Dr. Robyn Silverman on The Tyra Show: October 5th

Dr Robyn Silverman, child development expert and body image expertTyra_logo

Talking about “Fat Haters:” Dr. Robyn Silverman, body image expert, on The Tyra Show!

It was just last Tuesday that I was asked to come down to New York City to be the Body Image Expert for a taping of the nationally syndicated talk show, The Tyra Show, with, of course, Tyra Banks. The show will air October 5th so be sure to watch or Tivo Tyra on that day (4pm EST on the CW)!

The topic: Fat Haters and the family members and friends who they hurt with their attitudes.

It’s hard enough for women to deal with the images they see each day—from what they see in the media to what they “see” reflected in the mirror.  Girls and women compare themselves to impossible standards of thinness so that…what? I’m not quite sure. What I call “striving for zero” (that “ideal” dress size or that “ideal weight) makes us feel inadequate and unworthy.  And this is normal. Thank goodness we all have a place to go home to where all that stuff doesn’t matter and we can remind ourselves that we are amazing TODAY- not 5 pounds from now.

But what is it like for those girls and women who don’t have a safe haven among their family and friends—a place where weight and looks and size don’t matter and they are loved and valued for who they are? A place where beauty has a wider definition and a clothing size doesn’t depict more worth as it delves deeper into the zeros? Those girls and women are suffering.  They have no buffer. They begin to buy into the notion that the more they weigh, the less they are worth. And what’s worse, they pass body bashing on, generation after generation.

So, that’s what we were all talking about on The Tyra Show.  I was asked about why some girls lash out in the ugly ways depicted on the show (you won’t believe some of the things said) and other related questions about double standards and body image.  It was exciting to be a part of The Tyra Show and I’m glad I can share this topic with you, which, as you know, is near and dear to my heart.  After all, I’m writing a whole book on it (due out October 2010!).

Looking forward to hearing what you have to say about the show.  There isn’t any crazy chair throwing—don’t worry- I think there are some important stories and opinions uncovered. So watch The Tyra Show with me—Monday, October 5th, at 4pm EST on the CW.  See you there!

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

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Powerful Words Member School On Good Morning America

Andrew Lesmerisis of Communities that care and Powerful WordsBy: Dr. Robyn Silverman

Congratulations to Platinum Member Powerful Words Member School, Midcoast Martial Arts, for doing extraordinary work with young people in Camden, Maine. Featured on Good Morning America for helping Camden get their staggering suicide and drug numbers down, Midcoast is helping to do their part by teaching children that they are worthwhile, that they can achieve, and of course, that they can stay engaged with people who care like the teachers over at Midcoast Martial Arts.

Drug and alcohol abuse reached crisis levels in 2001, when Maine’s teen suicide rate was 50 percent higher than the national average.

Along with Powerful Words, Midcoast is part of a program called Communities That Care,  that surveys students starting in the fifth grade to determine their risk factors. The program helps to rally teachers, such as instructor Mr. Andrew Lesmerisis, owner and chief instructor at Midcoast, to take an active role in helping his students and the children of Camden, to thrive.

“We look to provide opportunities  for kids to learn skills (martial arts, character. leadership) and make sure to recognize their accomplishments (belts, POWerful Words Stripes, Patches, Cards, etc.) especially when they go out into the community.  This builds a level of trust for the kids/teens that there are caring adults that want to see them be successful.  This leads to the students becoming bonded to the school where we try to set clear standards of behavior (POWerful Words plays a huge role here!) which due to the bonding is more likely to take hold and lead them to be healthy and more active in the community in positive ways.” –Andrew Lesmerisis

The researchers at National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of National Institutes of Health (NIH) have followed  Camden along with 11 other towns who implememted the Communities that Care philosophy to get teachers, instructors, clergy, and other adults and mentors involved in their youth– and compared them to 12 communities that didn’t use this approach.

The results were dramatic: By the eighth grade, students in towns where the CTC was in place were more than 30 percent less like to take up alcohol and tobacco and 25 percent less likely to engage in delinquency than in those where it was not.

The program is really, simply, a philosophy.

