At malls and online stores popular with tweens and teens, it's easy to find merchandise like "Jerseylicious" shirts, tank tops with see-through lace backs and the word "Reckless" emblazoned across the front, and "funny" buttons like one with jousting unicorns that says "I'm horny." A store frequented by teens even features onesies for infants with messages too obscene to print in a family newspaper. Another has a line of posters featuring sultry-faced teens, some locked in topless embrace.
A clerk at a downtown Salt Lake souvenir shop says the SL,UT (a play on Salt Lake, Utah) shirts fly off the shelves.
Boys, too, are growing up in a different world than even a decade ago.
Nick Uczekaj, 15, from Scottsdale, Ariz., said guys his age worry about having a girlfriend — some of his friends even have six.
"You hear all these things from the media about what girls like, that they like the bad boy," he says. "It's confusing to know how to act."
Sherrie Uczekaj was visiting the mall with her daughter's soccer group in June when they went into a Spencer's. Minutes later, she hurried everyone out. She couldn't believe what she saw out in the open in a store so clearly popular with youths: memorabilia with sex, drug and alcohol themes.
"Kids see a lot more things today than they used to," she says. "They get inundated."
Her daughter Emily, 13, says some of the friends she was close to growing up now use drugs.
Another mother in the group, Nicollete Lemmon, belongs to notMYkid, where parents learn to help their children make good choices early. It teaches parents the signs of different behaviors, how to start a conversation and action parents can take. Hot topics on the website include substance and alcohol abuse, depression, eating disorders, safe dating and internet safety.
The site says the average age a child first tries drugs is 13. Those who reach 21 without engaging in destructive behaviors probably never will, "which is why we passionately educate about current trends, warning signs and long-term impact of destructive behaviors. We believe proactive prevention on the part of kids, families and communities is the answer to long-term success."
"You try to talk to your kids about it all without coming across as being judgmental," Newberg, of West Jordan, says. "I get a lot of 'Oh, Mom,' but the way I view it, if I say it enough it will stick somewhere in their heads."
Newberg — and experts, too — fear boys will grow into men with unmeetable expectations. Psychologist Liz Hale, a marriage counselor, talks about men who are disappointed with women and marriage and sex. None of it lives up to the hype they've been force-fed for years. She knows women who give up on themselves because they can't attain the ideal.
"The effect on boys is almost worse," says Christensen. "They grow up expecting that's what girls are and, frankly, none of us are that. It's hard to find a perfect woman when she doesn't exist."
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