Is Willow Smith Appropriate for My Tween?

By Dannah Gresh, Creator of Secret Keeper Girl

In her new video “Summer Fling” finds twelve-year-old daughter of Will and Jada Pinket Smith, Willow, looking (in my opinion) every day of sixteen.

Many parents and media watch dogs who have watched the video find nothing wrong with it. But many have watched the video and launched an assault against Willow and her parents including People.com and Huffington Post. Some of the racier media articles claim the song tells the tale of sex.

A lot of moms have written in to ask me to weigh in on the subject, so here goes. First of all, who can say a thing about this without noting that Willow is one of the sweetest things on the face of the planet? And the video in and of itself is refreshingly sweet. If only all music videos were so tame.

That doesn’t mean Willow’s video is not something to be concerned about. (Although, I’m not gonna go where the secular media has gone with its sensational accusations.)

Here’s the problem: based on years of study, I know that this video just dramatically increased the risk of an early sexual debut for a lot of twelve year olds who will watch it. How do I know? Because several factors converge to raise the risk in young teens. Let’s look at two of them.

Appearing older than you actually are was once declared by the Medical Institute for Sexual Health as a factor that increased the risk of a teen becoming sexually active. I asked three teenagers to watch this video and guess Willow’s age. They guessed 14, 15, and 16. When I told them she was twelve, their mouths dropped open to the floor.

Now, the artists really did a nice job with Willow’s make-up. It’s very age appropriate, but put her in died-hair and cut-offs with a crop top dancing amidst girls in bikinis with more mature bodies and she looks every bit the teenager. The only thing that’s twelve years old in this video is what’s between Willow’s chin and forehead. This is a risk to her and to every one of our young daughter’s who aspires to be like her. (And who wouldn’t? She’s a doll!)

I’ve long wanted to make a video that proves how you can make a tween look like a teenager. I don’t have to. Willow has done it for me.

A second risk that can cause an early sexual debut is having a boyfriend/girlfriend for six months or longer. I sincerely believe that the likelihood of having a serious relationship for that long increases if you start having them early. And age twelve is early. The lyrics of this song includes:

“We walk the beach at midnight, and watch the stars in the clear skies

We both say I love you, but it’s alright.”

What twelve year old do you know who is allowed to walk the beach at midnight? Hopefully none. And I can’t help but think that the admission that they say they love each other and follow it with “but it’s alright” is wrought with the knowledge that maybe…just maybe…it isn’t.

I’ll defend the lyrics just a bit to say that I don’t think when she sings, “We do it anyway” in the chorus she is referring to having sex with the boy (who is obviously older than she is) as some in the media have accused. The song is much more innocent than that and we don’t need to exaggerate to conclude that maybe this one is less innocent than it appears to be. This is not a song about sex. It’s a song about young love.

But there is such a thing as a love that is too young.

And while people are arguing about whether criticism of this video is legalistic, I’m more interested in what’s next. Where will Willow’s tween fans be led?

Why don’t you take a look as you decide if she’s on your daughter’s video play list.

Moms, we may just be divided on this one, but let’s at least think it through and be wise about the decisions you make with your daughters when they are twelve. What’s your call on the Willow Smith videos?

Dannah Gresh’s Secret Keeper Girl Tour is a faith-based mother-daughter connecting experience. This 2 1/2 hour event features two fun fashion shows that demonstrate modesty and true beauty, deep Bible teaching, live worship, and stories that help girls aged 7-12 embrace true beauty and modesty. Incredible balloon sculptures, bouncing beach ball competitions, mother/daughter conversation time & colorful confetti cannons make the night unforgettable. Click the video below for a sneak peak.


Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh is the best-selling author, speaker , and creator of Secret Keeper Girl, America’s most popular tween stage show for moms and daughters. Dannah has authored 27 books, including And the Bride Wore White, and Lies Young Women Believe (with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth) and is considered one of the leading experts on the subjects of sexual purity, modesty, and true beauty. More than 350,000 people have attended her live events. She has been a guest on CNN, Fox News, and the 700 Club and is a frequent guest on Focus on the Family and Family Life. Her TEDTalk on tolerance for virginity offers thought-provoking look at why sexuality is enhanced by self-control. She lives in State College, Pennsylvania with her husband, Bob on a hobby farm with a menagerie of animals. The couple has four young adult children.

Lori - July 31, 2013

I have 2 daughters one is 12 going to be 13 in Sept and the other just turned 9. I would never let either of my girls watch this video or listen to this song. Besides the fact that Willow looks older than she is the people in the video and the way they are acting, in my opinion, is totally inappropriate for my daughters.

