Michael Overall: Sexualized world cuts into innocence of children
Feb 11, 2013 (Tulsa World - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Last month in London, a 13-year-old girl leaned out of a window four-stories high to talk to a boy who had just left her apartment.
"How much can I handle " she yelled, according to press reports. "I beg you, delete that."
The boy allegedly pressured Chevonea Kendall-Bryan into doing something that nobody her age ought to be doing, and nobody of any age ought to be recording on a cellphone.
By the time he reached the sidewalk, his friends were already watching a clip on their own phones.
Chevonea threatened to jump if he didn't take it off-line. But she slipped and lost her balance, desperately trying not to fall, according to eye-witness reports.
Chevona hit the sidewalk 60 feet below. And her death has focused the British media on a new kind of child pornography, produced and distributed by children themselves.
"Parents would be really shocked to know this is happening in pretty much every school in the country," Claire Perry, the prime minister's newly appointed adviser on the sexualization of children, told a London newspaper.
"Our children are growing up in a very sexualized world."
Notice that she said "world."
American parents would be hopelessly naive to think it's not happening on this side of the Atlantic, too.
It's just not getting the front-page attention that Chevonea's death attracted in Britain, where the tabloids love a salacious story.
And the details of her final days are salacious, indeed -- involving late-night parties and at least two partners. It's enough, one commentator wrote, "to make a '70s porn star blush."
But British teens keep telling the media that Chevonea's experience wasn't unusual, which makes it even more shocking.
Members of Parliament are blaming "the ubiquity of adult content" and the easy access to it for "shifting the idea of what is normal."
Half of all teenagers -- not just boys -- watch pornography online, and more than a third have exchanged explicit texts and emails, according to the British government.
Yet only 30 percent of parents actively monitor their teenager's online activity, and only 50 percent have installed an Internet filter to block explicit content.
There's no reason to think American parents are more diligent.
Now Parliament is looking at ways to block adult sites on public Wi-Fi, and to require Internet providers to verify a user's age.
But that won't stop kids from making their own "adult" content.
One British reporter found a boy who had explicit photos of 30 different "girlfriends" on his phone.
Who knows how many of them have thought about jumping out a window
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