Tuesday, August 31, 2010

He Said She Said: Children and Media

Two of our contributors are asked to take opposing stances on an issue and present a case for their viewpoint. Comment and tell us who you agree with or what you believe or think! The topics are suppose to elicit a response and start a conversation in comments. Enjoy!

TOPIC: Children and Media

Shelle Edit Disclaimer ;) -- The opinions expressed here are the views of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Real World Venus vs. Mars site.

She Said:

I'm kind of strict when it come to my kids and their exposure to movies and television. When my oldest daughter was about three years old, my ex and I cut the cable and sold our t.v. We went hard core. No more television for us. Neither one of us owns a tv now that we're apart.

Of course, my girls still got to watch DVDs (of our choosing) on the computer, but we were very strict and limited it to no more than an hour a day.  Now that they're 5 and 7, I will show them tv episdoes of things like Spongebob and other age-appropriate programs. We will often have "movie night" when it's our Friday night together. |I will admit that they do love going to their grandmother's house to visit. She has a sattelite dish and I loosen up my "tv regulations" a fair bit. After all - it's a special thing they only get to do a few times a year. But honestly? I don't like it so much.

Something I don't compromise on, though, is when it comes to the age-appropriateness of the shows they watch. When I was a kid, my mom allowed me to watch whatever she was watching. I remember being glued to the tv, watching soap operas long before I ever attended school. Sure these programs are on in the middle of the day, but still, they're certainly not appropriate for children. I grew up play-acting some very adult situations - and I blame the evil, evil soaps. I also remember being exposed to some horrific things on the evening news, as well. Things that no child really needs to know about.

I think that there are age recommendations for movies and tv shows for a reason. There's no point in exposing children to images and themes that are over their heads, even if there's nothing "harmful" about them. There wasn't anything particularly harmful about me watching Another World when I was 4 years old...except that it gave me a totally warped view of men, relationships, the roles of women...the list goes on.

I remember once watching a movie with my parents when I young...under 10, I'm sure...about children being molested and murdered. Um...yeah. I'm pretty sure that my parents didn't realize what the movie was about when we started watching it (it was one of those early 80s made-for-tv movies). I continued to have the occasional nightmare about that movie until I was well into adulthood. Thanks, Mom.

Children are impressionable. The things they watch get lodged into their little subconscious brains and who knows exactly how they are processed. I don't want my girls seeing women using their sexuality as weapons, or violent images on the evening news. I'm a big believer in simply allowing kids to be kids, and part of my role as their parent is to protect them from things that might not be quite ready for yet. Am I sheltering them? Possibly. But no child was ever psychologically damaged from the movies and tv programs that they didn't get to watch.

He Said:

I'm very protective of my kids and what they watch. Of course, I'm also a "dude"...and there may be some things that I may find appropriate to my kids that others will not.

My son turns four this week. He normally watches cartoons like Up (or pretty much ANYTHING by Pixar), Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (I find there are increasingly more non-Pixar movies out there that are really good), or even something like Star Wars: Clone Wars as I believe they are acceptable movies for a toddler his age. And the great thing about these movies are that not only are they entertaining for the child to watch, but there may be parts that make them question the parent (Why is somebody sad? Are those robots the bad guys? What is going on?) and it’s fun to have conversation stimulated BY your child.

Now, he's also watching a lot of non-cartoon movies recently. I try to be a lot more careful with these but he’s watching everything from Star Wars to G-Force. Now I know that there can be some scary scenes… but my feeling was that he was young enough to not quite understand what was going on. Rather, he was just spellbound by the lights and sounds and aliens and talking gerbils. He’s at the point now where I think I can explain certain things to him if he feels the need to question (there were a LOT of questions in Shark Boy & Lava Girl, but he just loves that movie to death).

My daughter is 11 going on 21. On a recent visit (she lives with her mom in another province), she wanted me to get her A Nightmare on Elm Street to watch. I told her that there was no way in hell that I was going to let her watch that. She told me that her mom doesn’t care what she watches. I tried telling her that I DO. I’m sure she’ll watch it now that she’s back home, and I may look like the “meaner” (her word) for not letting her watch it with me, but as a parent I feel it’s my responsibility to make that decision and control what my children watch.