The results of this trial confirm that tools do exist that give communities the power to reduce risk for multiple problem behaviors across a community. What makes Communities That Care unique is that it enables communities to identify their own special issues so they can hand pick the right prevention programs.  –Dr. Nora Volkow, NIDA Director

Because it’s a philosophy rather than a set canned course of action, it allows Mr. Lesmerisis and other adults in town to customize how they convery that philosophy.  We are so proud to be part of Mr. Lesmerisis’ and MidCoast Martial Arts’ approach to helping Camden’s young people.

For Mr. Lesmerisis, Powerful Words fit in with the CTC philosophy.

POWerful Words fits in perfectly.  It helps us send a clear message about healthy beliefs and standards.  Not only do we talk about it in class, it’s posted all over the school (banners, challenge sheets) but it also becomes a method for them to use the skills in a positive (pro-social) way.  For example, last month with Citizenship we are putting the Words into Action by doing and Kick/Grapple Thon to raise money for Five Town Communities That Care.  They get to take all those Citizenship skills and knowledge and put it into practice in a way that benefits the community.  We (Mid-Coast Martial Arts & Five Town CTC) make sure that the students get recognized with thank you cards and press releases, not to mention claps and cheers at the ceremony itself.

The BEST part of both CTC and POWerful Words to me as an instructor and school owner is that I don’t have to guess or feel or assume or hope that we are helping kids to be healthy, we KNOW it!

They really are helping their students! The amazing results were published in the Sept. 7 Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. They demonstrated that these types of community-based coalitions using customized evidence-based approaches can indeed help prevent the early initiation of substance abuse and delinquent behavior among young people.

*Binge Drinking by 10th grade students*(more than five drinks in a row in last two weeks):

2004 – 29%

2008 – 15%

*Marijuana Use* (Ever Used) by 8th grade students

2004 – 9%

2008 – 2%

*Cigarette Use* (Ever Used) by 8th grade students

2004 – 10%

2008 – 1%

*Drunk or High At School *8th grade

2004 – 11%

2008 – 5%

*Opportunities for Pro-Social Involvement in the Community* (Higher is Better)

2004 – 46%

2008 – 63%

*Recognition for Pro Social Involvement *(Higher is better)

2004 – 38%

2008 – 54%

We are so proud of the work you’ve done, MidCoast– not only for the town, but for our world.  Every child inspired and saved from drugs and suicide is another adult who thrives.  Congratulations on your amazing work.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs


Vile-y Wiley Miley: Oops…Did Miley Cyrus Do it Again?

MileyCyrus_teenchoice

Vile-y Wiley Miley: Oops…Did Miley Cyrus Do It Again?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

On the quest for wholesome role models for your tween? Ahem. Miley Cyrus might not be it. After what has been described as a “stripper dance”  at the Teen Choice Awards Monday night, parents and the press are all a-twitter.

I don’t know though. I’m wondering if we’re getting a little crazy over well, a blip in time. Yes, she was wearing shorts that were a bit snug and a bit short, and yes there was the pole, and a few dance moves that weren’t all that innocent looking (see minute 1:07 to 1:45) and “Disney-like” but, a stripper dance? We might be going a bit too far on that one. You tell me.

Mostly, that pole was used for balance—which, on a moving ice-cream cart, is necessary. I know– there were a few hip thrusts that in isolation wouldn’t really have been too much of a problem. After all, we dance by moving our hips most of the time. I think the one move that she did (at 1:07), which ironically got people cheering (figure that one out), was the main problem move—yes, very stripper like. It was yucky and then it was over.

The problem here isn’t really Miley Cyrus. It’s that we hate to connect teens—or preteens- to anything sexual. It’s uncomfortable! It makes us shift in our seats.  We don’t even want to think about it. But there she was, doing this in front of our preteens and teens—we thought we were going to get one thing, and we got a little too much of another. We need to admit it– we don’t like to see Miley doing anything suggestive because we fear that it will rub off on our children or say it’s OK for them to do such things.

We want to like Miley—after all, our children do–but she is making it more difficult for us to like her as a role model for our daughters. The mistake we make is insisting on relying blindly on these celebrities for wholesome family fun. Disney might be wholesome—but Miley Cyrus is NOT “Disney incarnate.” And this wasn’t Disney—it was Fox. At the end of the day, Miley Cyrus is a 16 year old girl, looking to expand her fan-base, and make it even bigger than she already has. It may not be right for our teens. We might not like it. But she is following the path she wants to follow.

