What Do You Allow?

I’m curious. Where do you draw the line when it comes to what your kids watch on TV, and have you noticed that it changes depending on the personality and birth order of the child? I have a large age gap between my son and my daughters, but I’ve come to realize that I allow my youngest, now eleven, to watch things that my son and even her sister who is only two years older never were allowed to watch. Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that personality plays into my decision of what and what not to allow my kids to watch.

My son recently told me that in retrospect, he thinks he may have been too young to watch “The Sopranos”. I think he’s right, but I think it wasn’t so much that he was too young, as it was the fact that I should have known he’d be heavily influenced by the combination of family loyalty and power that was glorified in the show. He thinks it was partly due to watching a show of that kind, that in high school he was drawn towards the gang kids because, they offered a misguided sense of belonging and strength. They had your back at any cost, and who wouldn’t want that? Obviously along with it, as in the Sopranos, there was a price to pay, but it’s easy to see how you could rationalize the camaraderie, so long as you focused on the positive and denied the negatives. Fortunately, my son has has moved into a more Zen-like existence, but that’s not to say his teen years weren’t filled with challenges, some of which may or may not have been influenced by his love of Tony Soprano.

Now my youngest is watching “Glee” like every other girl her age, and she loves it. I watch it with her, and do my best to moderate and balance the story lines because so much of it is over the top. The show I question, and yet admittedly am really enjoying with her, is “Awkward”. Yes, it is on MTV, which is cringe worthy enough, but it also addresses some very adult issues. Adult issues that the fictional highschoolers in the show are dealing with on a daily basis; that’s right, we’re talking about teenaged kids having sex .  I am as shocked as anyone that I like this show. When my daughter first asked to watch it, I made her record it and wait until I could watch it with her. I was sure that it would be awful and that I’d tell her there was no way she was ever going to be allowed to watch it again. I had visions of a fictional “Jersey Shore”.

 The main character, Jenna, is almost 16, and is hung up on Matty, who looks 20, but I think he’s supposed to be 17. At first it appears he is just using her for sex, and although she wants more from him, she doesn’t seem to totally hate being used even as she becomes aware that that’s what is going on. As the season has progressed, she has found and lost and re-found her self-worth on many occasions. The school counselor is hilarious, although a little over- done for comedic effect.

What I like most about this show is that unlike “Glee”, it is frighteningly realistic, and it allows me to walk my daughter through some situations that she may one day have to face herself. Sure, she is young, but she is in the seventh grade at a performing arts middle school that is overflowing with drama. Watching these shows together brings up conversations that might never come up otherwise.  I’m all for sheltering kids from certain situations and trying to preserve their innocence for as long as possible, but not at the risk of allowing them to be needlessly naive.  I want my kids to be confident and to feel prepared for any occurrence.

So how do you decide how much your children should be exposed to; is it based on age, personality, or a combination of the two?

About bridgetstraub

Author, Artist & Mom. First novel "Searching for My Wand" was published in December 2011
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7 Responses to What Do You Allow?

  1. Angela Brown says:

    I would see a combination of the two being a good way to handle things. But I also think sitting with them, watching what they are watching and talking to them about the shows they see is even better.

  2. Crystal says:

    I can’t really say much here because I’m not a mother, but I’ve never agreed with the idea of sheltering a child too much just because knowledge is power. Actually, I really like your approach and I should imagine it depends on the individual child – some people are more impressionable than others.

  3. I have younger children, 2.5 and 4.5. I don’t have the patience or time to prescreen every movie so there have been a couple times in theatres where we’ve watched some pretty violent stuff (Cars 2, Rango) that some of my Mommy friends would never allow. I agree that it’s based on personality. My son prefers guns and swords. He plays online games that are for far beyond his age group. When I switched one off because of cartoon violence he told me “It is appropriate because I’m not scared”. If there was a shoot ‘em up that also taught you how to read he would be writing essays by now. My daugher likes animals and muppets.

  4. sanemom says:

    It’s a combo for me, some things that are fine for Fynn weren’t even close to OK at the same age for Douglas. Different fears, different perspectives, and such different ways of seeing things. Great post!

  5. It’s age, personality and maturity. My 10-year old loves those Disney channel & Nickelodeon shows, but I can’t possibly sit and watch them with her because in my opinion they’re pretty lame. “Glee” is definitely more risque, but also so much more well-written. And like you said, there are great opportunities for discussion. I get flack for letting my 5-year old watch SpongeBob, but it’s hysterical & he loves it. And his attention span doesn’t seem to be marred by it. My 15-year old is the odd gal out. She’s the only teenager I know who doesn’t want to watch tv. Isn’t parenting an enigma?

  6. Laura Hall says:

    the most important piece to me about what you said is that you watch with her and discuss what you see. Although my kids are embarrassed about talking about sex, the deal is that if they want to watch shows like Glee, they have to be willing to have the conversations about it. Like you, it has started some great conversations for us.

  7. Rosie Lane says:

    I think it probably is a combination of the two. Some kids just seem to skate along and not really be influenced by what they watch. My son, on the other hand, found even Doctor Who very frightening, and we have to control what’s on the TV a lot.

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