PHILADELPHIA, May 2, 2017 — One of the barriers to parent-child discussions about sexuality and gender is that parents are uncertain just how to talk to their children about that delicate topic. Outcomes from healthy discussions have been shown by research to be positive for the children and for the parent-child relationship.
A logical conclusion is that parents need more easily available materials, produced by qualified experts, to serve as catalysts for talks on sex and other tough topics.
Unfortunately, not all of the materials available for parents via the media are produced with the care necessary to achieve desirable outcomes.
A case in point is a segment on gender and sexuality produced by SheKnows Media’s “Hatch Program.” The video, which is set to be distributed to 45 million parents, as well as to CNN for further distribution, was produced with scant oversight from experts in the fields of child and adolescent health.
An interview with Samantha Skey, the CMO of SheKnows Media, revealed that experts in education and child psychology were consulted only to approve the topic. They were never asked to participate in the creation of the scripts, nor did they oversee work with the children during production.
When the segment was analyzed by child and adolescent therapists, their opinions varied in the extreme. While they all approved the topic as timely and important, they deemed the nuts and bolts of the segment an inadequate model for parents.
“Clearly, the objective of the producers is to expand tolerance and acceptance. I don’t think this video necessarily achieves its goal,” says Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, author of “The Self-Aware Parent”, and co-star on Sex Box, WE tv.
Gayani DeSilva, M.D., who has trained in psychiatry and in child and adolescent psychiatry, sees chldren and adults and works closely with the LGBTQ community and says,
“I believe children will not be interested or learn much from this video in it’s current form.”
Bruce Cameron LPC, LSOTP Licensed Counselor who has worked with gender dysphoria and body dysmorphia in teens for many years sees it as “clearly a political ad and nothing that is borne out of scientific inquiry or legitimate study.”
Specific criticisms of the film stemmed back to not illustrating the how to of talking to children properly. Dr. Stephanie O’Leary, clinical psychologist, author of “Parenting in the Real World”, and Founder and Director of Westchester Psychological Services in Mt. Kisco, NY commented,
“I think that it may be challenging for children to be presented with questions that are hard to answer, even for some adults, and especially related to a topic that is evolving so quickly. It may be more developmentally appropriate to validate confusion around gender roles and some of the terminology presented, and provide specific facts in a simple format.”
Cameron concurred that,
“The kids seemed confused. They can barely conjugate verbs much less understand every combination and permutation of gender speak.”
Dr. DeSilva similarly noted,
“The vocabulary is too presumptive. The age range of 8 to 12-year-olds featured in the film do not think of themselves as male or female, they think of themselves as a boy or a girl, with “boy parts” and “girl parts”, not “reproductive organs”. This age range does not understand the meaning of “attraction”. They are more likely to understand “liking a boy or girl in a romantic way”. The vocabulary needs to be more descriptive and in the language that kids actually use.”
While opinions varied on whether it was important to have a licensed therapist as the actual host of the film, Hennessy is not, nearly every expert interviewed agreed with Dr. Walfish’s commentary that, “
“…the parents of the children should be present to participate and absorb the same educational information. When parents are exposed to the same information, they have the golden opportunity to help their kids’ process complex ideas and complicated content.”
It should be noted that SheKnows Media did obtain the consent of the parents for all children who participated in the film but chose not to have them involved in the filmed discussion. In light of the expert feedback received it’s also interesting to note the caption SheKnows chose for the video on YouTube:
“In our latest workshop, we sat down with our Hatch Tweens and gender expert, Hennessy, to normalize the conversation on gender issues and close the knowledge gap on the appropriate terminology – because if you’re going to talk about it, you should use the right words.”
As members of an advanced society, we all may agree that educating children on a variety of timely topics is important. However, in a day and age of social media with turn-style guidance available on nearly everything, parents may need to use an intense eye of scrutiny before receiving guidance from the internet.
While life hack videos on YouTube may be a wonderful resource for fixing an appliance they may not always be the best guide for cultivating an informed and well-adjusted member of society.
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