Thursday, July 28, 2011

On the role of parents as kids' media swamp guides

We were going to take the kids to the beach on Sunday, but rain and threats of thunderstorms killed that idea. Plan B emerged: movie at the Patriot* which is no longer called the Patriot by its management but is and probably forever will be the Patriot to the rest of us. Us, that day = kids who are 14, 11, 10, 8, and two 5 year olds and their parents including me whose ages are perhaps not so relevant.

So what to see? Much of the discussion centered on what might be suitable for the younger kids while still entertaining the older kids, not to mention the shall-remain-ageless adults. In case you're curious or even if you're not but nevertheless intend to finish this paragraph, please know that we ended up at Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides which was maybe a little scary for some 5 year olds but these particular two 5 year olds are each third children and have already been sullied fairly thoroughly by traversing the rough path through media swamp charted by their older siblings. Two of the adults of the party had already seen the movie and signed off, so off to the Patriot we went. It was Johnny Depp-a-riffic which is all I really need to be entertained for $2.00 on an overcast Sunday afternoon.
possible manifestation of media awamp angst (image from
Back to the what-to-see dilemma: I knew there was a sensible web site out there somewhere on the internets that would guide us but could not remember it at the time. I have since, thanks in large part to The Washington Post's Answer Sheet blog today, which mentions Common Sense Media's resources for parents and educators, which include a easy to understand at a glance and fairly neutral guide to movies and their suitability for children of various ages. Not that I will always follow its dicta; Common Sense Media recommends that kids ages 12 and up see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides which clearly didn't happen for us.

In addition to more reviews of games, apps, tv shows, websites, books and music, the site also offers useful media education tools targeted to various ages (including adults). As my own kids start to wade more deeply into the aforementioned media swamp, I'm glad to have access to advice about ways to manage online privacy. Parents should also check out the section for educators--because of course that is what we are--which include more focused resources on digital citizenship.

I'm glad to have this resource now, because I've been thinking some but not doing a lot to figure out how to teach my own kids to use and think about media responsibly. Our main tools right now are our judgment, the clock, and the off button. My kids watch tv (rarely live, usually what's recorded on the DVR or streaming from NetFlix and somewhat parent-approved, though we do watch sports live, usually as a family, with a long-help family habit of muting the volume on the ads), see some movies with us, use the internet fairly sparingly, and play on our iPhones and their apps in various amounts (not such much most of the time and a whole lot during long car trips). I've been guided by my own judgment mostly, and we use time as the main way to control their media consumption; for example, during the week, they can watch tv and/or use the computer on their own from 6-7 or so (dog walking/head clearing/dinner making time in my world). But I don't have any illusions that I can control the media they bump up against outside or for that matter inside our house, so we need to help them make good decisions, and we need to be aware of what's out there.

I would really love to hear any responses you have about what you think of this topic, tools or guides that you use, your family policies about media use, anything related.

* $2.00 second-run theater in East Providence. Although last weekend, that Tom Hanks movie Larry Crowne was playing which is weird because didn't it just come out?

1 comment:

  1. Straight to Patriot is an even harsher slap than straight-to-DVD.