Now, I’m not saying that I would run right out and have my daughter watch or emulate Miley Cyrus. No. What I’m saying is, that we can’t rely on Miley to fit the role model status we want her to fit. When we do that, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.  She’s just a celebrity—an entertainer–not necessarily a role model. You want role models, see Taylor Swift, the Jonas Brothers, or someone else who doesn’t flaunt too much of the sex-vibe (although Taylor did do that whole getting wet in the rain thing in her performance of “Should’ve Said No”  which didn’t look totally wholesome either).

What I do what to make clear is the same thing I said when we dealt with the Miley Mess a year and a half ago when she posed for Vanity Fair draped in a sheet and showing her bare back and shoulders to the camera—sort of Lolita-like. If we are going to bring our children to see Miley Cyrus, or watch her on TV with the millions of other fans, we must talk to our teens about what they are seeing. Parents matter.  There are ways to deal with this Miley Mess.

Doesn’t go along with your values? Say that. Think it’s inappropriate? Say why it makes you uncomfortable. Don’t want your daughter emulating what they see? Tell them the problems you foresee. As parents, we need to take responsibility for what our teens are watching and listen to how they are interpreting what they are seeing. We certainly don’t want to make a bigger deal out of it than it is—because it takes one move (at 1:07) and makes it into a whole performance of Titanic proportions.

Don’t like it? Don’t want it? Can’t stand it? Don’t watch it. But then be prepared for your daughter to see these isolated images of Miley Cyrus straddling a pole and making up her own mind about what she is seeing. I vote to talk about it instead—listen more than you talk—and concentrate on raising the most healthy daughter you can. If you are doing it right, it really doesn’t matter what Miley Cyrus is doing anyway.

Dora the Explorer Becomes Dora the Diva?

dora the explorersil_dora_newdora the explorer as a tween

Dora the Explorer Becomes Dora the Diva?

Dr. Robyn Silverman

Well, not exactly.  Seems that while many parents and my fellow bloggers got up in arms chanting “Say it isn’t so!” and “No Makeover for Dora! when Mattel released their controversial silhouette on the 6th, calling the new Dora a “tramp,” “streetwalker,” and a Lindsey Lohan Look-a-like.  Was she being stripped down like Miley Cyrus? There was worry that she could compromise body image, threaten her ability to empower our powerful girls, and stomp on their confidence. There was even a petition…that I was ready and willing to sign as soon as I got to see the full Dora (as of March 8th over 2000 signed).

But parents are changing their tune for this toon.

Dora hasn’t been made into the next “Bratz” and she isn’t wearing a micro-mini, but rather, a long shirt over leggings.  How nice ot Mattel to get so much extra play in the media before the reveal– I’m sure, knowing that parents would be shouting denegrating comments about the Dora silhouette and then finding themselves sitting down to a nice lunch of crow at the final reveal.  Not nice. Smart marketing. But not nice at all.

We are programmed to criticize, aren’t we?  But as parents, we are sensitive to media influence on our children as well as change that can affect how our children think and feel about themselves.  And we should. And, well,  nobody likes change.  They changed Strawberry Shortcake from a pudgy, cat-carrying kid to a slimmed-down tween and that was tough.  Perhaps something to do with nostalgia? Leaving well enough alone?  Or, as a body image specialist, we can say that it’s also about taking down that belly fat and strapping on some shape-skimming outfit can have a negative effect on our girls.  Somehow “freshening up” means going on a diet these days and of course, getting a little nip-tuck.

But anyway, back to our explorer in question.  Well, she’s not a Sesame Street Walker as we might have assumed.  But there are some issues.  She’s traded in her exploring boots for ballet slippers and her practical exploring shorts for a fashionable frock and leggings– what does that mean? Well, no more jungle explorations.  Which hurts.  I kind of liked how Dora wasn’t afraid to get dirty while traipsing along with her jungle friends. She lost her stocky toddler-like physique and traded it in for a stream-line look.  Yeah, I know, she definitely doesn’t have the Latin curves. Did you really expect them?

And yup, she’s pink-afied. And appears to be wearing some kind of lip gloss or lipstick.  Not so great. And let’s not forget that on her interactive computer games, girls can change her eye color and hair– which threatens her latina roots once again. Lyn Mikel Brown, author of Packaging Girlhood and  co-founder of Hardy Girls, Healthy Women in Waterville, Maine, and a person who I admire and appreciate, questions, “why change her appearance at all? Why is appearance so important?” Exactly.  And yet in our world, it is.

