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Questionable content in entertainment for kids: what’s your approach?

elmerfuddEvery family handles media exposure differently: some parents let their kids watch everything, some parents don’t let their kids watch TV at all, and some parents are just a little bit tired of seeing one movie over and over again. I’m of the opinion that it’s just plain rude to judge other folks on these matters, so I refuse to take a hard stance on the matter: you know your kids best, and everything is good in moderation, as long as you don’t forget the tried-and-true benefits of hands-on playtime.

So when I encountered this open-ended discussion on the Jezebel website about what “problematic” media to shield or not shield your kids from, my initial reaction was less “you ought to do this or that,” and more like, “Oh god, I’m really glad I didn’t miss out on Bugs Bunny cartoons as a kid.”

My second reaction was to think that there are as many ways to approach the issue of violent, sexist, racist, homophobic, or otherwise upsetting content as there are families, and that these variations are fascinating (and might be useful if you’re still trying to decide how to approach the issue with your own family). So let’s see what the gals at Jezebel had to say!

Username “Fortheloveofbeets” says: forget the old and embrace the new!

“As much as everyone loves the stuff from their own childhoods, as much as people love Disney, that’s not the only stuff that exists. As much disturbing, problematic media for kids that there is out there, there’s also plenty of wonderful, un-problematic movies and stories and TV shows and toys.”

Username “non” agrees:

“Why show them Dumbo with the racist crows when we can watch Mulan, The Lion King, or anything Pixar…? Why with Looney Tunes when there’s Arthur or The Magic School Bus?”

(I liked this response: “Because Arthur and The Magic School Bus are boring and make mommy want to bang her head against the wall.”)

Username “Dazednconfused” agrees that it’s important to keep a close eye on content, but adds,

“Kids need to be prepared for the real world, as opposed to being shielded (age appropriate, of course). Parents should talk, talk, talk to their kids. We are, or should be, the most influential thing in their world! Why is this appropriate or inappropriate? Why do we believe/think this or that? Why do others agree or disagree? It’s a big bad scary world out there. We need to raise kids that know how to think, how to reason, how to communicate, how to see multiple sides of an issue.”

Username “kcunning” takes it a step farther and explains how she uses racially questionable content to teach her kids about history:

“I point out the places where something is, quite frankly, bull**** (just because it was in the past doesn’t make it right). I tell them about their great-great grandma who marched on Washington for the right to vote. I tell them about segregated bathrooms and buses. By this age, they’re already aware of Martin Luther King, Jr., but the cartoons can help drive home why a civil rights movement was necessary.

“This is what their entertainment looked like. Can you imagine how much worse reality was?””

 Another question is: how do you know what objectionable content might be in what your child is watching in the first place? Personally, I’ve always liked Common Sense Media: they give you a thorough overview of violence and other content in a TV show, movie, video game, or piece of music, so you know exactly what the kids are getting into. There may be violence or swearing, but there will be no surprises, so you can decide whether to let them watch it and decide what discussions should accompany it.

But this is a wildly broad topic, so: tell us what you think!  What do you let your kids watch, and why? Do you discuss it with them, and how? Tell us in the comments section below.

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