Our expert says:
Hmm. The age of physical puberty has for some time been dropping, for boys and maybe a bit more for girls, but the age of what we might call mental / social puberty, let alone maturity, isn't really dropping at all. Also, kids tend to do what's feasible, and to look at what's available, especially when encouraged by the gossip and claims of school-mates. And they're very naturally curious about how things look ( especially the wobbly bits we tell them they mustnt look at ) and how they work, and maybe the more so where this isn't something they learn young enough ( if at all ) from their parents.
You were very wise to use the situation, not as a catastrophe, but as an invitation and opportunity to provide detailed accurate information.
The curioisity about sexual matters has always occurred, naturally, and from a reasonably young age. What has maybe shifted has been the idea of people being "sexy" which kids didn't in the past consider a valid or relevant descriptor until later in life.
Talk further with him about the "sexy pictures" : what they mean to him, if he understands why some people think them demeaning and disrespectful to women ; whether he feels it is important to him to imitate his friend, so as to demonstrate that he is also "cool". Discuss issues of peer pressure, and why its a good idea to feel confident enough in oneself to resist it where its pressure towards something really wrong, but explain why you feel its OK if he really wants some such pictures.
One of my concerns about the earlier sexualization of kids, is that they get to spend less time on the important task and enjoyment, of being children, rather than small adults, doing stuff that they have decades ahead of them to do, decades in which its not so easy to just play and enjoy things as a child
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