I've steered away from controversy in the past, but....

When we were young, my mother didn’t let us watch Three’s Company. She said it was risqué, and we weren’t allowed to see it. Now, my mother is verrrrrry strait-laced (she took back an Indiana Jones DVD because he said goddamn and she thought The Odd Couple was risqué) and I don’t want to go to that extreme, but there are some days when I see her point.

Before Halloween, I sent home a letter about the Halloween party, and asked that the kids not wear costumes from R rated movies. (I teach 3rd grade – these kids are 8 and 9 years old.) You would not believe the firestorm of complaints. The principal said to let them wear what they want. I was appalled – we’d just finished Red Ribbon Week, where we say no to drugs and violence. I was avenged by a girl in another 3rd grade class who cried when she saw the other kids’ masks, so they couldn’t wear them around her.

These kids giggle at words I didn’t know till I was in high school. Puss in Boots is a particular favorite, and don’t get me started about balls.

My ds was pretty old, around 12, before I stopped caring if he saw Friends. I don’t watch R rated movies or my Sex and the City DVDs when he’s in the house (and let me tell you, the first time I saw that show, I was stunned. I’d never heard women say those words.) He’s never seen South Park or certain Simpsons episodes. I winced when the preview for The 40 Year Old Virgin came on when we were at the theater, and there have been a couple of lines in My Name is Earl that I hope went over his head. (I know, I know, too much to hope.)

Last night I was going to let him watch Old School because it was on ABC and has Vince Vaughn, who he admires (I dunno why) and then let him watch SNL because Jason Lee and Foo Fighters were on. I had to send him to the shower during the second Jason Lee skit. I just didn’t feel like I could let him watch it. And he’s 14.

But it’s getting harder and harder to shield kids from this. My son is growing up, and I don’t have to protect him as much (though, hello, teenaged boys NEED to be reminded of sex?) but what about my students, whose parents may not care what they’re exposed to? (I know, I know, not the television’s responsibility.) My husband says they can only go “as far as the market will bear.” But who will protect the kids if their parents won’t? And how can knowing this be good for them?

And am I a hypocrite for writing romance with love scenes and complaining about what's on TV?

I remember seeing this before I knew who he was, and thinking what beautiful eyes he has. See, Trish J? GREEN.

Today is his birthday, too. He's 36.
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Gina Black said...

What are you protecting him from? I have to admit I've never understood this. It always seemed to me that restricting a child's access to those sorts of things only creates more interest, which makes them seek them out. And that doesn't help them develop their own judgement.

And personally I think that the violence prevalent in movies and TV is much more harmful than the sexual content. But once children become teens they need to be able to sort things out themselves. Otherwise, they won't be ready to leave home and go off to college when they are 18.

When my DD was 11 or 12 she ran out of books and started burrowing through my TBR pile. I was worried but let her do it anyway because I have never wanted to restrict my childrens reach when it comes to reading. Still, most of the books had sex scenes and I didn't know whether it would be a good thing. Still, they all had HEAs and the women were empowered, so there were many great messages for a growing girl. I decided I'd let her do that and keep an eye on her--and talk about the books when she'd finished reading them.

And what I found out was that she skipped the sexy parts. I thought that was so funny! Of course when she got older she didn't. But reading those books as she was growing up seemed to only make her more particular for the right guy and to wait until she found him, which wasn't until she was 20.

It's not a question of sex and violence on TV being 'good for them,' but it isn't necessarily harmful. Sometimes its more harmful to censor and restrict access. Part of growing up is being exposed to the adult world--for better or worse--and letting them decide if it has merit.

I remember when the DD wanted to see "Saving Private Ryan" which was rated R. I'd heard the violence was very graphic and was worried it would be too much for her. But, she wanted to be a film student (which she later became) and the film was supposted to have been edited particularly well, so I took her to see it. I wanted to be there in case she had any trouble with it. Of course she didn't. But the first twenty minutes was almost more than I could bear. She was much better able to hold herself objectively out of the film and watch it for craft even at a young age than I was. And I think that's partly because of who she is and partly because of exposure. And of course we talked about it afterwards. I needed to. ;)

MJFredrick said...

