By Brandy Browne
I know I’ll probably catch some heat for this, but you know those moms that set iron controls and limits on what their kids can and cannot watch on television, YouTube, etc.? Yeah, I’m not one of them. Before you hit me with too many hate comments, though, hear me out. I’m certainly not letting my children watch XXX movies, BUT, I happen to think that one of the worst things you can do is not prepare your child for the things that are out there in this world we are navigating every day. AND, I want my children to feel comfortable enough with having open and honest discussions with me that they will come to me with questions about things they observe, rather than relying on their friends to be all knowing resources to life’s questions.
According to a study in 2016, 39% of parents report using parental controls to limit their child’s access to television programs, social media, etc. (PEW Research Center, 2016, retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2016/01/07/parents-teens-and-digital-monitoring/#:~:text=For%20instance%2C%20the%20new%20survey,cellphone%20to%20track%20their%20location.). I have used certain apps to ensure that my daughter cannot just add anyone to her Kids Messenger account.
Case in point, my oldest daughter loves following fashion vlogs on YouTube. She is a smart girl with a good head on her shoulders, and I trust her judgment. She has a phone, but we have full access to everything on her phone. If she sees or hears something on a video that seems questionable, she feels comfortable coming to me and asking what it means. She’ll say, “Mom, —- said this on her video. What does that mean?” And we have a discussion about it. My middle child loves to watch scary movies. When something on a movie scared my youngest, we looked up special effects to see how the movie people made the monsters look so real. Guess what? She is not scarred for life, AND she does know that monsters are not real and that there is a real person under the makeup on the screen.
I truly believe that the key to handling this particular issue with your children lies not so much in shielding them from every bit of content that the media floods us with, but in establishing a secure relationship in which your child is comfortable coming to you with questions. My children know there is no question that mom or dad refuse to answer. Those tough things like child predators lurking behind screens? We talk about that too. Some limits are imposed. We do not do TikTok. None of our children have actual social media accounts. They are allowed to chat with friends via Messenger, but we have access to all their messages. Our main rule is, “No secrets.” As a family, we have discussed that secrets tend to be harmful. Surprises (like let’s surprise Daddy with some new hunting binoculars) are okay, but if someone asks you to keep secrets from your family, that is not okay.
At the end of the day, I feel that a few healthy limits and keeping the lines of communication open are where my priorities lie as a mom. If my children feel secure in our relationship, then even if they are exposed to something I wish they would not be exposed to, we can have a productive discussion about it and prepare our children for situations they will undoubtedly encounter.
PEW Research Center. (2016) Parents, teens, and digital monitoring. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2016/01/07/parents-teens-and-digital-monitoring/#:~:text=For%20instance%2C%20the%20new%20survey,cellphone%20to%20track%20their%20location.