Have you ever:
…innocently turned on the TV in your child’s presence only to be assaulted by disturbing images of men and women suffering from the effects of years of smoking?
…tuned in to a national news broadcast during which every other commercial break features amorous couples who are clearly enjoying the benefits of their erectile dysfunction meds?
…raced to your remote to change over to the Disney Channel, away from the footage of Syrian children dealing with the horrifying aftermath of bombings and chemical weapons attacks?
I have done all of these things, and I will do them again, unapologetically.
Before you judge me, please understand one essential factor in my decision-making:
My twins are 4.
I don’t expect them to be peer pressured into developing a smoking habit in preschool, nor am I interested in having to explain why the woman on TV is looking “that way” at her man while he’s climbing a stupid ladder. (Maybe I’m the only woman alive who doesn’t find that act particularly sexy?)
But my choice to shelter my kids from seeing children their age writhing in agony sends colossal guilt bubbling up in my conscience.
I feel certain that there are other parents who would disagree with this particular parenting decision.
After all those children, innocent and pure, could not be sheltered. They have witnessed and experienced horrors firsthand more grisly and scarring than the toughest of adults could withstand. As a woman who is probably less sensitive than the average, I myself cannot bear to watch that footage.
So, as caretakers of our little people, what is the right thing to do?
An article on kidshealth.org offers great insight into the topic of children and news media along with a reasonable, middle-of-the-road approach.
As for advice that would be appropriate for parents of very young kids like mine, the article suggests that we simply avoid shows that are too graphic and/or inappropriate. Whew…validation!
But what about as our kids get older?
Realistically, with age comes exposure. Frightening events and violence are happening around the world, in our country and unfortunately in some cases, in kids’ own schools. Information from TV, newspapers and peers have bombarded our children. Occasionally scary images accompany that information.
KidsHealth states that around age 7 or 8, children may have developed the ability to differentiate between fantasy and reality. During this time, children may begin worrying about what the article refers to as “mean world syndrome.” In short, this effectively shrinks the world in the mind of a child while giving him the impression that disasters, violence, evil are right around the corner.
The article offers tips on how we as caregivers can help our children put these unpleasant realities of life in the proper context:
- Consider news media that is geared for children which is less likely to feature disturbing images. I’ve located Time For Kids, Scholastic News Online and Youngzine, all of which are targeted to children of varying ages.
- If you choose to have the news on with your children present, you can sit and watch with them. Be prepared to turn the station if you feel that coverage is too intense for their age. Engage them in conversation about what they have seen and help to calm their fears, particularly about the events that are isolated to other areas.
- Talk with your children about what they can do to help in times of disaster. Creative fundraising can be a terrific way to give children a sense of control by assisting others.
OK, now what do we do about the suggestive TV content?
The FCC provides us with guidance on appropriate children’s programming. The site also includes a link to their KidVid tool through which parents and caregivers can plug in an address or ZIP and – ta-da! A lovely list of TV programs in your area geared for kids, along with targeted age ranges.
Also through the FCC site, you can brush up on the V-chip technology which allows users of 13+ inch TVs made after 1/1/2000 to block programming you deem inappropriate.
Hey, raising kids is tough work! We have to have our eyes and ears open constantly to help our kids navigate this crazy, sometimes cruel world. Is there one right or wrong way to guide our children through the scary or inappropriate stuff? Absolutely not.
The bottom line?
All we can do is arm ourselves with information and resources, then trust our gut to do what is right for our children and our families.
What is your philosophy on sheltering children from what is commonly thought to be disturbing or inappropriate material? Do you feel that we censor too much of what our children see or experience?