Right, I understand about the romance being empowering and all that. I also get the bit about being more curious because it's restricted. But sex with birds (the Jason Lee skit) is not something I think, frankly, anyone should see. And a lot of these movies show disrespect to women, which is not an ideal I want him exposed to.

My dh has the same argument, because we took my son to see Troy, and let him see Gladiator. He wonders why I find violence more acceptable than sexual content. Clearly it's the way I was raised, but at least in those movies, and Private Ryan (which I can't bring myself to watch, since my grandfather was on that beach) it's in a historical context. We don't watch Freddy or Jason or Sin City.

My concern is, how much of the adult world should kids have access to, and what is it doing to them.

Peggy said...

This is an interesting subject, Mary. My daughter who is 16 and in grade 11, is taking media. Teacher threw a pop quiz and after he scored them and my daughter received a perfect score,he informed the class she was about the only one who did. What it meant, was that she was about the only one who had an "understanding" that what she sees on TV is not real.

I agree with Gina on the violence being more of a concern. As my daughter's teacher put it, so many children see it on TV and sincerely believe that after you're shot, you can get up and live. They don't have a good grasp on what is real and what isn't. Particularly when hollywood uses the same actors over and over again. Yes, they may bring in the big bucks, but the impressionable minds of children remember him "dying" in a previous movie.

And it doesn't necessarily have to be as scary as death either. My youngest is in the middle of a fight with her best friend because her friend continually starts fights. When my youngest finally had enough, her friend responded with "it's normal, all true friends on TV get into fights". My response? No, it's not normal. Lizzie MacGiuire and her bestfriend argue to create conflict. Without conflict, the show would be boring, no one would tune in. What does it say about our society that a show about getting along and nothing terrible happens, is considered boring? It appalls me to see shows as Dr. Phil using real life people's personal problems as entertaining and a ratings tool.

However, the fact is we cannot shield our children from it. And why should we? It is entertaining. The most of it. How often will we run into a T-Rex or meet a man who has super human powers and able to block bullets (thinking of the scene from Matrix there). A child who has been taught the difference will be able to watch these shows for what they are. Entertainment.

And when a stupid show like having sex with a bird or something else just as stupid airs, your child has the good sense to tune out all on their own. And if more did that, perhaps these type of shows will eventually loose their popularity. A good example is music video's. I sit and watch them, and am disgusted at what I see and how woman are portrayed. And let me tell you, I do not remain silent. I let my opinions heard. Opinions, by the way, shared by daughter's media teacher.

And, Mary, I am so grateful for him. It is one thing to have your mother sounding old-fashion, but it stands up a lot more backed up by an outside source. I think as the adults of this generation, it is our responsibility to ensure they enjoy the world of media correctly. After all, it was us and our generation before us, that forced it into their world.

Blah, blah, blah....sorry about that!

Gina Black said...

>> a lot of these movies show disrespect to women, which is not an ideal I want him exposed to.<<

I totally agree. But...(and I have one)...he will be exposed to it everywhere else. If he is exposed to it at home with you, then you have the opportunity of discussing it with him, guiding him through it, and helping him come to terms with a world that seems to promote something like this which is so wrong. If he can't access it at home (at his age especially) then you lose your shot to influence him because denying access does not influence. Instead it sends the message that you don't trust him enough to be able to see something like that and know it's wrong which just tells him you don't think he's adult enough to handle it. By participating with him it says, "Hey come be an adult with me. This adult world is really tricky. See how bad this stuff is? Some of it's funny but its still really awful how it treats women. What do you think about that?"

I just know that things that are forbidden gain an extra allure and I never wanted to give that power to what I consider tasteless material. Kids get hit all around with ugly pop-culture messages (now I sound like a character in one of my books) and you simply can't control that becuase they stop accessing the world through you in degrees beginning when they go off to school.

