Is "Gossip Girl" Too Racy For Kids?

If you think the new CW show "Gossip Girl" is salacious, check out the books the series is based on. They are full of swear words and tales of sex, drugs and drinking -- content so racy it would make Harry Potter blush.

Both the books and the TV show chronicle the high society lifestyle of teens on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

"There is sex in school, there are drugs, there is drinking. Obviously there's a lot of swearing and there's a feeling that it's unrealistic for books not to reflect that," said Karen Holt, deputy editor of Publisher's Weekly.

But clinical psychologist Roni Cohen-Sandler says parents are right to be concerned about what their children are exposed to whether it is through books, television, radio or movies.

"You want to make sure what they're reading, the messages they're getting, are consistent with your values," she told The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm. "In many of these books, you're seeing girls think of things and do things that are really not consistent with a parent's values."


Photos: Book People
While industry experts credit the popularity of "Gossip Girl" and other serial novels to their accurate portrayal of issues facing teenagers today. Some parents are weary of the message these stories convey.

"This kind of reading gives children ideas, I think, that they probably wouldn't necessarily be interested in unless they wanted to start mimicking certain activities," said Alanda Robinson, whose daughter Blake enjoys the books.

Some parents say they are simply happy that their children are reading at all. But if you are bothered by the books, Cohen-Sandler says don't overreact. That will only make your daughter more interested. Instead, she says, always read what they are reading.

"Pick up the books, read them, find out what's in them, and that becomes a great springboard for discussion for your daughter," she said. "Then you can say to her, 'What do you think of these books? Do you think it's realistic? Do you ever feel like these girls feel? Is that how your friends act?' You can counteract some of the negative messages they get from these book snoops the people publishing these books say that there's nothing wrong with them because the characters in these books are mirroring some of the issues that these girls are facing in real life."

The problem is that many of the girls who read the book are in elementary school and middle school and cannot differentiate reality from fiction, Cohen-Sandler said. When they are older, they can see how the books exaggerate things and also see the consequences of partaking in drugs, sex and gossip.

"You want her to see that there are consequences for things and that if you're behaving in a way that's not consistent with your values, that bad things happen," she said. "That's not the message they're getting."

But above all, Cohen-Sandler said, do not preach.

"You have to come across as being very nonjudgmental, of course," she said. "You have to listen, and that's very difficult to sort of sit back and listen and not be judgmental. But you do have an opportunity, then, to counteract the messages that you don't like."