Thursday, 11 July 2013

Is 12-Year-Old Willow Smith Too Young for a ‘Summer Fling’?

Burning Question: Should Willow Smith really be singing about a "Summer Fling" at 12? The video looks inappropriate for her age, too. — Y.W., Detroit
If you're speaking about those lyrics — "It's just a few months, but we do it anyway" — followed by filmed flirtations with someone who appears to be much older than Willow, you're not alone.
Sure, the video also has plenty of teen-appropriate japery, like trampoline jumping, fake British accents and super soakers. But that isn't stopping the Twitterverse from weighing in with very mixed reactions.
"What the hell," an @ethannovak tweeted. "Have you guys seen Willow Smith's music video for 'Summer Fling'? She is 12. Super disturbing."
"Willow smith is 12 years old," @foyinog echoed. "I know that, but does she?"
However, the real backlash is coming from the child development community. The general gist: A "summer fling" theme may sound innocent compared with, say, an Eminem song. But it's still way too old for Smith's audience.
"It is not age-appropriate for a 12-year-old to be singing these kinds of lyrics or to be involved in a scenario like this," says psychiatrist Dr. Carole Lieberman. "The argument may be that it's pretend, but there is the psychological impact on her. Do you want your 12-year-old already seen as a sex symbol?"
Other experts put it more succinctly.
"She has a boyfriend?" child development and behavior specialist Betsy Brown Braun exclaimed to me. "And she's 12?
"There is no accounting for some people's parenting decisions. My sadness over this is that people are going to look at these behaviors — singing about something that is emotionally too old for this child — and think it's OK. That is what I weep and worry about. Because it's not OK."
Even the notion of a "summer fling" actually isn't recommended for a kid Willow's age.
"A summer fling is usually used to describe something physical, sexual, with no long-term attachment," notes parenting expert Robyn Silverman. "People don't want to hear about 12-year-olds talking about good-night kisses. It feels out of place; too old and sexualized."
All that said, some people don't see anything wrong with the song or its content.
"I seriously loved the video," a tweeter named Jasmine said. "Ignore all the other comments, Willow."
And, in a way, the video may actually provide a benefit to parents who are plugged-in enough to know opportunity when they see it.
"What Willow is providing is a glimpse of our time," Silverman posits. "Many kids are growing up faster than is appropriate, and perhaps her video is a perfect chance for parents to talk to their children about this.
"Does this video represent the way their kids actually feel at that age? If so, maybe our problem isn't with Willow, but with society at large."