I hate people complaining about the appropriateness of movies and television. I hate people that blame the media for kids watching things that are inappropriate for them. There are enough resources out there (like this one) where other parents can weigh-in and then you, as the parent, can make the decision for yourself.

Parents NEED to take responsibility for what their children watch. Period.

So what do you guys think? How influential are movies with kids? How much should a parent restrict their kids? Does the relationships in movies affect how kids perceive what relationships should be like?



Big Fat Gini said...

We try to stay on top of what our kids watch. The little ones usually stick to Nick Jr. and Pixar movies. But our oldest can usually be found trying to sneak in an episode of something that's probably not 100% appropriate for a 10 year old. Most of the time though, he's watching Mythbusters or something on Discovery.

I have to agree with Canadian Bald Guy. I always appreciate the discussions that some of these shows spark between the two of us (or, even better, his father). It's given us a huge amount of insight into the person he is, and the person he'll be.

I don't shelter him from the news. It wasn't kept from me as a child and now, with the world that we're living in, I'm grateful that I'm informed. I want the same for my boys. I want them to know the facts, to form their own opinions based on them, to know that there ARE bad things that happen in this world but that a lot of times there can be a lot of good that come from them.

Anonymous said...

I am very strict with the TV, and fortunately my husband is in agreement so it makes things easier. I have a 1 year old and an almost-3 year old. The latest recommendations from the AAP say that children should not really watch any TV until they're 2, so we try to limit the TV time at home to no more than an hour or two during the daytime, and it's usually during the baby's naptime. For the most part, we only watch PBS, because if they're going to watch TV, I want them to learn something.

Tracie said...

Probably not going to be a popular view but we are not terribly strict with the TV. My boys are 6 & 9. Even when left to make their own choices: they stick with Kids programming and the Discovery type stations (we LOVE River Monsters, Dirty Jobs, Ice Road Truckers). They love anything sci-fi (like both their dad and I). But they also like Spongebob, Phineas & Ferb, iCarly, etc....
I think it is something to base on your particular child. My older one is really 40 years old. He -even at a young age - realized that things were pretend. My younger one needs to more sheltering.
As for the news - it is on A LOT. I did get grief from a teacher. Seems that my 6 year old was asking all sorts of questions about tornados and such. I was told it was inappropriate for him to watch the news (REALLY the weather????).
My older one thou impressed his teacher during the Presidential election. As she told me - they take a straw poll in class. She told me that every child in the class said well that is what mommy and daddy said. My son explained why his candidate was better for the country. She said she was fascinated as he explained his points. I was EXTREMELY PROUD of him!!!!

Momma Sunshine said...

I do think that it's the parents (and not the media and filmmakers) that need to take responsiblity for what their children are watching.

I believe in my kids being informed when it comes to world events, but hearing about murder, war, and disaster every single day just creates unnecessary worry in my opinion. Let's let kids be kids! :)

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

YOu know. I just never have thought that much about it.

I was never introduced to Soaps when I was young, my mom wasn't into those shows. But I wonder if I would have been if she was?

She read... a.lot.

So I read, a lot.

And as far as movies go... if it was pg-13 and under we were good to watch whatever we wanted. I'm not sure they rated TV back when I was growing up... but we weren't monitored when we watched television.

My kids aren't interested in adult television. They want to watch their Disney and Nickelodeon.

Movies... we watch them first if we question whether they should be allowed to watch them or not...but I'd say we are way more lenient then a lot of parents... and probably way more relaxed than either of you.

Thanks again guys for posting this!

Anonymous said...

Fair warning: I have strong opinions on this topic, so apologies if this turns into an essay. I can agree with some things that both writers commented on. Good post.

I do think it matters what we surround ourselves with in terms of what we watch, read, listen to, etc. It does have an impact on us (not just kids either). As a whole, I think it influences who we are becoming and the things we spend our time thinking about (and doing). For us, a large part of this issue has more to do with helping our kids learn to make healthy lifestyle choices on their own.

When our kids were younger, we did limit the options as to what they could watch. However, they did get to pick what they wanted to watch within those options. Yes, we also limited time spent in front of the TV, but we tried to do it in ways that didn't give too much importance to TV or what was on it and when. Basically, we used other activities and options to help us limit TV time, rather than treating it like a reward. We didn't want to turn it into something the kids wanted more than anything else, simply because it was denied to them.

