Thursday, June 30, 2011

TV Reality Check

In addition to my many hats I wear during the school year, in the summer I am also a part-time nanny. The kids I watch are the same age as my kids, and the same gender, so it is a good fit for us. Sometimes I just watch the young boy and when he and my son are engulfed in play I must admit I kinda zone out.
Last week when I delivered my little charge home to his mom, she mentioned that she didn't want her boy watching Fireman Sam. She didn't like how one character was portrayed as "the bad kid" and his single mom as a man-hungry ditz. I knew for a fact that her son had watched this show at my house. I felt embarrassed but also defensive. I muttered something about how they had changed that character in the later versions of the show and went home, feeling like a first-year teacher who let the students take over the class.
I remembered how strict I used to be about what my kids watched. I still forbid them from watching shows with violence, sexism, sexual innuendo, frightening scenes, and just plain idiocy. Over the years my standards seemed to have slipped. I recalled the episodes of Fireman Sam the boys had watched. Several of the characters were portrayed as dumb or ditzy, particularly the single mom. They were the butt of the jokes in the show. This is nothing new for TV-land, but it's certainly not something the "old me" would have allowed.
At the same time, I feel proud of what I haven't let slip in. Most Disney films, action flicks, and Saturday morning cartoons are strictly regulated. The cable shows they are allowed to watch are mostly on PBS and Discovery. When we do watch the network TV shows, we ridicule the commercials endlessly, pointing out how the product being sold is not really as cool or fun or delicious as it is made to appear.
In other words, they don't have a free pass to watch whatever they want or whatever is on. That is the most important thing for parents to remember. I don't think it helps for us to judge each other's parenting based on what shows the kids are allowed to watch. You have to decide what works for your family and your values. Previewing and being able to say no are the only hard-and-fast rules.

1 comment:

  1. We need to vigilant about what kids watch. We have Netflix and there are only a few shows on there that the girls can watch. We don't watch regular network TV - just PBS. However, I don't want my kids to not be aware of what's out there and how to handle it, especially commercials and the women are portrayed in TV. Same with books - I refuse to read princess books to my daughters. I will read good solid stuff - none of that man comes to rescue woman stuff - yada yada.. yuck. I'm opinionated this way.