The good thing is that Mattel states that Dora  “will expand into the world of solving mysteries that have overt and relatable pro-social themes — like volunteerism, water conservation, or planting trees to help the environment.” Yeah, we like that.  That’s what we stress for Powerful Words— and any role model doing that is a good thing.

Well, what do you think? Sell out or upgrade? Sign of despair or sign of the times?

As always, we look forward to your comments.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Teens feel Rihanna is at fault for getting beaten by boyfriend, Chris Brown

rihanna allegedly assaulted by boyfriend Chris Brown

Our values and our character have clearly been screwed up.  We’ve got work to do folks, and it may be an uphill battle.  As Powerful Words Member Schools are talking about confidence this month, we have to look at all contributors for their lack of self worth, low self esteem, and lack of regard for women’s bodies on all sides.

Singer Rihanna has been in the news lately because her boyfriend, Chris Brown, (allegedly) assaulted her in February.  Rihanna reported him and admitted to past assaults only to grant him continuance and refrain from issuing a restraint order.  What does this say to our children and teens about relationships? About values? About the importance of body safety?

Well, here it is folks.  In the Boston paper today, the results of a survey tells us that almost half of the Boston teenagers interviewed in a poll by Boston Public Health Commission said pop star Rihanna was responsible for her own beating. Yuck.   Celebrities have to watch what they say and do when it comes to kids. They have influence!

Who? Teens ages 12-19

What?

  • Almost 50% of the 200 teens interviewed felt Rihanna was responsible for the assault
  • 71% claimed that arguing was a normal part of a relationship;
  • 44% claimed that fighting was a routine occurrence in relationships.

The issue? Teens have somehow gotten used to or desensitized to domestic violence.  Perhaps they’ve seen too much “reality” on TV.  Perhaps they’ve been exposed to too much arguing and physical arguing. Perhaps our teen’s values need an overhaul.  Oh boy, more work.

Please give your feedback– it’s time to start some important conversations here.  Don’t wait.  Do it today.

Dr. Robyn Silverman signs

Is Your Teen On the Path to Early Pregnancy? What Research Tells Parents

Parent Alert: What a Recent Study About Teen Pregnancy Reveals


By Dr. Robyn Silverman

It’s not hard to believe. We saw it with Jamie Lynn Spears in the news. We saw it with American Pie (among many others) in the movies. And yes, we see it on TV. A study, published today, found that those teens and preteens who watch a lot of TV programs that feature flirting, necking, obvious sex scenes, and sex talk are much more likely than their peers who do not watch such programs to get pregnant or to get their partner pregnant.

There has been a recent surge of concern over teen pregnancy because after a steady decline over the last few decades, the number is creeping up again. Why is this happening? As we’ve discussed, girls have admitted that they’re feeling pressure to grow up too soon. Sexual messages abound. While TV and sexual content in teen programs can’t entirely be blamed, it seems to be playing a significant role. Parents beware.

The National Institutes of Health reported in July that teen pregnancies rose in the United States from 2005 to 2006 for the first time since 1991.

What was the study? This was the first study to link programs featuring TV sex scenes and TV sex talk to teen pregnancy. Those teens and preteens who watched the most TV featuring sexual content were twice as likely to be involved in a pregnancy than their peers who watched the least amount of such TV programs.

“Sexual content on television has doubled in the last few years, especially during the period of our research,” (Anita Chandra, lead researcher, Rand Corp)

Who was involved in the study? The researchers surveyed more than 2000 teens between 2001 and 2004 to gather information on their behavior, demographics, and TV viewing habits. Over 700 sexually active preteens and teens between the ages of 12 and 17 years old were tracked for 3 years.

“Watching this kind of sexual content on television is a powerful factor in increasing the likelihood of a teen pregnancy. We found a strong association.” (Anita Chandra, lead researcher)

What were they looking for? They were analyzing how often the teens saw TV characters engaging in sexual conduct or discussing sexual conduct on 23 shows in the 2000-2001 TV watching season.

Where and when was it published? The study is being published today in the well regarded journal of Pediatrics which is the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

What were some of the shows watched? Shows fell into the genres of dramas, comedies, reality shows and even animated programs. Among the shows the preteens and teens admitted watching were “Friends,” “Sex and the City,” and “That ’70s Show.” Chandra would not identify the others but stressed that they included

The stats:

Ø About 25 percent of those preteens or teens who watched the most sexually explicit shows were involved in a pregnancy, compared with about 12 percent of those who watched the least.

