Parents voiced concerns about a kids movie. And the studio distributing it ... listened.

Social media was blowing up with reviews of "Show Dogs" — for a disturbing reason. Reviewers and parents alike voiced concerns about whether the PG-rated kids' film "Show Dogs" was subtly conditioning kids to be groomed for sexual molestation. Yes, really.

Thanks to continuous feedback from people across the country and a candid statement from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, the movie executives decided to make a change. In a statement issued May 24, 2018, Global Road Entertainment states:


"Responding to concerns raised by moviegoers and some specific organizations, Global Road Entertainment has decided to remove two scenes from the film 'Show Dogs' that some have deemed not appropriate for children.

The company takes these matters very seriously and remains committed to providing quality entertainment for the intended audiences based on the film’s rating."

What started all the controversy?

In the film, an anthropomorphized police dog named Max (played by Ludacris) goes undercover at a dog show to gather intelligence on a crime. As part of the operation, he has to prepare to compete in a dog show.

[rebelmouse-image 19398141 dam="1" original_size="677x678" caption="Image via Show Dogs Movie/Twitter." expand=1]Image via Show Dogs Movie/Twitter.

One of the requirements of the show is an "inspection" of a dog's "private parts" by the judges. While rehearsing for this part of the show, Max is uncomfortable and says so. His trainers coach him on how to go to a "happy/zen" place while it's happening so that he can get through it. He resists at first, but by the time the show comes around — with everything riding on his ability to get through the inspection — he successfully disassociates from the fondling as viewers get a look at his happy place.  

Um, yeah. That's problematic.

Parents and child advocacy groups alike voiced their concerns over the scenes.

Terina Maldonado at Macaroni Kid wrote, "During the movie, I kept thinking, 'This is wrong, it doesn't need to be in a kids movie. Everything else in the movie is good fun except for this.' Afterward, my husband mentioned that he picked up on this message too, as did my mother who saw the movie with us. My daughter, on the other hand, said her favorite part of the movie was when Max got his privates touched and the funny reaction he had."

And therein lies the problem. It's not that kids will recognize that there's a problem with the scenes — it's that they won't. They'll giggle about how it's uncomfortable to have your privates touched, and then get the message that "going to happy place" is a good way to deal with that discomfort.

Dawn Hawkins, executive director for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation spoke up about the film. "The movie 'Show Dogs' sends a troubling message that grooms children for sexual abuse," she said in a statement. "It contains multiple scenes where a dog character must have its private parts inspected, in the course of which the dog is uncomfortable and wants to stop but is told to go to a 'zen place.' The dog is rewarded with advancing to the final round of the dog show after passing this barrier. Disturbingly, these are similar tactics child abusers use when grooming children — telling them to pretend they are somewhere else, and that they will get a reward for withstanding their discomfort."

Initially, the movie makers released a lukewarm apology statement that led many to believe they didn't really see the problem.

The original statement released by the filmmakers read, "It has come to our attention that there have been online discussion and concern about a particular scene in Show Dogs, a family comedy that is rated PG. The dog show judging in this film is depicted completely accurately as done at shows around the world and was performed by professional and highly respected dog show judges. Global Road Entertainment and the filmmakers are saddened and apologize to any parent who feels the scene sends a message other than a comedic moment in the film, with no hidden or ulterior meaning, but respect their right to react to any piece of content."

It has come to our attention that there have been online discussion and concern about a particular scene in Show Dogs, a...

Posted by Show Dogs Movie on Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Their initial response was not an apology nor did it take accountability; however, they did seem to step back, realize the merit of these concerns, and take action.

While their eventual response was to take action, it remains concerning that it wasn't caught or changed sooner. In the age of #MeToo, where sexual assault has been a hot topic of conversation and education, it's unfathomable that no one in the final production of this film would have recognized the issue or pointed it out before the film's release.

Update 5/24/2018: This post was updated to reflect new action taken by the movie distributor that took place after original publication.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

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How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

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"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

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