A study by United Nations Children’s Fund Bhutan and National Commission for Women and Children revealed that 20% of children aged from 13-17 were exposed to pornography. The report also stated that 41.7% of boys and 28.7% of girls are exposed to digital pornography of other people.
What does this have to say about the state of our children’s mental and emotional formative years? Bhutan is not a conservative society when it comes to sex, truth be told. Bars, offices and public places are often filled with ribald humor. We are known as a society that is relaxed and easygoing.
But the figures of children exposed to pornography are startling. Are we becoming too lax in the upbringing of our youth? Are we sending a wrong message that sexual permissiveness and sexually irresponsible behavior is okay as long as it goes uncaught?
Here comes the need to shield our children from spending endless hours in front of the idiot box or indulging in social media frenzies. Most often than not, television and internet sites are where it all starts.
We need to guide children from a young age and when the time is right, talk about the “birds and bees” with them.
Children are often drawn to pornography and explicit media content because they are curious. Talking to them frankly about sex and warning them about the dangers of promiscuity and other forms of sexual expressions that are unprotected by acceptable institutions could rid them of curiosity leading to dangerous experimenting. We have a lot to lose if we do not: high incidences of teenage pregnancies, STIs, unhealthy addictions and behaviors, and dysfunctional characters.
It would also be a wise idea for parents to monitor the TV channels and programs children watch. Another step could be keeping a watch on what children read. Trashy publications that especially glamorize sexual violence or depict women as sex objects should belong to its right place-the trash bin.
School authorities could also play an important role through sex and value education classes which would inspire students to be responsible when it comes to sexual behavior.
The key word here is values. If we impart the right values to youngsters, they will know right from wrong. While temptations will always present themselves in various forms, the challenge for us as a society is to cultivate sterling characters that can fight and actually overcome temptations.
Sex in itself is good. Sexual desire is a powerful tool that can be harnessed and if channeled productively, can produce great work, great art, great energy and great power. But if misused can cause equal harm and destruction.
Children need to channel their energies into activities like sports, community programs and reading among others that will build and prepare them for life and challenges.
We must give them healthy substitutes to unhealthy ones. That is the only way.
And as responsible adults we must show the way: walk the talk. Be mindful of how we talk and behave in front of kids. That does not mean we should be prudes. There is a difference between a prude and a man or woman who knows how and when to express the right emotions and desires at the right time. A self-controlled person is a successful one. He is not undisciplined or haywire in personal, professional or social situations and dealings.
Ultimately, it is not about us. It is about how our words and actions will shape those watching us, those who look up to us.
Children are great imitators; give them something great to imitate.