Ø In the study, 58 of girls reported getting pregnant and 33 boys reported getting a girl pregnant. The risk of pregnancy increased whether or not the teens and preteens watched only 1 or 2 sexually explicit shows or channel surfed many chows that had occasional sexual content

What can parents do?

Ø Educate yourself: Learn about the shows your children and teens are watching.

Ø Limit exposure: Media is everywhere. If you can limit your children’s exposure to sexually explicit media, you’re likely being a help to your children and teens.

Ø Discuss Consequences: Many TV shows don’t do a good job of detailing the consequences of sexual activity. Talk about pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and other consequences with your kids so they fully understand.

Ø Allow them to ask questions: If you aren’t around to answer, they may get their answers from somewhere else—and they might just be the wrong answers.

What people are saying:

Ø Abstinence Programming: According to Valerie Huber, a representative of the National Abstinence Education Association, “we need to encourage schools to make abstinence-centered programs a priority.” After all, “We have a highly sexualized culture that glamorizes sex.”

Ø More Sex Ed: According to James Wagoner of Advocates for Youth, “This finding underscores the importance of evidence-based sex education that helps young people delay sex and use prevention when they become sexually active. The absolutely last thing we should do in response is bury our heads in the sand and promote failed abstinence-only programs.”

Ø Connection may not be real: According to Laura Lindberg of the Guttmacher Institute, “It may be the kids who have an interest in sex watch shows with sexual content. I’m concerned this makes it seem like if we just shut off the TV we’d dramatically reduce the teen pregnancy rate.”

With whom do you agree? What do you think is the answer? Teaching abstinence to teens and preteens? More sex ed in the schools? Shutting off the TV? More conversations at home after watching such shows together? More character education?

Please offer your solutions, concerns, comments, and question below. We want to hear what you have to say!

Dr. Robyn featured on Bigg Success Radio Show

Previous Powerful Parenting blog post article; Grow up!  How were Treating Our Children Like Little Adults, in which we discussed 5 ways that children were forced to grow up too soon, was featured today on the internet radio show Bigg Success.

Click here to listen and read the write up.

Some recent comments related to the article:

This *is* disturbing. Children are no longer needed in families for help on the farm, or to help with anything really. They’re accessories (which I’ve opined a little about on my blog) and we’re treating them as such.

I’m not the best about making my kids get out and play. I need to get better about that. I need to be better with that myself! (Vicki, NotsoSahm)

My two young boys, 7 and 3, LOVE the outdoors! For the longest time I was terrified of dirt, germs, and anything else that wasn’t sanitized. That all changed with our latest military move from a large city environment to a more country like setting. They now play in dirt and mud *gasp*, go fishing and grab live fish *double gasp*, and catch interesting bugs and spiders in jars. Yes, they smell when we get home, yes they get dirty and scraped but they love it, AND it’s healthy for them. I can’t imagine what would happen if I trapped them indoors and didn’t let them experience unstructured play. What a depressing thought. (Mrs. X)

This is a FANTASTIC post! I linked to you from Best Post of the Week.

You are so right on in these points!

We are striving to let our kids be kids and to let them have an unhurried childhood! We’ve refused thus far to enroll them in every available activity and have preferred unstructured free play outdoors, arts and crafts, and toys like building blocks.

This post was a great encouragement! (Daja)

At first I thought this was going to be one of those posts where I’m made to feel guilty for giving my kids chores to do and for teaching them to act responsibly with their things, their interactions with others, and their conduct. Phew! I’m in 100% agreement with what you’re saying. Parents are pushing their children to be little adults, but at the expense of moral accountability and a proper perspective of priorities. My husband and I have always insisted our children live lives of integrity whether they’re “hanging out” , biking to the park or completing schoolwork. But their innocence is something we try to protect! (Deb. Burton)

Interesting information! These are all things I knew, but didn’t really think about often. As a middle school teacher, we see children babied by parents. Kids who can’t pick out their own clothes, study for a quiz on their own, or speak to adults clearly.
I agree about the adult-sized meals, ridiculous, and waxing, come on! My niece is quite content with home mani-pedis with Mom and Auntie! (Elizabeth)

Comment below! Enjoy your weekend!