April - July 31, 2013

I feel that the title of the song speaks volumes! What 12 year old is old enough to know anything about a summer fling? It appears that Willow Smith is trying to grow way up too fast. It is sad that her parents are not trying to protect her innocence through the media and music industry. The world that we are currently living in has become so sexually saturated, it is nausiating. When I was 12, I didn’t even know what sex was and I didn’t care about boys at that time either. This is my opinion about Willow’s age & video.

Michelle - July 31, 2013

Not one person in that video looks like they are close to Willow’s true age. Because of her age, young girls are watching it and I don’t believe it’s appropriate. I too believe that dating young leads to immature decisions. My daughter is twelve as well. My rule is that if the lyrics contain content that is about dating and boyfriend/girlfriend talk, she doesn’t need to listen to it since she is not old enough to do those things. It’s frustrating that there is so much of that type of music out there for our daughters. I’m trying to get her to understand that just because Disney plays it, doesn’t mean it’s what we believe is appropriate. Unfortunately she can listen when I’m not around and I just pray that what I’ve taught her, with the help of the Holy Spirt, will help her to make good choices

Shannon - July 31, 2013

Sadly, I would not choose for my 8 yr. old daughter to see this precious 12 yr. old girl as a role model. Why can’t those in her charge encourage her to use her gifts to send the message of pursuing higher goals than summer crushes? Is this empowering young women to get a grasp of their intrinsic value? Why is encouraging innocence for as long as possible so threatening? Thankfully, there are other role models out there and it’s sad that too many are talking so about this tender but misguided soul. Who you identify, you celebritize.

Paula - July 31, 2013

Wow, I don’t get all the controversy?? Just because this girl is a star doesn’t make this a ok normal 12 y/o get together. The moral decline of our country ( kids) is directly related to videos such as these being directed to our youth, and ADULTS (parents) not willing to take a stand and explain to our kids why this is not ok. When our kids understand the morality and “get” why it may lead to sin, They often will make a good decision based on there conviction not just, ” that’s a bad video”. WE parents need to BE THE EXAMPLE what are we watching? reading? how do adult music/ screen stars influence us. The example we portray as parents is the strongest influence. I encourage moms to talk openly about the words of the songs and the images there kids see. Even if we don’t allow certain videos/ music they will most likely see or hear it elsewhere. Again, they need to know thy “why” not just the “don’t”.

    have respect for urself - July 31, 2013

    Great statement. I don’t believe in sheltering completly…it leads to distruction. A lot of this sin is because of it being easier to fit in than stand up for your morals..which should have been taught by the parents through the Bible…but that takes time and dedication that parents do not want to take on.

Arden - July 31, 2013

I have to say I find it to be inappropriate for my daughter who is 12. I want her to listen to music which relects devotion to God not boys or looks. I don’t think you can permit this kind of music and video while encouraging conservative dress and behavior without expecting to confusing your daughter. One thing I do consider is the way even Christain artist present themselves on CD covers and their lyrics – some may still not be appropriate for my 12 year old.

Jennifer - July 31, 2013

I don’t think it is just people twisting the lyrics to make them seem less innocent than they are. Innuendo is a tool that is used to sell records to a broader age group, and this song definitely utilizes it. It’s like saying “lets be friends (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)”. A less worldly 12 year old may see it in a totally different light than an experienced 20 year old, and that is the ultimate goal. The problem is that when you combine the innuendo of these lyrics with other people’s perception of the intended meaning, you plant a very dangerous seed in the minds of young girls. As a mom I see a little girl whose body is at a point where it is growing faster than her mind and she’s quickly treading into a place that she’s not ready for. It’s like throwing a child who can’t swim into the deep end of the pool and just expecting them to figure out how not to drown. And here’s the problem I see for other tween girls: you know that saying “if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it to?” The honest answer to that question for most kids is, ” we’ll, yeah, if it looked like fun!” This video is basically showing our girls that jumping off the bridge is really fun, but not telling them what happens when you hit the water.

Jennie Bishop - July 31, 2013

I’m interested, too, in seeing what comes next, Dannah. The quality of her performance reminds me of a homemade Youtube video in that she’s just a young girl seeing how cool it would be to make a music video and flirt with the idea of being a star. Seems obvious to me, too, that the other girls are older and that an adult producer is looking to make some statements of his/her own, which makes the video look less innocent than it could be.

