Disney popstar Miley Cyrus is currently embroiled in a firestorm of controversy for racy photos which she posed for in the latest issue of Vanity Fair. Whether or not your tweens are fans of Hannah Montana, you no doubt felt a little startled by the blatant sexualization of this fifteen-year-old star. (Some of the pictures included her seemingly topless and posing in an unmade bed.)
Miley Cyrus's parents (both of whom have been very vocal about their Christian morals) should never have allowed their young daughter to pose for these scandalous pictures. Her parents were on set throughout the day and saw the shoot in question, thus it is uncalled for them to try to cast all blame on the photographer or the magazine.
As parents,we have the responsibility to guide our young children's decisions, even when it comes to self-expression and sexuality. Research has shown that young teens do not have a fully developed frontal cortex (which is the part of the brain that is responsible for decision making and judgment), so even if a teen's body is fully developed and ready for sex physically, that doesn't mean that she is ready emotionally or mentally.
Another interesting development which came from this controversy was the number of people who have condemned Miley for these photographs. Her heartfelt apology aside, Miley does not deserve a tarring-and-feathering just for showing a little skin. Teenage girls have to walk a very fine line when it comes to what is appropriate and what is not appropriate for their age.
Teenaged girls receive appreciation and admiration from older boys and men for their bodies, yet they are also simultaneously told that they are not fully adults. This mixed messaging is very confusing and can result in a quasi-sexual, quasi-childlike state, leading young girls to try to "play" at being adult women, even though they are not at all ready for the ramifications of their actions.
However, not all is lost. When poor decisions made by celebrities take over the news, parents can use the controversy as a "teachable moment" in which they discuss what is appropriate and what is not appropriate with their children. The "sex" talk should not be limited to just one conversation, as children and teens need ongoing guidance and reminders about making the right decisions. Keep the communication lines open with your children and let them know they can always come to you with questions and concerns.