Perhaps it sounds a bit weird, but I closely monitor what my son watches on TV when he’s with me. He is 14 now. I know parents who actually think that by the time a child is 14, parenting responsibilities are pretty much done and that it’s just about being a friend from then on. I disagree. I think our teenagers need us to be parents, perhaps even for a while after they are technically adults, although when they leave for college, they really need to know how to perform adult functions (laundry, cooking, basic car maintenance, balancing a checkbook, knowing what the heck a checkbook is, budgeting). Although at that point, most of the time they just need their parent’s for advice.
I was a single parent for the majority of my son’s childhood. His dad wasn’t around for various reasons. I knew he needed guidance. One way to guide was to watch what he observed, whether television, videos, books, or even youtube. Yes, I believe it is my responsibility to guard his heart and mind until he is mature enough to make responsible decisions on his own. He shows me on a regular basis in which areas he is gaining maturity and in which areas he needs work. I guide and guard for now.
There are some TV shows that are exceptionally popular. I am told that almost everyone watches the shows. Yet, I do not let him. Why? In our post-“Cosby Show” culture, there are certain shows, as a matter of fact, most shows, that present all men as incompetent idiots. The hunt for equal rights turned into “only women are smart and all men are idiots.” I do not agree with that assertation. I do not want my son’s lack of male parental influence to lead him to believe that because he is a man (or soon will be a man), that he must be ignorant. He is not. While he might be surrounded by lazy teenagers, he is neither ignorant nor an idiot. I have sought out male influences that show him that men are created to be strong, smart, funny… When he was a toddler and young child, I wouldn’t let him watch shows that were dumbed down or that showed children regularly being disrespectful. Remember, the basic rule of computers applies to life as well: Garbage in; Garbage out. When we did watch shows that had disrespectful children, I took it as a teachable moment and talked about how things might have been handled differently/better.
I also choose which video games I allow in the house. Once he turned 13, he wanted all the violent games. After all, he was a teenager, right? He might have attained the ripe old age of 13, but I was still in charge. We had to butt heads a few times until I got him to understand a little bit and see my side, as best as he could as a kid. Some games rated “teen,” I allowed earlier; some he still is not allowed to play. We have established rules for what is allowed and so far, he is following them, at least when he is with me. His father owns some of the more violent (M rated) games, but our son does not engage in them. Quite frankly, he has come to see them as almost childish in the need for blood and gore, if that makes sense. I tried to teach him that if you wouldn’t want to see it in real life, why would you want to see it on the screen?
For now, our system seems to be working. We still butt heads at times, but having established ourselves a respectful relationship from the beginning, I know my road has been easier than some. Until he is more mature or until he leaves home, I hope to continue to be able to guard his heart and mind and guide him towards what love and logic dictate.
If you have experiences along this line that you would like to share, I would love to read them in the comments!