From Barbie Girl to Booty Call

As I watched the CBC documentary,”Sexted Up Kids“, I wasn’t really surprised. I’ve lived through my own daughters growing up in the last 20 years and have seen changes in young girls evolving first hand. I remember feeling a little uncomfortable when the song Barbie Girl by Aqua came out in 1997 and 4-7 year old girls were dancing and singing to this song.

Full lyrics here: Aqua – Barbie Girl Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Hearing little girls sing the lyrics, “You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere” and “Kiss me here, touch me there, hanky panky” was more than a little unnerving! However, I think most parents shrugged it off by reasoning, “they don’t understand the meaning of the lyrics, so what’s the harm?” After all, many of us had given our own parents a similar argument for listening to controversial lyrics in the 80’s (for example, by Metal Bands like  Motley Crue). Just because we sang the words, it didn’t mean we agreed with the message or professed to do those acts!  So I see this acceptance of messages like “Barbie Girl” as the beginning of the KAGOY factor in marketing. The slippery slope of “age-appropriateness” changed the offline culture of pre-adolescent girls and set the stage for an troublesome collision with the soon-to-evolve online public presence.

Amira’s blog on this same documentary (and the Amanda Todd story), also highlights the increasingly blurred lines between our public and private lives. If you have never known any difference, it is easy to accept without question that this is the world we live in, but from my perspective, there are a few subtle, and not so subtle, changes. Consider some of the societal changes over the years caused by the evolution of technology:

  • In the 70’s, we had a rotary dial home phone, with no call display, and no call waiting. If you wanted to reach someone on the phone, you had to keep calling back every 10-20 minutes to see if the line was free. Now, cell phones allow us to be available 24/7 and with texting and messaging apps, we are expected to be always connected. Kids are programmed to be online, all the time. We used to say to wait a day before you mailed a letter, just in case you might regret it. Now comments are posted instantaneously. Patience and wait-time is disappearing.
  • Technology makes it super easy to share information – with the explosion of information on the web, we are now accustomed to sharing both the mundane along with the relevant. Everything is important enough to post! Pictures of meals, duck faces and dressing room outfits need validation through likes and comments to justify self-worth. Thoughtful consideration of what is shared online isn’t always evident.

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  • Porn used to be restricted to a couple of scrambled channels on our cable box. Most of the time the channel would be completely unwatchable and annoying, but occasionally we were ‘rewarded’ with a little peek of something remotely identifiable. Now there is a plethora of stimulation available online. I know many kids are playing M rated games with high sexual content as well as violence and profanity. It’s not just girls that are impacted by the KAGOY factor – boys are exposed to these messages, too. This is what I probably fear the most when I think about my own kids or my students navigating the internet.

 Photo Credit: Do u remember via Compfight cc

So how do we help students navigate and take ownership of this online world? As a teacher, I feel it’s important to talk and provide resources that are student-friendly. Here are some ideas:

  • Teach online and digital citizenship, including ethics and etiquette. Common Sense Media has an activity called Trillion Dollar Footprint, in which “students learn that they have a digital footprint, which can be searched, shared, and seen by a large, invisible audience. Students then learn that they can take some control over their digital footprint based on what they post online.”
  • Discuss how”online is forever.” Share various dilemmas and scenarios with students and give them the opportunity to brainstorm possible responses. This can give them some strategies for making responsible choices. One possible resource is Top Secret – a game by MediaSmarts.ca that teaches “students about the benefits and drawbacks of sharing information online.” This site has lesson plans on topics for all of the above issues and more!
  • Talk with students about relationships online. That’s Not Cool uses teen-friendly language to discuss cyber relationship do’s and don’ts and provide tools for teens, who can take a quiz on what’s Cool or Not Cool, and download memes to respond to online issues.

Finally, I recommend the blog https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/talking-about-sexting since a few of the resources above are listed, but there are many more ideas discussed there, including this Sexting Handbook. I know many of my #ECMP355 classmates were rightfully disturbed by these videos this week, and the best ammunition against fear is knowledge. All of us will be more equipped to discuss these issues in the classroom if we have resources at our fingertips!

So what do you think of the evolution from Barbie Girl to Booty Call? Do you have other tools and resources that you have used in the classroom? If so, please share them in the comments below!

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4 thoughts on “From Barbie Girl to Booty Call

  1. I like how you commented on males and how they are also affected by this as well. There is always such a focus on females when it comes to this topic but we have to remember that males are also affected.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback! Unfortunately, even as I wrote this blog, males weren’t foremost in my mind. I am probably a little desensitized to the impact on girls because I have seen this gradual progression. The issues that it raises around porn and boys have been more hidden and subtle. Do you think this is why there has been less focus?

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  2. I to also liked how you mentioned males. In society there is such an emphasis on girls and the whole thought of being 10 going on 30 but like Shelby said males are affected to. The comment you made about the Barbie girl song and how parents shrugged it off thinking their kids didn’t know what was actually being said, I feel this is the beginning of it all. Shrugging little things like that off open the door to bigger things appearing to be not that big of deal. In the example of the Barbie girl song I think there is a potential lesson parents could teach their kids about so that they do understand what exactly is being talked about so that they are aware and know. Just like everything online it is so important for students and kids to be educated before it turns into something serious.

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    1. Thank you! Great thoughts on addressing the issues before they get larger. I think both parents and teachers can start a dialog with kids about these issues. It seems as though society is more critical of the media and marketing campaigns than we used to be. We judge the media in the sexualizing of children at an earlier age, but parents still drink the kool-aid – we are buying the products they sell!

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