I love Jason Lee but missed the sex with birds sketch--and would probably agree that it's completely awful. But I believe the message a parent sends when they deny this access is "I can't trust you to be adult enough to be able to see for yourself that this is bad." It doesn't encourage independent thinking which is a crucial life skill. Trusting them to sort things out--even helping them do so--appeals to their higher nature which helps it grow and develop and means we continue to have influence.

Oh...did you want this soapbox back? Thanks for letting me borrow it, Mary. :)

Amie Stuart said...

>>My concern is, how much of the adult world should kids have access to, and what is it doing to them.

Mary I think as long as you CARE you're doing the best thing for your son. My kids are younger but I do probably let them watch things they shouldn't. I'll let them see Blade but not slasher movies (maybe because Blade has that nugget of fantasy to it).

Now they're old enough to know that if I say they can't watch something because it's too adult (IE Jarhead) it's not necessarily because of sex or violence but because I think it's just too adult for them to understand. THis is the reason they can't see Sin City even if it is sorta a cartoon. At the same time we watch LAO: SVU together--my oldest loves this show but a lot of the content is very adult. This has given us excuses to talk about sex openly and honestly. And it teaches him the world isn't alwasy a great place and sometimes you don't get happy endings. Because I think children need to learn that the world isn't a fair place.

All we can do is our best (and I'm sure you do *g*) and pray for the best!

ma said...

I think Cece, got it right. It's parental involvement that really counts, whether you believe that you shouldn't censor anything, or you should censor most things.

While there is a problem with forbidden things, I'm also not personally a fan (for my kids) of, it's out there so they should see it all.

People often bring up violence when it comes to sexual content and their nature is quite different frankly, so I think you have to be careful with equating them. Most of us will have sex when we're adults. Not quite so many of us will kill and be killed.

MJFredrick said...

Jorie, good point about not equating sex and violence. True, most of us (please, God) won't be exposed to violence on a personal level. And you and Cece are right about parental involvement, but a LOT of my students don't have that. For instance, I've never seen American Pie, because I won't watch it with my son in the house. Yet most of my kids have seen it, because their parents don't want to deny themselves the entertainment of it. Or they've watched scary movies, and my kids come and tell me they couldn't sleep at night because they were so afraid.

Peggy, interesting comment about kids not understanding that conflict is for story purposes. I never thought of that. And I agree with you about Dr. Phil and less savory talk show hosts who exploit other people for their own gain. (And my students shout, "Jer-RY, Jer-RY" when people argue, lemme tell you.)

Gina, I like what you said about him accessing the world through me (or not so much, now that he's a teen).

Toni Anderson said...

Mary--opening a big can of worms.

I remember reading an interview of Ted Bundy, the one right before he was executed. In it he said he thought a turning point in his life (and he was raised in a nice christian household), was finding porn magazines in an alley or somewhere nearby. He followed it by saying what he watched on MTV and daytime TV was now more graphic than what he'd been so excited by as a young boy. He seemed horrified by this. (not going to get into that)

I think most of us SHOULD only let our children watch age appropriate material. Up until they're teenagers and then it is your call. Violence bothers me as much as graphic sexuality (for kids), and maybe more for young men.

Young children are not generally psychologically developed enough to understand the difference between fact and fiction. It is hard to give them a safe, secure home, when TVs can scare the bejesus out of them.

I occassionally watch the news with the kids in the room, but I am very aware of what is on, and I am also reluctant to let them live in too isolated a coccoon where nothing bad ever happens, because then why would they take care?

Really hard to get it right, but I do believe many parents indulge themselves and back it up by saying their kids are fine watching anything--because they want to, ya know?

14 is a really difficult age. I don't want to even think about my babies going through that hormonal highschool hell.


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I'm a mom, a wife, a teacher and a writer. I have five cats and a dog to keep me company. I love bookstores and libraries and Netflix - movies are my greatest weakness.
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