As an educator in private Christian schools, I got it from both sides:

  • Proponents of government schooling claimed that our students were too sheltered; and
  • Proponents of home schooling claimed that our students were too exposed to social influences.

Now a study has been released with an interesting take on the issue.  Admittedly, the survey group is small, and the article does not provide enough information on which to base definitive conclusions; but what has come out is fascinating and potentially instructive.

Six- to nine-year-old girls were given a variety of dolls and told to pick the ones that they liked the most, or which represented what they wanted to be, or would be considered the most popular.  No surprise–about 70% chose the sexualized doll dressed in tight and revealing clothing as what they wanted to look like, and what they thought would be the most popular.

Here’s the interesting part:  the researchers divided the children on the basis of whether or not their mothers were religious.  Some of the children of religious mothers were less likely to choose the sexualized dolls, while others overwhelmingly did choose them.  The difference?  Exposure to media.

Daughters (of religious mothers) who were exposed to “…a lot of media” were less likely to choose the sexy doll;  similar daughters who were not exposed to media “overwhelmingly” chose the worldly image The conclusion of the researchers? 

The study also found that girls who consumed a lot of media but had religious mothers were less likely to choose the sexy doll, likely because their mothers held more conservative values such as modesty, the publication reported. But girls with religious mothers who did not consume a lot of media overwhelmingly did choose the sexy doll, in what the authors called a case of “forbidden fruit” that the girls idealized due to a lack of exposure to it, LiveScience reported.

It would seem from this study that children who were aware of the evil and were inoculated against it by proper biblical teaching turned out better than those who received the teaching alone without the context of the exposure.

So should we let out kids wallow in the muck of media licentiousness so that we can teach them more effectively?  Certainly not.  The study did not follow these pre-adolescent girls into their teen years or adulthood to find out how these childhood perceptions affected later thinking or behavior;  and another study showed that exposure to sexual media in the teen years had dramatic negative effects on attitude and behavior (potentially undermining any previously established convictions to the contrary).

My conclusion?  We should teach our children to be in the world but not of the world while they still admire and listen to their parents; and we should keep our teens busy and shielded through those years when they seem to be least receptive to parental instruction.

What was the most revealing conclusion of the first study?  Baptists, close your ears!  Girls who were in dance classes were LEAST likely to choose the sexualized dolls, perhaps because of healthier and more realistic perceptions of body image.

Parents, we have a hard enough job to do without losing our kids in their pre-teen years.  Wisdom says we should follow His Word and knowledge; and if the information in this blog causes you to stop and think about your parenting strategies, then my job is done.  For now.