What’s the Deal with Puberty? Sex Education for Children in Norway… and the World. By Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

Norway’s State funded educational TV series “Newton”, presents sex, sexuality and puberty for young children.  The series, which has been described as “graphic”, because we see male and female sexual parts up close, as well as being told details about various sexual practices, was banned from Facebook for a while and even called “disgusting” by some who felt it was “too informative” and would be damaging to children watching it.  Meanwhile views of the series have continued to increase, particularly after it came with English subtitles from 2015.

Sex education for prepubescent children (or even for preteens and teens) has long been hotly debated, with those arguing against it traditionally saying kids are “not ready” for such information and that “too much knowledge too soon” will inevitably result in increased rates of teen sexual activity and accompanying problems such as STDs, early pregnancy as well as emotional distress/ depression when early sexual relationships fail… all  issues which have life long negative impacts.

Studies show, however, that the opposite appears to be true.  As a general rule, having  more (and accurate) sexual knowledge seems to mean children and young people are a) less likely to become sexually active at younger ages and   b) when they do become sexually active, are more likely to make responsible (informed) choices.

In 2008, the Washington Post reported on a University of Washington study which found that teenagers who received comprehensive sex education were 60% less likely to get pregnant than someone who received abstinence-only education.  Numbers of sexual partners among those who were sexually active were also significantly lower.  The latter is important, not only because it indicates a lesser risk of STDs, but also because it has been shown that greater numbers of sexual partners, particularly during the teenage years, negatively effects mental well being, and can decrease the ability to maintain healthy relationships in adulthood.  Education on matters of sexuality has also been found to work hand in hand with dramatically lowering a child’s vulnerability to becoming a victim of sexual abuse (sexual abuse prevention education).

Sexual health is an essential part of good overall health and well-being. Sexuality is a part of human life and human development. Good sexual health implies not only the absence of disease, but the ability to understand and weigh the risks, responsibilities, outcomes, and impacts of sexual actions, to be knowledgeable of and comfortable with one’s body, and to be free from exploitation and coercion. Whereas good sexual health is significant across the life span, it is critical in adolescent years. health. http://www.naswdc.org/practice/adolescent_health/ah0202.asp

Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) leads to improved sexual and reproductive health, resulting in the reduction of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV, and unintended pregnancy. It not only promotes gender equality and equitable social norms, but has a positive impact on safer sexual behaviours, delaying sexual debut and increasing condom use. (United Nations Global Review, 2015).

http://www.un.org/youthenvoy/2016/03/comprehensive-sexuality-education/

Scandinavia has long been admired by American liberals and sex education advocates who cite comparable rates of adolescent sexuality, yet lower rates of teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion in Scandinavia.

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14681810601134702

Returning, then, to Scandinavia (and specifically Norway), how do markers of risky sexual behaviour in young people compare with those of other countries?  Rather than writing about these differences, some diagrams of statistics (sources cited) appear below.

Teenage pregnancy…

Sexually transmitted diseases…

Personally, having watched Norway’s State funded educational TV series “Newton”, I felt the episodes were well presented and in good taste.  For some of us seeing naked male and female anatomy, as the show’s host, Line Jansrud removes towels from real human bodies may be a little shocking, but isn’t that the problem?  Don’t we need to get over ourselves and present sex and our bodies as what they are, a very natural part of our humanity and one which our children can only benefit from being accurately informed about?

Line Jansrud speaking during one of the eight episodes in the “Newton” series (now with English subtitles)

Topics in the Norwegian TV series of eight episodes (in English) are as follows…

Episode 1 – How does puberty start?

Episode 2 – Breasts

Episode 3 – Penis

Episode 4 – Hair on your body

Episode 5 – Growth and Voice change

Episode 6 – Vagina and menstruation

Episode 7 – Zitz and sweat

Episode 8 – What’s the deal with puberty?

 

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A Tribute to Judy Blume (via the blog “A Mighty Girl”): Free Expression and the Freedom to Read, for Kids as well as for Adults!