As our kids have gotten older, we discuss what kinds of things are appropriate for them to watch and what things are not. There is an age gap between the two, so there are still things more suited for our teen to see that aren't appropriate for age 9. They have a wider range to choose from, but they know to turn the TV off or change the channel if it is outside those guidelines. They do pretty well policing themselves, but we still monitor it. There are times when we step in and make a recommendation, which is usually taken.

During the school year, the TV is on far less at our house. We pretty much take a hiatus from the TV during the week, but it may get turned on a little over the weekend.

As for the news, I do feel it is important for the kids to be informed about the world around them, and to form an opinion. However, the source generally isn't the news on TV. (Reading is a big deal at our house)

We do like the programming and DVR options on cable. However, if we had to reduce expenses, that is one of the first things that could go. If I thought about it on a "per use" basis, it is probably fairly expensive considering. ; )


Anonymous said...

Shelle, for the record, I couldn't have been happier than when my daughter grew out of her Disney channel phase. LOL

I like most of the movies (especially Mulan), but I found that many of the TV programs patterned certain behaviors (i.e. bratty, sassy, etc) that I didn't care for in my own child...


Unknown said...

I am probably in the minority here but my kids are also teenagers and i feel tv has really evolved since my kiddos were younger-not sure how i would be if I had youngin's now...
I am not strict at all when it comes to TV/movies...when they were younger they watched disney/nick I just have never really censored them as they got older-plus they 'played' a lot they weren;t really obsessed with tv... of course i didnt let them watch horror shows/movies things with violence etc when younger but if the main tv happen to be on a soap i didn't turn the channel...but now that they are older I let them make their own choices even if sometimes the choice may have been a bad one

TisforTonya said...

My kids are between the ages of 6 and 15... and we turned off the cable 8 years ago - shockingly because of SpongeBob and that ilk... I was just tired of the nastiness, brattiness, etc... that those shows modeled. It was MY job, MY decision to not allow it in our house - and luckily ManOfTheHouse backed me up on that one.

Media (television, movies, video games,even books) is what it is... and perhaps years and years of whining and picketing will change things - but what ultimately needs to change is parents accepting that they are the ones responsible for the education of their children.

Of course... I don't have complete control over my kids - they do have friends whose house rules are not so anal. We've had some wonderful discussion with our children over the years about our policies - and the eldest actually told me recently that he was glad our television is not a focal point in our home - it took 8 years to get some decent feedback - but yes, totally worth it.

ugh, sorry - I should just write my own post if I'm going to hijack the comment box!

TisforTonya said...

Tracie - as for letting your kids watch the weather... someone's teacher needs to lighten up a tad I think :)

also, I should mention that one of the primary reasons we turned off cable was the advertising... even if I sat my son down to watch Blues Clues (hey, he was 5... and it was better than Barney) I had to worry about what the commercials would be... after seeing American Beauty (the movie with the girl covered only in rose petals) advertised on Nickelodeon on a Blues Clues commercial break I'd had it and we pulled the plug.

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

JT-- Believe me, I will praise the day they are done with those shows... not that they are growing up... just that I don't need to watch another episode Suite Life ON deck...

But I'm not afraid to admit that I will watch Wizards of Waverly Place all by myself sometimes... but ONLY if it's a new episode ;)

Tracie said...

T - I have to say that my biggest complaint would be the unending commercials. My oldest one is pretty good and will say "Bet that will break the first time you play with it!". The younger one still wants everything that he says (although considering he doesn't get it you would think he would notice the pattern and stop asking)!

Shelle - I will totally fess up that I was looking forward to the new iCarly episode (her room burnt down). And on more than one occasion someone has stopped by and asked "Are you watching Spongebob?" LOL

wendy said...

My kids are all grown now and have kids of their own.
My daughter has found that some shows can make HER daughter who is 6 be a little bratty and sassy.'
She doesn't let her watch those anymore.

I think, like most of the comments above, you need to be aware of what your children are watching and how much they are watching.

and my little humble opinion, is I do hold the MEDIA SOMEWHAT RESPONSIBLE AND ACCOUNTABLE for what is out there.
as the saying goes "It takes a Village......"

If we want a corrupt, bratty, sassy, immoral, brutal society......keep showing the tools and behaviors to become so.

Momma Sunshine said...

Tracie - I *totally* used to watch Spongebob before I had kids!! lol