Monday, December 17, 2012

Sex Texting

A six month investigation into the sexual habits of teenagers (Channel 4 and NSPCC), has reported its findings on what the “average young teenager in an average school faces on a day-to-day basis”.

One thing that stands out in the report is the fact that sex texting, the sending of naked photos (self) to others, has become “normal” practise among many secondary school pupils.

Quotes from teenagers interviewed included:

“I get asked for naked pictures on blackberry messenger at least two or three times a week”.

“You would've seen the girl’s breasts before you have seen her face in person”.

The report also highlighted the reality that modern technology (smart phones and computers) has moved teenage sexual exploration a million miles away from the old system; where a boy (usually) eventually plucked up the courage to approach a girl and together, they developed a face to face relationship, with all the associated awkwardness. This step by step very personal approach has been replaced with a technology driven bravado and (for many) a complete lack of inhibitions.

“The change we have seen is a shift away from an exchange within a relationship", said Professor Andy Phippen (University of Plymouth), "[to deciding] whether or not I want to go out with you depending on what you are willing to do before the relationship starts. There is a new era of flirting”.

A teenager agreed:

"There are less relationship based on feelings it's more about your hot …I’m hot, let’s see what we can do. It’s based around the bodies more than what is inside".

As well as the obvious sexual and relationship fundamentals of sex texting, teenagers also commented on body image aspects of the practice. Two boys made the following statements:

"Grown-ups think that it is the girls that are pressured, because they see the Sun’s page 3 girls and porn, but there is equal pressure to boys and equal demands".

"Boys are put under pressure to get photos of girls to have muscles and to look a certain way”.

The sex texting phenomenon does naturally lead to the question “what can/should we do about it”?

"Society needs to except that it happens and be more resilient about what we are going to do about it”, said Professor Phippen. “Both the adult population and the younger population need to acknowledge it happens and not go into hysteria, just because it's happening in your school. It is happening in all schools. I don't think a knee jerk reaction of banning and confiscation will make any difference whatsoever, I think what young people need is awareness and support".

As parents, we naturally want to protect our children from activities like sex texting that speeds up their journey into adulthood. We cannot control everything teenagers do, particularly when they are out of sight.

The best parents can do, is to foster an honest and open relationship with their teenagers (if possible) and educate them, so that they are equipped to make good informed choices.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rise in self harming calls to ChildLine

Issues that have been highlighted in the last few days are a real cause for concern.

ChildLine’s annual report has revealed an overall increase in the number of calls they receive annually, which includes a 68% increase (highest increase), in the number of children, predominantly girls, seeking help for self harming. Some were already self harming, while others were seriously thinking about starting.

Children of varying ages were impacted by the issue; 14-year-olds were particularly affected. In response to the calls for help, ChildLine conducted 16,000 self-harm related counselling sessions.

Sue Minto, head of ChildLine, surmised that teenager’s inability to deal with the daily stresses in their lives was behind the increase. The emotional health issues had many causes, such as relationships, violence, alcohol and bullying; however family problems were identified as the principal issue.

Ms Minto also corrected the misconception that self harm was an attention seeking activity, by stating that most self harming was done in secret and was a "coping mechanism".

Along with the increase in self harming, calls about potential suicides also so an annual increase (39%).

"Contacts about self-harm and suicide are growing areas of concern for us. It seems the pressures facing children and young people, particularly girls, are increasing at such a rate that some of them see these drastic measures as the only answer to their problems.

“We know that boys are suffering, but they are less likely to seek help and we urge them to do so”, she said.

Bulling was identified as the problem that received the second highest number of calls.

Sue Minto speculated that the pervasiveness of modern communication e.g. mobile phones (texting) and social networks made it difficult for individuals to escape and switch off.

"It's very unforgiving for young people," she said.
Depression ranked in the top five issues affecting 16 and 17 year olds.
Fortunately, physical and sexual abuse declined overall, however sexual abuse is still of considerable concern for older age groups.

ChildLine statistics:
   1.2 million calls (in total)
   1.85 million visits to it’s website
   50% are age 12 to 15
   30% are age 16 to 18 year olds
   20% are age 11 and under


Monday, December 10, 2012

Anne Hathaway - Is my body the right shape?

Like many of you; I have been a fan of the stage play Les Misérables for many years. I’m really looking forward to seeing Tom Hooper's musical, when it is released next month.