Judy

For over forty years, author Judy Blume has stood up for free expression and the freedom to read. The beloved author of many Mighty Girl favorites such as “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret”, “Deenie”, and “Tiger Eyes,” the 78-year-old Blume has been writing children’s and young adult fiction for decades. But what her many young fans rarely realize is that her frank discussion of topics like religion, puberty, and sexuality in these books — the same honesty that makes them so appealing to young readers — has made her one of the most frequently challenged children’s authors.

Even as a relatively new author, though, instead of bowing to the criticisms, Blume persisted in writing openly and honestly about issues affecting young people — and speaking up for authors, teachers, librarians, and others who face disapproval, insults, and even the loss of jobs and careers because they refuse to remove books from the hands of young readers. As such, she has become a champion for children’s freedom to read — and authors’ freedom to write — about topics that some find controversial.

In our blog tribute to Judy Blume, we honor her both as an author of many beloved Mighty Girl books and as a determined and forceful voice against censorship and book banning. In a time when Blume’s books still face frequent challenges, her experiences combating censorship — and her powerful words about the value of making complex and daring books accessible to kids — are more important than ever.

To read our blog post, “Protecting ‘The Books That Will Never Be Written'”: Judy Blume’s Fight Against Censorship,” visit http://www.amightygirl.com/blog/?p=7425

To learn more about Mighty Girl books that have been challenged or banned — including the reasons behind the bans — check out our blog post “Dangerous Words: Challenged and Banned Mighty Girl Books” at http://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=4611

For a wide selection of Judy Blume’s much beloved young adult novels, visit our “Judy Blume Collection” at http://bit.ly/1vmwFMN

And, to introduce children to the woman behind these famous books, check out the recently released biography for ages 7 to 10, “Judy Blume: Are You There, Reader? It’s Me, Judy!” at http://www.amightygirl.com/broke-the-rules-judy-blume

Ed Note J Blume

 

“Like a Girl”: how one company decided to break down the limitations society imposes on girls, resulting in a video which went viral…

Always & FY

By Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

Do we limit girls and tell them what they should or shouldn’t be?   Do we box them into expected roles?

A logo for the US feminine hygiene company "Always".

A logo for the US feminine hygiene company “Always”.

“Always”, a feminine hygiene company in the USA promotes education about the menstrual cycle and fields questions from girls and young women related to this.  In 2014 “Always” created an ad campaign designed to, of course, promote their products, but also to break down the barriers of the limitations society imposes on girls.  The company did this by asking a range of girls and young women, of varying ages and ethnic backgrounds, whether they felt limited by society’s expectations and stereotypes of girls and women and if so, how.

The answer was shocking: 72% of girls said they DO feel society limits them – especially during puberty – a time when their confidence totally plummets. “Always” decided to begin what they call an “epic battle” to keep girls’ confidence high during puberty and beyond.

The original #LikeAGirl social experiment by “Always” started a conversation to boost confidence by changing the meaning of “like a girl” from an insult to a compliment.  That conversation turned into major movement sweeping the globe.  Interestingly, boys as well as girls, became interested in the campaign and agreed that many of these stereotypes, as well as others about boys and men, were damaging.  One of the original “Always” ads can be viewed here:

Following on from this, “Always” sought to empower girls everywhere by encouraging them to smash limitations and be Unstoppable #LikeAGirl. 

Always say that, “For more than three decades, we’ve made it our mission to empower young girls worldwide by educating millions of them about puberty and their cycle, so they can feel confident – any day of the month. Together, we’re making great change happen.”

Watching the videos created for this campaign is a great way of encouraging discussion among children and young people about gender stereotypes and gender roles, expectations and socially imposed limitations… a great one to share, to strengthen our daughters in their “Forever Years”.

Find out more at http://always.com/en-us/about-us/our-…
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/always
Twitter – http://twitter.com/Always

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Related Links:

http://www.people.com/article/like-a-girl-always-ad-unstoppable

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11716710/LikeAGirl-Unstoppable-Always-video-Girls-feel-pressure-to-be-girly.html

http://www.buzzfeed.com/laurasilver/smashing-the-patriarchy-like-a-girl#.cgGV61emAd