It’s a kids song, sung to a familiar lilting tune, but the words are so very significant if we stop to think about them. I taught this song to my kids when they were little, far to little to fully understand the implications. But these days they are 7, 10 and 13; and what they’re seeing and hearing is starting to concern me.
Have you noticed how graphic and intimate images and situations in the media have become lately? I know that they’re always pushing the envelope in the movies and on TV. That’s nothing new. But lately I feel that there is almost nothing you can watch or listen to or even anywhere you can go to avoid being bombarded with graphic images of a violent or sexual nature — and it’s not just images. It’s the words to the music too. The songs on the radio right now are horrendous. Have you listened to them?
I was at an elementary school dance last winter and my 7- and 10- year-old daughters were dancing to songs that proclaimed things like:
That magic in your pants, it’s making me blush
Looking for some trouble tonight
Take my hand i’ll show you the wild side . . .
But swimming in your waters is something spiritual
I’m gonna get every time you spend the night
Cause your sex takes me to paradise
Yeah your sex takes me to paradise . . .
Starships were meant to fly
Hands up and touch the sky
Let’s do this one last time
Hands up…(we’re higher than a motherf-ck-r) . . .
No, I’m not joking. I wish I were.
When I’m listening to the radio with my kids, about every other song causes me to turn the channel. Or all too often, I sit through it, wincing at the lyrics, wondering how much they are picking up and at one point I should just ban pop music from our home.
On Saturday, I took my 7-year-old daughter to the nail salon with me, and we got pedicures. The TV was on in the background and I soon realized it was quite a violent movie playing out on the screen — at 2:00 in the afternoon, mind you. One man was beating up another, blood streaming down his face, while an infant in a carseat looked on.
I hopped up and walked over to where my daughter was happily having her toenails painted and asked that they change the channel. They looked at me blankly and said, “to what?”
After I explained that I didn’t really care, as long as it’s appropriate for a 7-year-old, they shrugged and changed the channel to a cartoon. I went back to my seat, feeling a bit unsettled, this post forming in my head for the 5th time in a week.
Later that day we took our kids to see Oz The Great And Powerful. Hollywood couldn’t even leave this classic movie alone. B00bs were everywhere throughout the movie, cuz you know, witches would be sensual and provocative. When the one witch turned bad, her dress popped off, leaving her in a black bustier. When Glenda fell down the stairs, it was (I felt) unnecessarily harsh. Oz had to woo and kiss every woman he met.
I was so glad I did NOT have my kids at Les Miserables (the movie) when I saw it, as the prostitue scene with Fontaine was played out so very intimately on the big screen.
I’m a bit of a reality TV junkie, and my kids like to watch American Idol with me. You’d think a singing talent show would be benign, wouldn’t you? Not with Nikki Minaj as judge and jury. She can’t let a night go by without making a sexual comment to at least one contestant. The sad thing is, I enjoy her perspective and her quirky personality most of the time. Why can’t they keep it clean? It’s on at 8PM, for crying out loud. And don’t get me started on Survivor . . .
A few weeks ago we took our 13-year-old son to a Sixers basketball game. It was his Christmas present from his Grammie. There were a couple of yahoos behind us cursing like sailors and whistling at the “dance team” like lewd teenage boys. When my husband turned around and asked them to tone it down, there are kids here, they acted like we were the idiots and proceeded to make fun of us the rest of the night.
And did I mention the “dance team”? They don’t even pretend to be cheerleaders anymore. They are there purely for the male enjoyment. I was incredibly uncomfortable sitting there with my son.
Then there are the video games. Have you seen Call of Duty? How realistic the images are?
This post has been stewing for some time. I’ve been wanting to write out my thoughts and feelings and concerns about what our kids are subjected to and how it must be affecting them.
And then Steubenville happened. I was blissfully ignorant of this situation until yesterday, when one could no longer be on Facebook without hearing about it. I haven’t seen any news coverage except for reading one NY Times article to get the facts.
But this morning my friend Danielle’s well written post spurred me to write this post. Particularly this part . . .
Few stories in the news have turned my stomach like those I have heard surrounding the rape of a 16 year old girl by two teenage football players from Steubenville, Ohio. As if the crime itself wasn’t horrific enough, the attitudes of those involved – both the boys committing the crimes, taking pictures of the young girl and sharing them via social media, but the number of people who KNEW, SAW IT HAPPENING, HEARD ABOUT IT, or SAW THE PICTURES and yet did nothing is, in itself, beyond baffling. What is happening to teenagers that the line between right and wrong is no longer discernible? What is happening in HOMES that we, as parents, are raising children without a CONSCIENCE?
I believe I may have the answer to her question. At least, part of it. Maybe a piece to the puzzle?
I cannot help but think of the graphic images and language that our kids are bombarded with while their young minds and consciences are developing. It absolutely has to have a numbing effect on their consciences.
Doesn’t seeing violence on screens (movies, TV, video games . . .) makes it all seem not quite so real? Don’t you think it might eventually skew their perception of reality? Was everyone present at the Steubenville party so drunk that they weren’t horrified by what was happening? Or are kids losing touch with reality?
And if there is any truth to my theory, what are we as parents supposed to do about it? Our kids have access to the World Wide Web on their little portable devices. We’ve set up every security precaution that we possibly can, thank goodness for a husband in I.T. But still, when they’re not at home, we don’t have much control. I know they are seeing things that would have been completely out of question when I was that age because the Internet makes it all so accessible. I shudder to think that my son might come across that Steubenville video. I caught a link to it on a blog post that I read about the issue, and I stopped 5 seconds in because I don’t want those images in MY head. But my kids . . .
I want to preserve their innocence as long as possible. Not because I want them to avoid reality, but because some things they just aren’t mature enough to handle. I wish that parents everywhere would band together and protest this barrage of media influence, but I fear that all too many parents either don’t see a problem with their kids viewing most of this stuff, or like me, feel almost helpless to avoid it.
I know I can’t protect my kids from everything, and bad stuff happens, and even “good kids” end up doing unconscionable things, but I believe that situations like this should make us stop and think about what we are letting our kids do and see and hear.
Sometimes I feel so unequipped to parent in this digital age, and yet I know that I cannot give up. I have to keep pressing on, making the difficult decisions, often the unpopular ones. That’s my job, after all.