s Fitness? Victoria’s Secret catalogs?

What about movies? TV shows? Music? There are way to many genres to get into in this blog.

When our 8 year old son wants to play Call of Duty because a bunch of his friends do, we have to say no. We also have to teach our daughters to be confident in all of their abilities, not the their level of sensuality. It breaks my heart to see 13 year olds at the park working each other like drunk clubbers.

The take away from this public conversation should be that the world is telling our kids they have to be sexy or be alone. Boys have to be aggressive and pushy and girls have to wear their sexuality out in the open for anyone to take them seriously. As grown ups we are supposed to be the voice of reason telling our daughters to they can be beautiful, strong, and confident without being skanky. Our boys need to know that men can be strong leaders without being bullies who are hyper focused on sexual fulfillment.  We must encourage our boys to not be hardened by the world. We must tell our girls to wait for the suggestive clothes, high heels, and heavy make up. Chances are pretty good they’ll test those waters when they get older and as parents we will have to ride that out.

It is OK to feel sad for Miley’s recent choices, but we should also feel the same way about the kids in our neighborhoods. We have to accept that it is our responsibility to tell kids when something is not appropriate. Setting age-appropriate boundaries will not stifle their creativity or create a mindless robot. What is will do is let them have a healthy view of where they fit in our world. Hopefully it will also allow them to create an identity strong enough to say no to people who try to define them by their sexuality.

Copyright 2014 AngelaJHerrington