The sad fact is that there are very few performers who start at this age who escape the temptation of using their sexuality as a selling tool. A becoming teen is naturally exploring her sexuality and producers seize upon this as a way to make easy money. That’s not okay. Spears, Cyrus, Jackson … the list goes on and on. They started innocent (even as Mouseketeers!) but they caved to pandering sexuality that pulls the young into early experimentation and the older into voyeurism at the least. So sad for both our society and our kids.

Take courage, parents, and help your kids evaluate this media with wisdom! You can do it! Keep talking with your kids and stay aware of what is out there. Help them guard their hearts by evaluating their visual input. 🙂

Marsha - July 31, 2013

I had to google Willow’s name because I had no idea who she was. I have 3 girls, 12, 10 and 7. Our girls love music and we are big concert goers. They are huge fans of artist like Jamie Grace, Britt Nichole, Mandisa, Toby Mac, and Lecae, just to name a few. With such talented Christian artist I really don’t understand why Christian families would listen to anything else.

have respect for urself - July 31, 2013

Great statement. I don’t believe in sheltering completly…it leads to distruction. A lot of this sin is because of it being easier to fit in than stand up for your morals..which should have been taught by the parents through the Bible…but that takes time and dedication that parents do not want to take on.

Shemara - July 31, 2013

I showed my fourteen year old dughter this video, we agreed, nothing wron g with video except the girls and guys around her are older, she said they all look sixteen, and she is twelve trying to look siteeen, she needs to be with kids her own age…I don’t see much problem with the song, except as Dana pointed out, what twelve year old would realistically be walking on beach at midnight!
I see nothing wrong with her music or videos, watching the videos your daughter likes, listen to the music, have honest descussion about the issues and ask them to point out what they see that might be the issue, allow them to pay attention and open their eyes to the issues…I would allow Willows music as she is much more innocent and clean than other offering out there, like Beounce and Rihhana (complete filth) it would be interesting to see what my oldest a says, as I did same with her, she used to listen to Brittney Spears when she first started, then on her own she noticed when Britney became inappropriate and decided not to listen anymore. I think its important to teach our girls to open their eyes and see these things and have open conversations about them, become interested in what they are interested in and teach them to watch, they will know when someone crossed boundaries!

Mel - July 31, 2013

This is complete Sexualization. Simple. “This is the process by which a person, group of people, or object comes to be seen or interpreted as sexual in nature”. Official definition.

Concerned Parent - July 31, 2013

The fact that some moms have to think about whether or not this is appropriate is scary. Run the other way with your daughters and sons!

Debbie - July 31, 2013

Ok maybe I missed something but as Christians we are not supposed to make choices based on what seems right or what other Christians are doing. I’m pretty sure if Parents sought out what God wants for their children through prayer and the word of God we would all come to the same conclusion. Like another mom said above, there is so much great christian music out there why even listen to anything else.

Deneen - July 31, 2013

This video shows all kinds of relationships; male /female and female/female. Watch it again if you missed the scene of the two girls holding hands on the raft in the water. Why is it acceptable to justify any relationship at 12!

Patty - July 31, 2013

One more thing about this: Willow is just cute enough and the video is deceptively “tame” enough to be EXTREMELY DANGEROUS!!!! Shall we pray for our youth???? YES!!!!

Good For You Girls (Kim) - August 1, 2013

You are way too kind. I hated this video and everything about it from the belly shirts, bikinis, behavior, and lyrics. I found nothing redeeming whatsoever. Girls need better role models. If these are the videos she does at 12 I don’t want to see them at 13.

Have you seen the “Brave” videos by Sara Bareilles? They are wonderful. Below are the YouTube links. the first is the original by her and the next is the lyric version. Love them!

Thank you for your calling!



Katie - August 1, 2013

I agree 100 percent! As (young) grandma my 10 year old granddaughter has her music screened and Willow Smith is OUT. The innuendoes of the music, the dance, etc. come on…how dumb do we think our kids are? They may not understand the ramifications of these actions but they understand what’s going on. Her parents are so proud of their “let them raise their selves” parenting. ..you would think they would see how detrimental (no matter how much money she earns) this will be in the long term for their kids. Jaden hangs out with Bieber (who is much too old for him and already leaving a trail of terror at his age, and he’s proud of it. Bieber’s drug use is becoming more apparent too) Too many “stars: suffer substance abuse and more because of the fame and money they obtain with no guidence…God help a child that has this happen. Willow is headed for trouble….. Early pregnancy at the minimum. Is daddy and mom at least making sure the vultures aren’t taking advantage of their beautiful daughter???????

mrs. obvious - August 2, 2013

Weeping for Willow!!! This is an obvious red flag. I can’t believe anyone would think this is sweet. wrong on so many levels….. No secret keeper girls in this video…. This is a no brainer! Willow is OUT. Pray for our country….what have we become that we accept this because it is not as bad as others???? It is a gateway….there is a lion in the thicket!

