Q&A: Establishing media guidelines for our children


Our son is 10 years old. Up to this point, I’ll admit that we didn’t give much thought to entertainment, since he was content with what we gave him. But now he’s starting to develop his own interests and tastes, and we want to establish some reasonable guidelines. What are your thoughts?

Answer: The key is to avoid extremes. Many parents take an “all or nothing” approach, rather than teaching and reinforcing values on a case-by-case basis. These mums and dads tend to swing to one extreme or the other – something that’s easy to do.

The first extreme is permissiveness. Some parents seemingly can’t say no to their children. They so much want to be liked by their children that they seldom risk setting limits. They adopt an “anything goes” philosophy: No boundaries, everything is okay, do what you want. This approach leads to “indecent exposure” as children wander, aimless and wide-eyed, through the mire of the entertainment culture. We have to be parents who know how and when to say no.

The other extreme is legalism. Parents at this end of the spectrum rarely explain their decisions, but simply respond with a blanket “No.” This type of parenting purports to be about safeguarding. It isn’t. While this approach may simplify entertainment purchasing decisions, it also can breed rebellion. Human nature being what it is, at some point children will want to sample “forbidden fruit” just because “everything” has been refused without context. That’s why we also need to be parents who can say yes when it’s warranted.

Neither of the extremes works. A discerning middle ground – that not only articulates what (yes or no) but also why – is the most reasonable and protective plan of action. Teaching discernment encourages balance, leads to critical thinking, bonds families, and gives tweens and teens life skills they’ll carry throughout adulthood.

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