In the build-up to Les Misérables release, two stories about Anne Hathaway, who plays tragic heroine Fantine, caught my eye.

The first relates to her body image insecurities, that she outlined in a Glamour Magazine interview.

In the interview Anne confesses:

“I still feel the stress over, ‘Am I thin enough? Am I too thin? Is my body the right shape?’

“There's an obsessive quality to it that I thought I would've grown out of by now. It's an ongoing source of shame for me,” she admitted.

Anne lays the blame firmly at the door of her fame.

“I just think about the ridicule you get if you have an off day….. I actually really don't feel like getting made fun of,” she stated. Adding: “So I put on something boring and navy and go out and try to disappear.”

The second story illustrates Anne’s high level of professionalism, particularly after taking the comments above into account. In her endeavour to deliver an authentic performance, Anne went the extra mile by shedding almost 2 stones and cutting off her long hair, despite initially saying “Noooo!” to the request, because it meant she would have very short hair for her September wedding to Adam Shulman.

"And then”, she explained. “I just thought, it'll be truthful, I'll be who I am when I get married and who I am is an actor and what I do is transform when the occasion arises so I tried to minimise that drama in my own head."


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Kylie - "gravity has taken hold"

Beauty, youth and talent are the main ingredients that together made Kylie Minogue an international star. Her face and petite (5 ft) body has been photographed countless times and adorned the front pages of magazines around the world.

In a frank interview, that will appear in January’s issue of ELLE UK (available in shops from Wednesday 5 December), Kylie (44) discusses the loss of one of ingredients identified above, namely her youth. She shot to fame at the young age of 19 in 1987, with the release of her Stock Aitken and Waterman song, ‘I Should be So Lucky’.

In the interview, Kylie says, “'I am not going to lie about this. There are lots of times I look in the mirror and I see that gravity has taken hold. Or suddenly see my face on a phone or on Skype and it’s like a Spielberg special effect and you just scream, ‘Who is that?’ ”

She goes on to divulge the fact that she often forgets her true age and find herself contemplating wearing clothes that she no longer considers age/body appropriate.

“Sometimes I forget (I am 44) and I think, "I must get those hot pants out of retirement.

“And then some mornings I look in the mirror and I see 94 not 44. That is the reality before the make-up. And midriff tops are definitely out for good.”

Kylie also admitted that she would consider cosmetic surgery, in a bid to maintain a youthful appearance.

“I am not against surgery, I haven’t gone down that route yet, I don’t know whether I will but I am not against it. The only time it isn’t amazing is when it’s not done well or someone takes it too far.

“I look at someone like Jane Fonda (74). I am a super-fan of hers. She doesn’t apologise (about her surgery) and she shouldn’t have to. We put make-up on every day, we tint, pluck, wax, we do anything to make ourselves look as good as we can and I think it’s pointless being hypocritical about something that if it’s done well can be really good”.


Monday, December 03, 2012

The dangers of pro ana websites

A new report titled, ‘Virtually Anorexic - Where's The Harm?’ has been published. It highlights the dangers of pro ana websites, that encourage their readers to “starve for perfection”.

University Campus Suffolk researchers, who conducted the study, frequently encountered pro ana sites that promoted a “ thinspiration" mentality as well as extreme weight loss diets (400-500 calories a day supported by coffee, cigarettes and diet pills) and eating disorders.

Researchers soon realised that the regularity of visits by thousands of young girls to 400 - 500 (the figure is much larger if you take blogs, video and image sites into account) predominantly social sites, enabled them to wield significant influence. E.g. obtain support via an “anabuddy" or share tips such as how to hide eating regimes.

Currently in the UK, approximately 1.6 million people (National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence) are affected by an eating disorder; 11% are male.

In a statement, Dr Emma Bond senior lecturer in childhood and youth studies), who authored the report, made the following recommendations, that she hopes will bring about positive change:

“People, especially parents and teachers need to increase their awareness so that young people can be helped. We need to encourage young people to develop critical media literacy skills and the media should be more responsible in not publishing pictures of very thin models and celebrities because young people wish to emulate them.

"Eating disorders are not going away, if anything they are becoming more common. We need to alert people to the dangers of harmful content on the Internet. Everyone needs to understand better the risks online and the harm that eating disorders can do to young people.”