How The Media Is Sexualising Your Children

Teen idol Miley Cyrus, caused controversy at the MTV Video Music Awards earlier this year with a raunchy performance with Robin Thicke – which saw her shaking her bottom while thrusting her hips. Along with her explicit music video ‘Wrecking Ball’, this has led media commentators to wonder if she is the new Madonna.

Explicit adolescence
In 2006 Cyrus rose to prominence after being cast in the Disney Channel television series ‘Hannah Montana’, in which she portrayed the starring character Miley Stewart, who leads a double life as pop star Hannah Montana. As per usual in the movies, she has the perfect body and hooks a ‘cool’ boyfriend in the end.
In 2010, pictures of girls, some as young as eight, dressed in red and black lingerie performing a racy dance routine `to Beyoncé’s ‘All the Single Ladies’ at a dance contest went viral, parents around the world were shocked. Yet what was just as shocking was that the parents of the girls involved approved!

Alarming examples
A Sketchers’ ‘naughty and nice’ advert featured pop star Christina Aguilera dressed as a schoolgirl in pigtails, with her shirt unbuttoned, licking a lollipop. Bratz and Barbie dolls come dressed in sexualised clothing such as miniskirts, fishnet stockings, and feather boas. G-string panties sized for 7 to 10-year-olds, are printed with slogans such as “wink, wink”. T-shirts for girls display slogans such as “hot chick” and “boyfriend material”.

The message in the media
Girls get this message repeatedly: What matters is how ‘hot’ or ‘sexy’ they look. It plays on TV and across the Internet. You hear it in song lyrics and music videos. You see it in movies, electronic games, and clothing stores. It’s a powerful message.

Most of us are concerned about the intrusion of pornography into every facet of society, yet we should be just as concerned about the portrayal of girls and women as flirtatious sex objects which fuels the pornography and prostitution industries.

Girls at risk
Research conducted by an American Psychological Association Task Force links sexualisation with three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression.
Frequent exposure to media images that sexualise girls affects how girls conceptualise femininity and sexuality. Girls who more frequently consume mainstream media tend to accept sexual stereotypes that depict women as sexual objects. They also place sexual attractiveness at the centre of their personal value.

Why have parents uncritically accepted these sexually immoral messages marketed at their children?
Are we perhaps like the proverbial frog in the slowly heating pot, that we haven’t noticed just how sexually immoral our society has become? Have we failed to study and obey God’s Word?

God’s Word
What does God’s Word say? A woman is first and foremost valuable because she is made in His image. “Unfading beauty” comes from a “gentle and quiet spirit,”
1 Peter 3:4. “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Prov 31:30.

Bringing back Biblical girlhood, “In a world that frowns on femininity, that minimises motherhood, and that belittles the beauty of being a true woman of God, we should dare to believe that the Biblical vision for girlhood is a glorious vision. It is a vision for purity and contentment, for faith and fortitude, for enthusiasm and industry, for heritage and home, and for joy and friendship. It is a vision so bright and so wonderful that it must be boldly proclaimed.”
How advertisers target teens

– The constant stream of hypersexualised imagery and content that boys and girls are subjected to daily desensitises their God-given conscience, encourages selfishness and lust, and reshapes their sexual desires and actions in immoral, risky and even violent ways.
– Maggie Hamilton, in an article “Groomed to Consume Porn: How Sexualized Marketing Targets Children” summarises how advertisers target teens:
– The methods corporations use are the very same techniques used by sexual predators to hone in on unsuspecting kids, as they meticulously groom them for their own ends.
– Like the sexual predator, corporations market their products to young people by pretending to be their friend.
– They offer gifts and incentives.
– They flatter them and talk in their own language.
– They assure kids that they ‘understand’ them.
– They deliberately use sexualised content because they know how irresistible sexual material can be.
– They work to separate a child victim from his/her parents, leaving them isolated and vulnerable.
– Media critic, Professor Mark Crispin Miller puts it this way: “The official advertising worldview is that your parents are creeps, teachers are nerds and idiots, authority figures are laughable, nobody can really understand kids except the corporate sponsor.”
– Sexualised content is so prevalent among manufacturers of teen products, that most of us scarcely give it a thought.
– What would have been inconceivable a decade ago, has very quickly become an integral part of teenagers’ lives.
– When a child grows up in a toxic sexual atmosphere, accessing porn seems a natural progression.

What you can do
Teach your daughter that her value comes from who she is in Christ, rather than from how she looks. Help her to understand that the images of women in the media are usually unrealistic.
Don’t buy your children clothes that have sexual connotations or slogans. If you don’t like a TV show, CD, video, pair of jeans, or doll, say why. A conversation with your child will be more effective than simply saying, “No, you can’t buy it or watch it.”  Support campaigns, companies, and products that promote positive images of girls.

