How Soon Is Too Soon?

In Uncategorized on February 7, 2012 at 6:42 pm

A colleague sent me an article today that literally made my jaw drop.  Fifth graders at a Minnesota elementary school have been playing a new playground game called “Rape Tag.”  Apparently, it is similar to Freeze Tag, where the person who is “it” is called the “rapist” and in order to be unfrozen, you have to be humped.

After the game was reported to the principal, the game was swiftly shut down by administrators, teachers, and recess noon aids.  The fifth graders had a discussion with their teachers and it was discovered that primarily two classes were playing the game.  Afterwards, a letter was sent home from the principal to parents describing the situation and the actions taken by the school.  Since then, the game has not resurfaced at the school.

Blogger for SF Gate, Amy Graff, wrote, “Likely the children at this school didn’t understand what rape means.  Some kid picked up the word from television or the Internet and knew that it was related to sex. Kids think humping and sex is weird and silly and enjoy joking about it. It’s just upsetting that kids are familiar with the word rape at such an early age, whether they understand the meaning or not.”

I couldn’t agree more.  The children certainly did not mean to hurt anyone by playing this game – they’re innocent and naïve and don’t understand the heavy and devastating meaning behind rape.  But what are we doing as a society and parents to ensure that our children know what is good and what is bad?  What sort of education is out there to inform our children about the rights and wrongs?

In fact, many parents have since phoned into the principal concerned that they now have to have sexually-explicit conversations with their 10-11-12 year olds because of this incident.

Now, I know that we’re bordering on a debate of when to start sex education.  And that’s not something I want to get into.  There are many arguments that can be made for both sides and, while I have an opinion, I’m not sure this is the venue in which to host that particular discussion.

What I do want to say is that we need to educate our children about the images they see and the things that they hear so that they don’t misinterpret.  Without a doubt, they are enmeshed in a highly sexualized culture that oftentimes presents sex as no big deal and sexual violence as a joke.  If these are the only messages that our children are receiving, not only will the culture persist in ignoring violence and blaming victims, but children will take these lessons as golden and ignorantly use them as fodder for playground learning and games.

Children need to know that touching someone without their consent is not okay.  Children need to know that making fun of rape is not okay and that rape is a bad thing and to be taken seriously.

In this case, we cannot blame the kids for playing an offensive game.  Generally speaking, they don’t know any better.  But we do need to extend our education efforts (in an age-appropriate manner) to avoid perpetuating a culture that allows this to happen.


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