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Where to Draw The Line on Media Our Kids Consume?

Parents and guardians face tough choices as technology advances make media available to children 24 hours a day.

Last week in Moms Talk asked: “How do you deal with fussy eaters?” Here’s what two of our moms had to say:

I have run into the opposite issue as Kim. My 1 year old son just recently began gravitating more towards fruit than any other food! I am glad he likes fruit and all, however, too much fruit has led to some lovely diaper surprises! I have worked to introduce the less desired veggies and proteins first and then move on to offering a little something sweet :)

O.K., I have a dessert answer, sorry. Luckily my kids love fruit. They also love fruit pies. I make my pies super healthy with very little sugar. I know Tanner has celiac so here is a gluten-free recipe: http://glutenfreecooking.about.com/od/dessertsandsweets/r/gftartdough.htm
I hope this helps.

This week, I’m wondering about where to draw the line on media my kids consume?

My kids have been singing Katy Perry’s song “Hot 'n' Cold” for a year. We always skip over an offensive word in the intro of the song. It’s become sort of a game with us: the song comes on, I wait until she says, “You PMS like a” and I turn the sound down in perfect timing until “I should know” comes on. When the song comes on, the kids get quiet, waiting to see if I’ll notice and turn it down in time. (I'm not talking about the Sesame Street version with Elmo, although even that raised a lot of controversy.)

But I draw the line at Katy’s “E.T.”

“Kiss me, ki-ki-kiss me,

Infect me with your love and

Fill me with your poison …

Take me, ta-ta-take me

Want to be a victim … ”

WHAT? Are you kidding? Song over. Permanently, when I’m in control of the sound system.

What about TV? It shows all those attractive and popular kids who break rules and disrespect everyone, which sends all kinds of crummy messages. I’m always impressed by people whose children don’t watch any television, save perhaps one PBS show every other Saturday. That’s not our family. But I do have my limits. Pretending to like someone and bartering kisses to get something you want? Sorry, “iCarly." Goodbye. Thanks for playing.

Some parents are completely unruffled by what their kids watch—I know 13-year-olds whose parents allow them to watch R-rated movies about drug dealers and mob killings. I still believe that most of the time, if it’s PG-13, my 10-year-old needs to wait three more years before she can watch it. (I’m not completely unreasonable; I did let her watch the Harry Potter movies. Since she had read all the books half a dozen times I figured she’d already taken in all those messages.)

Speaking of books, I know a parent who refused to let her children read Junie B. Jones because Junie B. was so disrespectful. But I got a kick out of Junie B’s horrified reaction to nose air and fascination with vomit remover. I figured I could use some of her over-the-top behavior as good “teachable moments.”

Which brings up another point … another mom I know previews every show, movie and book before her son gets a crack at them. While I’d like to say I do that, too, that would be a lie. I’m sure my daughter has about 20 more wildly inappropriate songs on her playlist, and I should probably nix at least half of her chosen TV shows, but I simply don’t know them well enough to do that. She wants to watch “Glee” now, but I’m not sure about that. I've never watched it. What do you think?

Where do you draw the line on media our kids consume?

