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Taking Back Childhood


By Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H.

Do you ever lament because your child is wise beyond his or her years, and not in a good way? Perhaps your 5 year old son came off the bus one day talking about how “hot” a classmate was, or your 7 year old asked you what it meant to be a virgin. Did your 11 year old ask you to buy her a push up bra with matching thong panties? Today’s children seem to know more about adult topics than previous generations, but it doesn’t mean that they are more knowledgeable about these issues or mature enough to understand them.

Children are regularly subjected to inappropriate content through the media and popular culture. Bad behavior, bad language, violence, sexual acts, and drug use are just some of the things children are exposed to through movies, television, music, toys, clothes and magazines. They have access to the Internet and may accidentally or intentionally uncover sexually explicit, inaccurate, and harmful material.

More and more children are being sexualized by the media, and targeted by advertisers forcing adult content on children at younger and younger ages, robbing children of their childhood and their innocence.

You can’t very easily eliminate all exposure to inappropriate or adult messages, but there is a lot you can do to delay or minimize it so that children are experiencing these messages when they are older and better equipped to process them.

  1. Develop rules and routines for screen time
  2. Learn about and use rating systems to decide what is appropriate
  3. Balance screen time with other activities
  4. Be aware of the media and popular culture in your child’s life
  5. Create open lines of communication with your child from an early age
  6. Encourage Play

Family Health and Wellness educators recently presented a two day professional training on this topic. On May 18th the Family Health and Wellness program will be presenting “Bringing Back Childhood”, a parent education program addressing these issues in more detail. “Bringing Back Childhood” will be held from 7:00 – 9:00p.m. in our Diabetes and 4-H Education Center at the Suffolk County Farm in Yaphank.  If you would like to attend, be sure to register with Jane Juran at 727-7850 x 340.

Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H., is a Human Development Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 330 or at


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