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Sep 3 2013
Television done right can promote a fuller view of our bodies.

My youngest son pointed at the TV. "That baby's 'doing the doo,'" he said, invoking the phrase he used for breastfeeding in his toddler years.

When I looked up at the TV, sure enough, there was a breastfeeding mama with her baby "doing the doo," in a commercial for Luvs diapers right there on the TV, right in between episodes of SpongeBob on a Tuesday morning.

I turned around to see if my other kids had noticed. They just shrugged, like it wasn't some huge deal to see a woman's nearly bare breast, nursing away during a diaper commercial. To them, it was not noteworthy. Perhaps they've seen enough nursing mamas in their real life to make seeing it on TV no big deal.

But it was a big deal. Though the commercial wasn't even new (it debuted last year), its in-your-face, I'm-nursing-in-public-so-deal-with-it boobage (which I support) isn't something normally seen during morning cartoons.

I realize not everyone will agree with my excitement about this. Certainly not all parents would rejoice in their kids seeing a strange woman's breast on TV. But considering the other body messages are kids are getting on TV—on morning TV—I think we'd all do wise to celebrate this.

Consider what Rebeca Seitz saw while watching Good Morning America with her 8-year-old: two nude-ish actors tangled in what appeared to be a sexual act during a preview for the new ABC show Betrayal. Setiz's blog post about what she saw quickly went viral. Facebook even banned her screenshot of the commercial for being too obscene. While it may be a parent's responsibility to monitor what our kids watch, none of us thinks we'll have to block porny commercials while slurping cereal and watching the morning news.

Because I first saw the breastfeeding diaper commercial on the same day I read Seitz's story, I now hold these two commercials in tension, as the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as the tiny red demon and the tiny white angel, if you will, of the power of media.

We know what our kids see on TV and online and anywhere marks them. Indeed, Seitz writes in her blog after seeing the image flash on her screen: "What HELL just ascended into my living room and burned itself into my precious boy's brain?"

These images that flash across our screens and the sounds that shoot from speakers seep in and shape our kids, their ideas of what is normal and acceptable, as well as their behavior.

Consider: a study reported in the New York Times tells us that "watching TV with sexual content artificially aged the children: those who watched more than average behaved sexually as though they were 9 to 17 months older and watched only average amounts. Twelve-year-olds who watched the most behaved sexually like 14- and 15-year-olds who watched the least."

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