harry potter fan no. 1 November 10, 2011 at 12:54 AM
glee is totally appropriate for kids ages 8+. Tell your ten year old to go for it!
Dyan Chan November 12, 2011 at 06:05 AM
Hello HP fan no. 1, I think you would get along really well with my 10-year-old!
Sheila Sanchez (Editor) November 12, 2011 at 06:15 AM
Hi Dyan, thank you for such a great column and very relevant topic. In my household, we have no TV on school nights. Favorite shows such as XFactor are recorded. Older children, such as my two teenagers, ages 19 and 17, are allowed to use the Internet in the evenings, but after completing homework, piano practice and other chores. Inappropriate music is also not allowed, but we don't monitor as closely. Girls know better and don't like songs that have degrading lyrics. I think the important thing is to watch our children closely and know what they're doing. I also believe in agency after children turn 18. That means my 17-year-old must adhere to our household rules, while my 19-year-old, who's about to leave for BYU, can now be trusted to make good decisions. Hope this helps parents out there who might be struggling with this issue. Thanks again Dyan for this awesome post.
TTD November 13, 2011 at 04:59 PM
Hi Dyan, This is a great topic for discussion; the appropriateness of TV and music are the two most wildly-debated subjects in our home, and there's never a shortage of discussions since the argument starts anew with every new show. (I've found that ratings don't work all that well as a guide for our family. I'd rather have my kid run into a little nudity now and then than violence or blatant disrespect. Some PG-13 stuff is awful.) In answer to your Glee question: my son watched it for a couple of seasons. We watched as a family, in fact, enjoying the music but cringing at actions of some of the meaner kids and more inappropriate comments. (It was kind of a love-hate relationship. We liked parts of it so much that we sure we'd like all if it a lot if we kept at it.) We all finally got tired of the writers putting more effort into trying to shock the audience with edgy content than developing interesting story lines. It's not forbidden at our house, but my kid is older. I wouldn't want my 10 year old watching it. (BTW, Carly refused the kiss; she just said she'd do it to catch the bad guy!)
Sunshine November 13, 2011 at 08:12 PM
Thanks for the great column, Dyan. We also debate this very heated topic in our household. My daughter would watch Caillou (which is a very cute show) on demand 24/7 if we'd let her. I think the line should be drawn early as to what's appropriate and as to how much is okay. Thanks for writing! Sunshine Mom
Dyan Chan November 14, 2011 at 03:01 AM
TTD, thank you for the scoop on Glee. I may have to make the time to check it out so I can tell my daughter I gave it a shot. (Plus, I like the music too.) The iCarly episode that decided it for me involved Carly's (brother? uncle?) pretending he liked a woman because he wanted her to give him a recipe. She, in turn, knew he wanted the recipe and was implying that if he kissed her she'd give it to him. Ugh.
Chigiy Binell November 15, 2011 at 05:12 AM
Hey Dyan, I promise you if you had a problem with iCarly, you're not going to let you kids watch Glee—just sayin'. BTW, I LOVE GLEE!!! And I watch it with my two boys, 12 and 15 who have both been into theater arts for years. After going through middle school there is really not much that shocks them. Great topic.
Sheila Sanchez (Editor) November 15, 2011 at 04:09 PM
Hi Chigiy, thank you so much for the comment. I just read a Denver Post column that says behavioral scientist Rebecca Collins believes watching TV with children and talking about sex preferences and situations is the ideal situation! So there you go, I guess it's not so bad to watch these shows, as long as we talk to our kids about it. :)
Rod Gustafson November 18, 2011 at 09:24 PM
Having worked in television and film for decades and the past 15 years as a film reviewer for parents, I first want to say that the posters here reflect my belief that parents truly are interested in what media their kids are consuming. Many in the industry don't appreciate this fact and figure whatever they feed down the pipe, families will willingly dish out to their kids. Sharing media with your kids is the real key. It's also important to not be shy and tell your kids why certain media might not be appropriate or why messages in media may be slanted toward a bias that doesn't agree with your family culture. Blatant plug -- I operate parentpreviews.com where we (myself and two other journalists/parents) view movies and provide parents with the details on all the new movies in theaters and on home video. From this experience alone, I KNOW a vast number of parents are indeed keeping tabs on the media their kids consume.
Dyan Chan December 05, 2011 at 08:58 PM
Thank you, Rod. Yes, we are interested! Unfortunately, we don't always make the time to watch/listen with our kids. And thank you for the blatant plug--that sounds like a good resource for us parents!!
Dyan Chan December 05, 2011 at 09:00 PM
Thank you, Chigiy, for the feedback about Glee. Unfortunately, my daughter is now mad at you. :)
christy w December 08, 2011 at 05:15 PM
Hi Dyan, I love Glee and my tween daughter wants to watch it because all her friends do. I disagree with the post that the show is appropriate for 8 year olds and up. Some shows are all about the music competition or running for school president, but there have been a few shows where everyone was hooking up and there were LOTS of make-out scenes. The first season forcused on one girl who was pregnant and there was a fair amount of sexual content. This is not what I want my daughter exposed to. I always preview the shows and if they are ok for my daughter to see, I keep it recorded. If not, then I delete. I would not let my kids watch the show without either watching with them or previewing. You never know where the story line is going to go.
Dyan Chan December 08, 2011 at 07:05 PM
Hi Christy, Thank you for your feedback on Glee! I still haven't watched it (well, I did see about 1/3 of one episode where a gay or maybe transsexual boy went head-to-head with the main girl to vie for who would get to sing "Defying Gravity." I really enjoyed what I saw, and I love their version of the song). I'm actually not as bothered by sexual content (as long as it's not too graphic, and it's not gratuitous)--I can take a little of that for "teachable moments"--I'm more concerned about characters being unethical or downright mean and being rewarded for it!

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