Q: My son just started secondary school, and he’s hearing all sorts of new [to us] music that his friends and peers have on their players. I’ve gone online to check a couple of the artists he’s mentioned, and I’m shocked by their lyrics. What can we do?
A: First, let us commend you for not dismissing your concerns as simply a part of a child’s growing up. Studies have consistently shown that lyrical messages can be strong influencers in the lives of young people.
As for a strategy going forward, here’s what we suggest. Call a family meeting, the sole purpose of which is to establish a clear policy regarding entertainment. Many parents don’t feel the need to verbally articulate boundaries regarding what’s acceptable and what is out of bounds. But trust us, modelling by itself isn’t enough. Take a step further and put your commitment in writing. After each of you signed it, post a copy in a visible place in your home.
It won’t take much time to write up your own “family media constitution.” The main point behind your efforts is to establish clear guidelines so there are no misunderstandings going forward. You may want to begin with: “Knowing the power of the media to influence our thoughts, behaviours and actions, we as a family commit to consuming movies, TV, videogames and music that are inspiring, encouraging and uplifting.” Once your family standard has been adopted and everyone understands the boundaries, it’s likely that smartphones, tablets, etc. will need to be purged. We’d also encourage you to revisit this conversation and convene a family meeting at least twice a year to gauge your children’s interest in all things media and evaluate their commitment to adhering to the family standard.
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