Sunday, September 14, 2008

Setting Limits

While watching TV recently, my ear was caught by a phrase that was almost entirely bleeped out. Interestingly, I could fill in the missing words with my mind based on context. This got me thinking about setting limits. From birth to old-age, limiting behavior is a crucial part of living happily in a family and a society as a whole.

We set limits for our children to keep them safe physically, but also to protect them from emotional harm. I am a big supporter of creative expression, and I find value in all forms. As an adult, I enjoy some pretty wild humor. I find that laughing at certain polarizing and charged issues takes some of the sting out of the reality. Laughing at prejudices can prove how silly they ultimately are. 

However, even with the words bleeped out, a child shouldn't be exposed to this kind of expression. As I had done, it's easy for a bright child to fill in the gaps and work out the context. The trouble is that, without a mature point of view, the subtleties of sarcasm and satyr are lost. (Sometimes when this type of humor is on the cover of the New Yorker, even the adults don't get the message).  

I feel a similar responsibility in the world of Kids' Music. When you've had a 4 year old sing all the words of Avril Lavigne's "Skater Boy," or reenact certain graphic scenes from "High School Musical 2," during a preschool class it makes you think. Obviously parental filtering is the most important part of the process, but I think the industry has a responsibility in how it markets media to kids.

I can understand and barely tolerate the Jonas Brothers fanaticism from my 'tween, afterschool students. I see all sorts of Miley Cyrus notebooks and High School Musical backpacks piled up in the locker area daily. It's nothing new, I've got grown friends who have NKOTB tickets. There's always a pop fad. It's when it seeps into the preschool culture, that my alarm bells go off.

As the "pop" market gets younger, the messages of image consciousness, materialism and sexuality are foisted on an audience that is too young to understand, and too impressionable to come away without confusion and emotional damage. The messages that the media sends to us are powerful, but parents and educators are not powerless. Save the mature content (Music, TV, Video Games and Movies) for the grown-ups and search out the quality content for the wee ones. Let's keep 'em young and full of wonder! Keep 'em Singing in the Bathtub!


Ali said...

Good post, Nick. (I made the quote board! I'll be sure to pass along any additional Mommy quotes that arise. Until Miles talks, I'll be the one with foolish phrases.)

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

Wow, this post was timed quite appropriately with something I discovered yesterday. Last night, we watched The Golden Compass movie (three of us adults). I loved the movie, so I started looking at the books online. As it turns out, in America since the books were marketed to children, some of the "incipient sexuality" in the the third book was removed for the young American audience. In the UK, you can buy the "adult" version of the books, or the child version. I've not heard of too many books that have done this. As an adult, I felt like if I had not found out and had got a "censored" version I would have been mad that I was cheated out of some of the author's original work. As a new uncle, though, I can respect and appreciate the availability of both versions. A shame that more publishers don't do this, or no?

Anne Deysher said...

I find it heartening as a preschool educator of an earlier generation to know that even young adults recognize the insidious dangers of exposing young children to material they are not emotionally old enough to process. We teachers (all over 50) just thought we were dinosaurs!
Thanks for the thought provoking comments!

Trixie3000 said...

Welcome to the conversation Chris. It's nice to hear from someone other than my mother and sister (love you both). Censorship is a tricky subject. I tried not to come off sounding too Tipper Gore. I support freedom of expression, but in a free society you have to be careful about what your kids are watching and listening to!

Nick! said...

PLEASE NOTE: the above comment attributed to Tracey is from me Nick! Darn this pesky internet and multiple users and such.

Anne Deysher said...

One of my mothers came up to me today to remark about how valuable she found your message, Nich. She also complimented you on expressing it well. Perhaps my mothers don't blog, but they seem to be reading...!