Complain to manufacturers, advertisers, television and movie producers, and retail stores when products sexualise girls.

Bring back Biblical girlhood
Parents must teach boys to value girls as friends and sisters in Christ, rather than as sexual objects. Remember, your children will copy the way you dress and what you watch. What kind of an example are you setting for your children?
Let’s bring back Biblical girlhood. Please join Africa Christian Action in praying and working for true justice, righteousness and truth in South Africa. “Who will rise up for Me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for Me against evildoers?” Psalm 94:16. ?
By Taryn Hodgson is the International Co-ordinator of Africa Christian Action and co-author of ‘Porndemic: How the Pornography Plague Affects You and What You Can Do About It’. She is available to speak at schools and youth groups on these issues. For info:

Oscar: What Is The Christian Response?

South Africans have been glued to the events taking place in a Pretoria courtroom at one of the most dramatic trials in our judicial history, and soon a verdict will be given in this “media-saturated” case.    
I once conducted a telephone interview with Oscar and found him to be polite, articulate and friendly.  And I know of others who are personal friends of his and speak highly of him. I certainly hope and want to believe he’s innocent and this was all a mistake.

The sick humour is appalling 
I am appalled by the jokes and sick humour surrounding this case. We are talking about a life that has been cut short, about two families that have been devastated. How can anyone find this tragic situation funny?
This is not some make-believe soap opera. These are human beings that have experienced the deepest shock and sorrow. I think it is the depth of callousness to joke and ridicule the accused about such a heartrending event. (I personally believe Oscar is telling the truth, however everybody is entitled their own opinion). 

Evidence for the defence
I believe that the athlete really did hold serious concerns for his personal safety. This is not altogether surprising given South Africa’s disturbing record of crime and violence. He slept at night with a pistol by his bedside, a machine gun up against the wall, and a cricket bat too. There is no doubt that he was concerned about safety and security…
It is also not unreasonable to suspect that Oscar’s own background and disabilities as a young boy growing up without legs predisposed him to significant feelings of inferiority and inadequacy. Children can be utterly cruel in their comments and attitudes towards other children with disabilities and less than normal abilities.  Stripped of his prosthetic legs he must have felt totally vulnerable. When he  woke up in the middle of the night and heard noises, his first impulse was to defend himself. He grabbed his gun which helped him feel equal to others with normal faculties.
I travel a lot. I know what it is to wake up in the middle of the night and be completely disorientated, not sure where in the world I am.
I think that the prosecutor actually over-stepped the mark in his brutal questioning of Oscar. He may have been trying to break him down with a view to getting a confession from him, but in his brutal questioning he may have elicited some sympathy from the judge rather than enhancing his case for guilt.
What about the seeming inconsistencies in Oscar’s testimony? I am sure that given the tension and extreme emotion of the situation, it was difficult for Oscar to think straight and give a precise version of the events.

Beyond reasonable doubt?
Is there sufficient evidence to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that Oscar is a murderer? I don’t think so. There is only one witness, Oscar, and he alone knows if there was in fact an argument and if he intentionally shot Reeva Steenkamp. 
So is Oscar a murderer? If it was a pre-meditated murder then it would certainly have been more subtly planned and executed. If it was a case of a lover’s quarrel and a sudden burst of anger, surely no sane and sober person would have jettisoned his entire life and career and reputation with one senseless act of rage. 
I believe that Oscar is telling the truth; however, even if the paralympian is found totally innocent, his life is ruined. His reputation is totally tainted. He can never again be a role-model of perseverance and personal determination and achievement. He has lost the opportunity for lucrative sponsorships. No major sponsor would want to be associated with such a tarnished icon.

Our attitude to the case
So what should a Christian’s attitude be towards Oscar? Whether he is found guilty or innocent, he will need an avalanche of prayer for inner peace and strength. He is likely to become an increasingly isolated figure.
Is there any future for Oscar? Can we find any word of hope from the Word of God or from Christian history? Are there any examples of people that have climbed out of the pit of degradation and hopelessness and moved to a place of blessing and fruitfulness? 
The obvious example [of a life that appeared to be ruined, and then redeemed] is Joseph, sold into slavery by his heartless brothers and then cruelly thrown into prison as an innocent victim. God turned his life around and made him into the most powerful man in Egypt.

A Scriptural perspective
We are assured by Scripture that there is no one that has gone beyond the reach of God’s grace.  For “He is able to save to the uttermost.”  Heb 7:25.
If indeed Oscar is shown to be an intentional murderer we must remember that God’s servant, King David was also a murderer and yet the Bible describes him as a “man after God’s own heart.” Because David truly repented, he was still able to enjoy the fellowship and favour of God. 
The Apostle Paul consented to the persecution and killing of Christians before he had his own Damascus Road experience.
Oscar professes to be a Christian; he grew up in a Christian home, and accepted Christ as His Saviour “more or less before I could remember.” Oscar is also surrounded by several mature believers, so I am certain he is hearing the truth of the Word of God. regularly.
If convicted, God can still use Oscar in prison. There have been some wonderful stories of how God has worked throughout the world in prisons and through prison ministries. There have been spectacular U-turns in the lives of long term prisoners and people who have committed the worst of crimes. Many are now serving Jesus and living lives that reflect the fruit of the Spirit. The Bible says, “If we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9.

