By Anne Collier
Tshaka Armstrong, the dad behind a southern California tech-parenting help business called DigitalShepherds.com, clearly has put a lot of thought into teaching his daughter traditional media literacy in a very current way (I say “current” because it’s media lit customized as you go – based on his daughter’s current celebrity favorites – and “traditional” because it’s critical thinking focused more on what’s incoming than outgoing). Speaking of sexualized pop culture in general, Armstrong writes: “There were the Vanessa Hudgens nude cellphone pics, there was A Night In Paris and the Kim Kardashian and Ray J sex tapes. Rihanna had nude cellphone pics, as well as some gal who was part of one of P. Diddy’s girl groups.” With a healthy dose of realism, he adds that “kids talk, so even if you keep these things off your computer and off your TV, your kids will find out about them.” Exactly.
Certainly “it’s ‘good PR’,” he says, referring to young celebrities acting out sex-object roles as they head into adulthood, wanting “be taken seriously by directors for roles which may get a PG13 rating or better.” Ok, good for the celebs, bad for “trying to raise emotionally healthy girls.” Here’s the best part, the real media lit training that I hope increasingly goes on in homes as well as schools (where it obviously can’t be as explicit, but it can and must be done because critical thinking about what we’re posting and uploading as much as consuming and downloading in today’s user-driven media environment is protective as well as empowering):
“What I’ve done at various stages,” Armstrong writes, “is speak to my daughter about what she’s seeing take place, speaking with her very candidly about what she’s hearing. I’ve spoken to her about these celebs becoming women and wanting to be sexy and how the world watches that and puts it on public display. I’ve made it a point to talk to her about how that’s a media phenomenon and not something that works in ‘real life.’ Girls who share their sexuality like that are labeled ‘easy’ or sluts in school. Very few girls want to be like the girl that the whole football team has run through unless it’s glamorized on TV somehow…. I know that if I’m not real with her, I’m ultimately crippling her and forcing her to get her reality somewhere else.” He goes on, and reading his whole post is worth your while, fellow parents, if you’re struggling for the right words.