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January 15th, 2005 · 3 Comments

Parents – or rather, those who want to become parents – often remove one type of protection from their lives but then begin adding others. Even before conception, changes can be made to diets and lifestyles to ensure a healthier baby and easier pregnancy. The process of caring for a young life seems one of constant vigilance and concern.

As a pregnant woman, I monitored my diet. I limited exercise. I avoided x-rays. I avoided chemicals. I took cold baths.

Suddenly life seems ripe with potential dangers. You need a daily dose of folate, a firm crib mattress, locks on the toilets and plastic plugs in the electric sockets.

But how much protection is too much? How about these toddler safety hats [via Rosenblog]? These Thudgard symbolize the lines parents try to walk. How to protect children without overprotecting them. No one wants to make the fatal flaw and harm their daughter or son. There are plenty of parents grieving accidents that shouldn’t have happened. But no one wants to raise someone who suffered from being too sheltered.

Would you allow your seven year old son to watch “The Matrix”? Julie Salamon began her article in the New York Times The Rating Says PG, but Is That Guidance Enough?
describing her own experience as a parent.

Before my son turned 8, he had watched “The Matrix” numerous times on videocassette before he moved on to “The Lord of the Rings.”

As Ed Cone commented: different rules in our house. I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch The Matrix. The New York Times article discussed parenting concerns and so did a recent series on NPR’s All Things Considered on decency and popular culture.

Every family will have different standards. Ted and I want our kids to know what to do, how to handle all tv, movies and media, by the time they are adults. However, at their current young ages, right now they don’t need any unnecessary exposure. The commercials they see on tv during iceskating broadcasts are enough, clips of image-driven individuals who slather on Oil of Olay, gulp V-8 juice or flirt from ostentatious automobiles, provide plenty of exposure already, given our home-based lifestyle. We’ve had to explain some of these ads to them and I can only imagine what would happen if we let them watch the news or even football (never mind prime time). As one of the parents interviewed in the NPR segment said (approximate quote), “Have you tried to explain a Via.gra ad to a 12 year old?”

How much is too much? Is there a danger in not enough exposure? What are the consequences?

Who is responsible for providing protection? I believe that parents should screen programs for themselves. As Julie Salamon’s examples reveal, one standardized rating system won’t fit every family and each child’s needs. There is much variation among viewers and among art. Context counts. An act of violence in one film or book might be more acceptable than the same deed done in a different piece. But I’m still left with many questions as I wander through this territory of parenting, where no one else can make the choices for Ted and me.

When do we protect? And when do we remove that protection and trust our children to make choices for themselves?

Tags: family

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Earth Girl // Jan 15, 2005 at 6:05 am

    And it becomes more difficult as they enter the teen years. The boys want their drivers licenses at 16 (six months from now!); we think one twin will be ready and the other not. They are not allowed to watch R rated movies but we made an exception with several war movies (The Patriot, Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan) since one son wants to join the army and we think he needs a healthy dose of reality.

  • 2 Kai Jones // Jan 17, 2005 at 12:13 pm

    Parental guidance isn’t just a suggestion. Only you know your child. My two boys have different triggers and were able to watch/read different things at different ages. Even so mistakes were made and I dealt with several weeks’s worth of nightmares when my older one watched Jurassic Park before he was ready to handle it.

  • 3 Derek // Feb 25, 2005 at 9:14 am

    By the time kids are 12, explaining products that deal with erectile dysfunction shouldn’t be difficult, because (at least in my ideal) they’d understand sex and reproduction well enough that finding out why (usually older) men might need such a thing might seem weird, but not incomprehensible.

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