Justice must be served
There is forgiveness and cleansing from the worst of sins.  If Oscar is guilty, God can forgive him and cleanse him. Justice must be served, and the law must run its course. But if he is innocent and made an honest, tragic mistake, God can turn this into something positive and Oscar can emerge stronger in his faith with a far deeper relationship with God.
So let us pray for all involved in this tragedy, rather than spread gossip and unhelpful rumours and theories. Prayer can bring life out of death and hope out of despair.
From a human standpoint the outcome is extremely bleak whatever the court decides.  From God’s standpoint there is hope, there is a future, but God’s people need to do their part and pray. 
By Nico Bougas

Unanswered Prayers

In the 90s, country singer, Garth Brooks sang a song called ‘Unanswered Prayers’. In the story of the song, the main character runs into his old high school sweetheart at a high school football game.
He had since moved on and married, but he begins to think about what had transpired back in the day. Apparently, when he had dated this girl, he had prayed that “God would make her mine.”
God’s unexpected gift
As he searched though the memories and tried to think of the good times, it turned out that she wasn’t as perfect as he thought. He began to relish in the fact that he had made a good choice by marrying his wife and not his old high school flame. Then, he breaks into the chorus with this declaration:
“Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talking to
the man upstairs
That just because He may not answer,
doesn’t mean He don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are
unanswered prayers”
Many of you can relate to the words of that song. Maybe you prayed that a certain person would be your lifelong partner and it did not work out, and now that you look back on it, you can see that God knew what He was doing.
The answer to your prayer
Firstly there is no such thing as unanswered prayer. Sometimes the answer is ‘yes!’ Sometimes the answer is ‘no!’ And sometimes the answer is ‘wait’. Just as parents desire to meet the needs of their children and give them what is the very best for them, so our Heavenly Father delights in answering our prayers. Our Lord Jesus said, “ So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.” Matt 7:11.
Our all-wise Father
When the answer is, ‘yes!’ We rejoice that our Heavenly Father is blessing us with good things. As parents we may foolishly indulge our children and give them things that do not really benefit them. But God is the all-wise Father. He will only give us that which is to our advantage. “The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.” Psalm 84:11.
Sometimes He delays the answer because His timing is different to ours and He delays the answer in order for His purposes to be fulfilled. And sometimes He delays or denies a request because He has a greater blessing waiting for us. Many times we are like little children wanting to have some cheap toy right now. Like a good parent, our Heavenly Father does not give us what we want at that time because He has something even better planned for us.
A glorious result
Whatever the answer, you can be sure that God loves you and wants the very best for you. No matter how disappointing the answer may be to us at the time all things are working out for good. In the long run we can be assured that it will be for the very best result to help us grow and make us more like Christ. Sometimes the process is long and hard but the end result is glorious.
As we read in the book of Proverbs, “The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.” Prov 4:18. 

Nico Bougas is the International Coordinator of  Hellenic Ministries. or

Michael Mol: Faithful Father And Family Man

Imagine being in the public eye for most of your adult life…nearly two decades to be exact! Imagine too, being famous for your genial, considerate, friendly, accommodating nature –  great character traits to be famous for, but certainly ones that cut you no slack should you be having a bad day!
A role model
But for medical doctor, executive producer, international speaker, businessman and veteran TV personality, Michael Mol, the public platform is a privilege that he doesn’t take for granted, and is unlikely to ever bemoan. He recognises God’s hand of destiny.
Having said that, a man as busy as Michael has to prioritise, and without question, his unwavering faith in God, and commitment and love for his family, come first every time.
Family first
Married to his beautiful and talented wife Jacqui for 20 years, the couple have three children, Joshua, Rachael and Naethan, and live in the leafy surrounds of Cape Town.
Celebrating fathers
Because Michael is a household name, and a Christian role model, we felt this Father’s Day it would be appropriate to chat to Michael about the influence his dad (Dr Arnold Mol) has extended in his upbringing, the role Michael undertakes to lead his family and the impact that God the Father has in the couple’s lives.

Your dad is a well known Christian author and speaker. How has he impacted your life?
Aside from all the intricacies and challenges of parenthood, my father distilled down his role as a parent to just two goals … “I want my kids to leave home one day with a great self image, and secondly I want them to have a relationship with God that is core to who they are and what they do…”
I’ve tried to improve on that for my own kids, but quite frankly if I could “achieve” the same for Joshua, Rachael and Naethan that would be more than enough, especially when it comes to instilling a faith that gives them meaning and purpose.