Cece - August 2, 2013

With the title alone ‘Summer Fling’ I’d say it is inappropriate. One may say ‘Oh, she’s only 12 she wouldn’t know what the title means,’ and, my response to that would be “Her parents would and, so would the producers of her music video.” I’m not one to jump to hasty conclusions but, I also keep in mind of what industry she is in. Statistically, many children of said industry learn of mature subjects at an early age. Not to mention many of the lyrics can easily seem fairly suggestive. There is absolutely no reason as to why they need to be. It could be a simple song of puppy love that doesn’t include:

“Goodnight kiss, till the mood is right”

“Future is right now
First love is right now
Just for fun is right now
Live wild n free come follow me”

“Do it anyway” (This one may seem less suggestive and, why not? But, I’d say otherwise because of the contents of the song. Not only that but, towards the end of the song it repeats itself several times, slowing down the party and the scenary, giving the viewer time to just think about the words spoken and, relate them to themselves. I cam go deeper into that scene… but, I won’t.)

Suggestive? I believe so. Granted, I am 20 years old, have no kids, and believe in sex after marriage but, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one that sees the media getting more and, more sexual. They need a way to get younger people ‘sexual’ as well and, how do they do so? With the youth of the entertainment industry. Shall we look at Selena Gomez? Yes…lol. She is 21 years old. I’d say she is an adult from my stand point. So given the way she dresses and, what she sings about it would be more appropriate than Willow Smith’s song but, that’s not the point I am trying to make, that’s a given. My point is, where did she come from? Disney. So, what age group is more than likely to look up to her even though she may or may not be on Disney anymore? Youth. Samething with Miley Cyrus…

To get to the heart of all of all my thoughts… the media will be the media. You can be a good parent but, there’s also no telling what crowd your child/children will befriend when in school, no telling what they will watch/do/ or go with their friends. All one can really do is pray to God, do the best you can to raise your child/children and have patience.

Cece - August 2, 2013

Just to make sure there is no mistunderstanding… I don’t believe what Salena Gomez wears at times and sings sometimes is appropriate but, according to the broad ranges of society, since she’s an adult, those things would be ‘acceptable’ …. ‘passible’ for her age.

Jenny - August 3, 2013

I don’t care for the video at all. She is 12 and it sends a terrible message. That “boy” that she’s in “love” with is not a boy. He is way older than her. Not ok, if you are only 12.

Also, her clothing is not appropriate. No child or tween or teenager needs to wear shorts that short and crop tops. I’m so sick of the clothing industry making this stuff. More sickening is the parents buying it!

Can you tell I just spent 2 days looking for clothes for my 9 year old? It was so difficult. She cried when things that were cute no longer fit her. I don’t want her to wear raunchy clothing. I have no idea what I’m going to do.

Melanie - August 26, 2013

I think CeCe has a very good point. As we believers I think a closer look at the lyrics are pretty important. How do they stand up against God’s word? I think the words communicate to our children the way the world works, but not how our Father operates 1 John 2:16 says. “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.” Here are just a few holes I see:

“Do it anyway”. That phrase is not only suggestive sexually, it also is subtly rebellious, hinting at doing “it” “anyway” — in spite of what you may have been told is best or what your gut might even be telling you is right.

“First love is right now”. Just because your attracted to someone doesn’t make him your “first love”. In addition, Revelation 2:4 refers our Lord as our “first love”, shouldn’t we be modeling and teaching this to our girls? After all, it is God who says He loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). Let’s impress this on their hearts!

“…till the mood is right”. We are to encourage our children to live their lives controlled by the Spirit not ruled by their moods. The heart can deceive. Satan is deceptive, too, and the art of deception is usually enfolded in subtleties.

“…right now”, “…right now”, “…right now”. Hey, love waits! It is patient and it does not demand its own way… (1 Corinthians 13:4,5)

I could go on, but I am simply reinforcing what has already been articulated so well by the individuals before me.

Roman666 - November 18, 2014

Jus let willow be.she inspire those she inspire she is a child,yes,but YOLO what if she dies before reaching 20.no.no.no

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