Parenting Magazine

What do we want for our girls? Does the media help us decide?

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On a blog somewhere, Jane Quick said “I saw a very interesting documentary the other night about US media and how it portrays women. Among other things it talked about how the media (run mainly by men) pits women against each other to further their own misogynistic agenda.”

I want to see this movie. The way we are as women, and how we are with each other, will affect how we raise our girls. How the media portrays women and young girls affects how our girls view themselves and how we as women view ourselves.

As consumers of media in a very media-heavy period in the history of the world, we as mothers need to be particularly careful about the messages our young girls take in and how we as mothers might also buy into the messages and images the media has to sell.

If we don’t like what the media is selling about what it means to be a girl or a woman we need to teach our girls something different.

From the website of the film Miss Representation:

http://www.missrepresentation.org/the-film/

About the film

“Like drawing back a curtain to let bright light stream in, Miss Representation (90 min; TV-14 DL) uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.

In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.

Stories from teenage girls and provocative interviews with politicians, journalists, entertainers, activists and academics, like Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Margaret Cho, Rosario Dawson and Gloria Steinem build momentum as Miss Representation accumulates startling facts and statistics that will leave the audience shaken and armed with a new perspective.”

If anyone has seen Miss Representation, tell us what it’s about. Tell us what you learned. Tell us how we can join in to fight against the media pitting women against women.

On a different, yet similar note, let’s take a look at what the March 2012 issue of Parenting puts forth as the ideal for very young girls. (In the image above you’ll find a full page devoted to one girl who poses as three different mini Suri Cruise look alikes.)

On a side note, I recently read online that Suri Cruise’s wardrobe consists of several very expensive purses totalling over $100,000. Here’s a link to her carrying one of her expensive handbags. What kind of precedent is being set for other young women when the net total of a toddler’s purses is more than most women’s entire wardrobes?

The Suri Cruise page in Parenting is titled “The Perfect Princess.” What does this say to mothers reading Parenting Magazine? Is it a forum to pit toddler against toddler or mother-of-toddler against mother-of-toddler? Who has the cutest clothes? Who is wearing the most expensive shoes? I can’t say that I’m immune from being caught up in dressing my child up in cute clothes, and part of it is about clout and status. I, too, need to take a look at my own behavior as a mother of a young girl.

But what is the source of it all? Where do we get out ideas about what a toddler NEEDS? Where do we get out our ideas about what it means to be a girl or a woman? There is a larger issue at hand and that involves the media.

The media…yes…did anyone happen to see that Time article called “Are you Mom Enough?” with the picture of the sexy woman breastfeeding her child? Of course, I jest. If you didn’t check it out here. It seems like it is a perfect example of the media throwing out some sort of inflamatory statement to get women arguing with each other and putting each other down. Does that create a situation where men can then sit back and watch while the women go at it? Divide and conquer, right? Oh, and by the way, Parenting is owned by Time Inc. Hmmm…..

So not only are girls well-dressed and sexy, but the women, their mothers, are also putting each other down and are in battle. If that was Time’s goal, mission accomplished.

Can an iTunes App Teach your Child to Speak? Parenting Magazine Thinks So

I was breezing through the March 2012 issue of Parenting Magazine and an article by Amy Beal entitled “Talking Points: The Latest News from the American Academy of Pediatrics” caught my eye. The article is informative enough and gives some good advice on children who may start speaking at a later than average age. Embedded in the article is a brief sentence on advice to parents when there is a concern. The advice is “The best way to encourage speech: talk and read to your child yourself – a lot.” I’m doubtful most parents make it that far into the article.

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This brief sentence buried in the fine print is the best advice that can be given. Children learn to speak by hearing other adults speak and by modeling of speach. The only way children are going to learn to speak is by hearing other people speak. Speaking slowly, mimicking what the child is saying, reinforcing speech through positive reinforcement: these are all ways to help children produce speech. Here’s a good piece on ways to teach your baby language naturally on iVillage published in 2011. (Baby talk: 8 easy and fun ways to improve you baby’s language skills.) The tips include: talking to your baby, respond to your baby’s cries,  have “conversations with your baby,” talk naturally to your baby, extend her language and describe what you see her doing, sing songs, read books, etc. You’ll notice that technology didn’t make its way into the tips.

READING BOOKS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR CHILD’S LANGUAGE SKILLS.

Reading to your child is the greatest predictor of academic success later in life. The more children are read to as young children, the better they do in school later. Make time in your day to read to your child.

As proof of this point, I was just reading in a sociology textbook about children who were not exposed to language for the first several years of their lives. One was the case of a girl who was locked in the attic with her deaf mother for the first six years of her life. Sociologists use this case as an example of understanding that language is not something that will be acquired simply by being born – it must be learned from the environment and particularly from the child’s caregivers.

My Outrage? iPhone as Speech Therapist.

This brief article was an okay overview of speech delays. What outraged me about the page in the magazine was the little “speech bubble” in the upper right hand corner that has a baby pointing to it. The little bubble says “Speech Therapy! Parents are raving about the First Words app. ($2: itunes.com). It is bright, it will capture the reader’s eye and it may be the only thing a reader sees and takes away from this page.

I almost had a heart attack when I saw this bubble. Why on earth is Parenting Magazine promoting an iTunes app to teach your baby to speak, especially given the information that was just provided that tells readers that babies learn to speak from other humans?

Let’s take a look at the many problems in this brief little advertising gimmick:

What is a parent more likely to do? Read the whole article in small print or read the speech bubble that tells you an iTunes app will teach your child to speak?

  1. Is it just me or isn’t it slightly irresponsible for Parenting Magazine to promote a $2.00 iTunes app as “Speech Therapy.”
  2. Apps are super popular, right? If you were a parent of a child with a slight delay in speech, wouldn’t you pick up your iPhone and download the app? What parent wouldn’t? (Well, I wouldn’t but that’s just me and hopefully some other mothers and fathers out there.) The majority would though, I’d bet. I’ve seen a lot of parents  grasp at any straw they can when it comes to a developmental issue with their child.
  3. Doesn’t the green bubble directly contradict what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends? The article and what we know about speech development recommends that parents and other humans teach children to speak, not phones. Any time spent that the child spends looking at an iPhone or some other electronic device is time that is not spent face-to-face with a human being.
  4. Speech therapists are probably not using things like iPhone apps to teach children to learn to speak. When I was observing speech therapists who were working with young children I did not see any electronic devices. (Granted that was 10 years ago, but I doubt things have changed that much, especially when it comes to small children, birth to three.)

As a society we need to separate out the sexy allure of technology from parenting in ways that are natural and proven to be effective. There’s an unethical blending of the two that occurs, particularly in the media.

Years of experience show us that the media is the strongest influence over how a society develops and identifies itself. Let us not be consumed and swayed by that.

If we as consumers of the media fall pray to such irresponsible advertising, especially when it comes to our most precious commodity – our children – then I am very worried about the future. Please act responsibly and be an informed and discriminating consumer of the media. There is no panacea for things like speech delay and speech acquisition. If a $2.00 iTunes app could solve the problems of child speech delays then there would be no need for speech therapists and there would be very few children with speech delays.

It’s a gimmick and it leads parents to believe that technology is the answer…even when it’s not.

Furthermore, wouldn’t you rather teach your child to speak than a telephone app?

I know I would.

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