This data confirms that I’m the worst parent EVER.
Parents spend far too much time debating “firsts” for their children. When is the right age for my kid to see their first PG-13 movie? When is the first age for the first sleepover, sex talk, phone, orthodontic appointment? We’re all constantly worried that we’re exposing our children to things way too early or way too late (and worried that everyone else in our family is judging us for doing so).
With that in mind, I was really interested when I saw a new Harris poll posted today that asked American parents and teens to weigh in on the right age for kids to experience certain landmark “Firsts.”
Then I read the results and LAUGHED MY ASS OFF.
I don’t mean to question their survey methodology — maybe their respondents really did offer up all of these opinions — but, speaking as a parent who knows a whole lot of parents, these “suggested” ages are cray-cray. They’re not realistic, they’re baffling, and, in a few cases, they’re downright irresponsible.
So, either I’m officially the worst parent ever or these numbers do NOT make sense.
Let me walk you through some of the more heinous examples…
That’s not wholly offensive, but it’s pretty unusual. My daughter started getting sleepover invitations when she was 7, and I know kids that did sleepovers at a much earlier age. It’s a really, really common occurrence for elementary school birthday parties, so 11 feels really late. (One caveat — when she was younger, I only let my kid sleepover at friends’ houses if I knew the parent really well.)
Let’s move on… the results say that kids should experience their first concert at age 16.
I took my daughter to a Blondie concert at age 6, so… I was a little early on that one. (I know SO many parents who’ve taken their kids to Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Weird Al, or other concerts at MUCH younger ages.)
Next, according to the Harris poll, kids shouldn’t see a R-rated movie until they’re 16.5.
OK, that age was completely unrealistic when I was a kid (long time ago), so how on Earth does that sound authentic in the age of Netflix and cellphones and movie piracy?! Your kids are going to see R-rated movies before they’re 16, parents! You might want not want to wait until 16 to talk to them about it.
(Full disclosure — I showed my daughter The Blues Brothers when she was 8. I regret nothing.)
The results also say that kids shouldn’t get a cellphone until ages 13-15, which, again, WHO RESPONDED TO THIS POLL?
It doesn’t represent reality at all. Even if you wish that kids had less screentime, I bet we all know several kids under the age of 10 who already have a phone.
And, now, here’s the result that really, really bothers me.
According to this poll, the people surveyed said that they think that parents should wait until age 12 (12.3, to be exact) to have the “sex talk” with their kids.
That’s not even funny. That’s just negligent.
So, parents shouldn’t have frank, informative discussions with their children about sex until they’re in seventh grade? They’re suggesting that parents of daughters should wait until after their some of daughters experience their first periods before having a talk with them about human reproduction and sexuality?
Sex is everywhere. And, as a parent, I can tell you that kids start picking up details and questions about sex LONG before they turn 12.
Think about it — I’ve been to elementary school dances where they’re been playing Psy’s “Gangnam Style” non-stop, so should it really surprise us if kids start asking “Hey, what does ‘sexy’ mean?” before they’re 12?
If you ignore all of that, if you ignore all of your kid’s unspoken questions or anxieties about sex until they’re 12 because you think that’s the “appropriate” age to discuss it, you’re doing your child a HUGE disservice.
The only explanation I can come up with for this weird, flawed survey is that, like I mentioned earlier, parents love to second-guess and judge each other. Maybe some of them heard these questions and nervously looked around, trying to figure out the answer that wouldn’t get them a withering stare at a PTA meeting, and just said, “Um… 12?”
Because these ages — from the small stupid stuff to the big life-changing stuff — DO NOT reflect any kind of parenting reality I know, and I weep for the children of the parents who really think their kids don’t need to discuss their sexuality until they’re almost in high school.
Don’t listen to this survey, moms and dads. Your kids need you much earlier than this suggests.
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Here’s an infographic with the full results, in case you were interested (or needed a good laugh):