What do you admire most about your dad?
My father once wrote a book on parenting. It was probably the craziest and most courageous thing he’s ever done, to assume to have insights into such a vital role amidst a minefield of good and bad advice.
I’ve never actually read it cover to cover, but then I never had to because he modelled fatherhood for me. “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying,” said Emerson famously – and in my Dad’s case he practiced what he preached…imagine that!

What does being a father mean to you?
Becoming a father changed everything. I had the privilege of delivering my eldest son – and at that very moment, as I held him in my hands – before cutting the umbilical cord, my ambition instantly shifted from “What could I be one day?” to “What could he be one day?” I count it a real blessing to be able to nurture the lives of three little people and to love and guide them into becoming the very best that God intended them to be. Not seeing fatherhood as a privilege is where so many dad’s go wrong today – I think one of the biggest issues family’s face in society today is abdication.
We desperately need fathers who are ready and willing to take on the role of the leader in the family – who have a die hard commitment to their family – to protect, serve and nurture their children…and it starts with loving your wife unconditionally.

Jacqui, what do you appreciate about Michael as a father?
Michael wears several hats (very energetically I may add!) – but one thing that remains consistent is the authentic man who wears them. And when he walks in the door at home, he leaves all the others behind and wears only the most important one – a man completely engaged with his family.
He gives up his phone for his family, intentionally pushing aside all other “distractions” and taps into each of us right where we are at that moment. That often means making me a cappuccino and sitting still (hard for Michael I know) chatting with me, grabbing the surf boards and taking Josh out to the beach for a late afternoon surf, whisking Rachi off on the vespa with cameras in hand in search of the perfect photo, making her feel like the most prized girl in the world or maybe just snuggling next to Naethan, building lego with this cute little guy!
But where Michael exceeds all expectation, is the imaginative and creative way he rounds us all up to spend family time around the Bible. Everyone gets comfortable, Naethan may be standing on his head, Rachael perched at the keyboard, Josh scooting around on his skateboard like only a teenager can!
Michael has a way of making the words on the pages come alive by telling stories from his own experiences that illustrate the message at hand. And often the kids get to act out the stories or build pictures with objects that make the Scripture verses memorable and real.
Michael truly lives out the verse “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in Truth.” 3 John 1:4.

Michael, you are a busy dad! Tell us about your exciting new venture…
Non-infectious diseases cause more deaths in South Africa, than infectious illnesses. Since most non-communicable diseases derive from unhealthy lifestyles, we need to turn our attention to the old adage “prevention is better than cure.”  It is a widely accepted fact that when an individual gets advice from a doctor, a trusted source of information, they’re more likely to change their lifestyle and behaviour than if they were advised by anyone else (Dr Google).
By connecting people to doctors, affordably, conveniently and quickly – anytime, anywhere – (our mobile app) Hello Doctor has the potential to make a significant difference in prevention of lifestyle diseases. For more info see:
Any sage advice for other dads? 
You are replaceable. Sounds like negative advice, but it isn’t…As a doctor, as a CEO, a presenter, a speaker, a team-mate … in virtually all aspects of what I do I am replaceable, except for one… I am NOT replaceable as a father, and that makes it the most important role I will ever play in my life.
Jacqui, with a famous husband, how have you warded off marital difficulties
and kept your identity?
Michael has won my heart over and over again with the way he sees and affirms the woman in me. I know without a doubt that my value doesn’t exist in how I look or what I can accomplish, but my true beauty rests in the state of my soul and so he encourages me to keep building on my relationship with God – which is where my identity ultimately comes from. Of course as a doctor, he does care that I stay physically active and is always including me with the kids on surf outings and mountain bike rides (which I am not that brilliant at, but that’s ok).
Michael has also given me the resources and space to do lots of different courses. (I love learning!) One of those courses led me into the world of ‘StrengthsFinder’ where I get to coach people in the areas of what they are the strongest at and most talented in. This “talent coaching” has been the fuel that has kept me energised and adding value!
The most profound gift Michael has given me is that he REALLY wears his wedding ring. I’m not just referring to physically adorning his ring finger with a wedding band – I mean he talks about his wife and the sanctity of marriage everywhere he goes – he has made a bold and public commitment to stay faithful and divorce is never an option. Because of his tried and tested integrity – I know that I am safe in his hands!
Finally, Michael, how do you maintain your testimony in challenging environments?
The environment has nothing to do with it – if I didn’t reflect God in every aspect of life, from the breakfast table to the boardroom to the bike race – then I’d question the authenticity of my faith and relationship with my Heavenly Father. I’ll never forget the words of an old Indie Rock song from two decades ago that went: “He died for me, I’ll live for Him.” 
For more info see: Images by Ronel Pompe Photography: