My daughter came by and shared this story from a first-grade classroom she was working in. The weather on the day the incident took place was rainy, cloudy, and windy. The kids were lining up at the door to go from one building to another. They began talking about the weather. The kids spoke up, one by one, and said:
"It's windy out there!"
"It's cloudy with a chance of meatballs!"
"It's cloudy with a chance of hotdogs!"
"It's cloudy with a chance of basketballs!"
and the last kid in line, a six-year-old boy cried out,
"It's cloudy with a chance of Sexy Boobies!"
Yep, first grade.
This is not a solitary event. A week prior my daughter had been at a table in the classroom when a boy made a mistake and said, "OH, F..." - he stopped at the "f" sound. The kid next to him didn't miss a beat and excitedly proclaimed, "I know what he was going to say, he was going to say, 'OH, fuck!'"
Kids pick up profanity, sultry references to bodies, and sexual references very early in life. And a school setting (or any public setting), by it's very nature, brings together lots of kids who have lots of different experiences. Some kids have been sheltered and have never seen nor heard references to sex or even swear works. Others have had access to music videos, TV programming, music lyrics, and family talk that is peppered with slang, swear words, and profanity. And some, sadly, have been exposed to R-rated movies and even pornography at frighteningly young ages. And the topics inevitably come up. Ask any teacher, school counselor, or school administrator. They know.
Most often parents don't know.
Parents, even if you have sheltered your kids from sexual references, profanity, and the crassness of the culture, they will hear and learn it all - probably before you think they are ready. If you don't believe it, ask around.
You cannot prevent it. But you can do something to protect your child. You can teach your kids what those references mean and help them understand the context. I learned to do just that the hard way - with my son. He was our third child. He saw swear words spray painted inside of tube slides. He came to me at age six and asked me what "fuck" meant.
One day when my son was 8 and we were driving across town and he asked, "Mom, will you teach me the bad words?" Hmmmm. None of the many parenting books I read had broached that subject at all. I responded, "Let me think about it." The next day I started in. I taught him two swear words. I told them where the words came from, how the words are used today, and why the words are considered disrespectful.
And I taught my kids about sex early. I wanted them to know before some other kid told them or before they ran into some reference, picture, or other sexually explicit content. Being the one to tell them gave me a chance to teach them healthy attitudes about sex. And I'm really glad I did it. It was uncomfortable. But we all lived through it and it gave us a foundation so we could revisit the subject over the years. And we did.
When my kids were in middle school I asked each one if they knew what oral sex was. They had all heard reference to it but they weren't sure exactly what it was. I told them. They looked stunned and disgusted. Because I was there, I could then tell them what I wanted them to know about it. Yes, people do that. No, not everyone does that and you don't ever have to if you don't want to (believe me, none of them think they will EVER want to). And most importantly, I told them they would hear references and stories about kids their age doing it. And that it's not something that is meant for middle school students. I told them a lot of other things too - but for now, what I want you parents to know is this: kids want to know what you think. They want to know what the boundaries are. They need guidance. Their culture is screaming sex and they don't know how to put it all into context. Start early and never stop. They need it in middle school and they need to hear from you in high school too. My kids are young adults. I'm still telling them what I think about sex.
If you need help, sign up for one of my workshops for middle school or high school families. OR - purchase this program, Talking to Your Kids About Sex: Beyond "The Talk." The program will help you address the sensitive but important topic with your kids. Whatever you do, don't let your children simply pick up the values the culture puts forth about sex. Sexual attitudes are learned. Teach them yours.