My sweet boy called me upstairs with a question. He needed to talk. So up I went into what might be better described as a gentle confrontation... but one that was necessary at the time. With all his tween-y confidence, he put his hand on my shoulder and told me we needed to talk about media... TV, movies, video games and the like... and our boundaries with such things. I held my breath.
When my babies were born, I remember feeling this need to protect them. I remember seeing the world from a whole new view and wondering about things I had never considered before. I remember wanting to keep them safe... not just in body but in heart, mind, spirit. I remember feeling overwhelmed with the task and wondering how we could protect and teach our children so that they would be ready to meet the world.
At first, the choices were easy. Given the choice of Rugrats or Little Bear, we chose Little Bear. Then, they got a bit harder... We noticed things that had not previously mattered to us and wondered if they would matter to our children. In the Lion King, the dad dies a horrible death. How old would they need to be before they saw that scene? Scooby-Doo has scary themes. Some shows were just dumb. Some were so mouthy. Some were amazing...
We wrestled with the same ideas when it came to reading books. Reading Goodnight, Moon was classic. Sharing The Lion, The Witch and Wardrobe was necessary. Walking with tears through the end of Charlotte's Web was wonderful. But what about other books? Books made from tv shows or current movies... books that had little to offer... books that had difficult themes?
All of it was hard. Parenting with intentionality can be like that. The issue was not that we wanted to shelter them. It was, instead, a deep desire to expose them to what the world would offer at a time that was appropriate for them. The truth is that I know my babies best. And I have always tried to have a sense of what would make them laugh or break their hearts or make them wonder so that I can meet them in that place. Not to stop it. Not to prevent it. But to walk with them through it, if need be. To think together, to laugh together, to discern together... I wanted to be there to teach them what they needed to learn... and I wanted media to support that desire.
But, how is that really done? When my kids are exposed to so many things all day long... at school, on the internet, in commercials, in print... the whole thing is really difficult.
One of the things I would love to do this year, is think about this together. I would love to throw out some things we have tried and hear about what works for you. Because in the world today, kids see an awful lot. And some it changes who they are... sometimes in a way that is beautiful and good... and sometimes in a way that is broken and hard. So what can we do to help direct our families through this ever-growing media maze? How can we protect their hearts without sheltering them from reality?
From the time my kids could understand, we have told them we would be careful. We have regularly said that we want to choose mindfully what they see, hear, read, watch because once an image or concept goes into their sweet little selves, we cannot get it back out. Does this mean we want to keep them from all things current culture? Not at all. It simply means I want us all, even Mark and I, to think through this things carefully and not just follow whatever is hot and whatever is new in media today.
What about you? How do you choose what your kids can see, read, play, listen to? Throughout this year, let's process through this together. Let's look at movies, at choices, at books and video games and talk together about how we choose what we release to our children and when. Because, that part... the when... it matters an awful lot. What we thought was okay for our kiddos at 8 cannot be where we stop. Our managing of media is constantly in flux because our kids are growing up. Makes this a tricky topic...
The truth is, we are constantly working this through. And sometimes I think we are doing okay... and sometimes, my tween calls me upstairs because I am totally missing the mark. So, for today... share a bit of direction here. How do you choose what is okay for your kids? Do you have a site you rely on for direction? A rule for your kids to remember?
Leave a comment and let's start thinking. The next post on media will focus on movies!