Literature is meant to be tasted and chewed, but necessarily swallowed…
We have this subject in college called Literary Criticism or simply LitCrit. It is the study of different ways on how to interpret literature like the works of Shakespeare or Bronte. Nowadays literature has evolved into digital media: soap operas, anime, RPG games and You tube videos. These are born out of scripts and screenplays -all written literature. With our too hectic lifestyle, our children get to see more than just Barney and Friends. Television shows as well as the internet slowly give our kids and teens more media exposure behind our backs -and think this is normal since they watched it all the time. How can we help children (and teens) interpret what they see so as to criticize what is “good to follow” or “bad for you”?
“What are you wearing on your eyes?” Anime-like contacts are proven as health hazard and still sold like candies online. Your tweens are dying to have a pair for the upcoming cosplay event. While it promotes appreciation on visual art; a fad is not a worthwhile expenditure. Being a sucker for “what’s in” can make you waste money or can create conflicts just because parents think their kids are having a bad taste for fashion. The culprit: media advertisements, internet and TV shows.
Explain to them that a fad does not last long and should not be pressured into it. The best movie I can recommended for that topic is the 2010 remake of Alice in Wonderland. “If they say wearing a codfish on your head is normal, would you wear it?”, asks Alice. You can encourage a healthy taste of lifestyle by being in style yourself too. Know your family’s limits in funding for fashion, gadgets and accessories as well as your tolerance about decency. If your daughter is beginning to wear micro-mini skirts and you do not feel good about it then tell it straight without causing friction to you both. Offer better alternatives. Set rules about how much they can spend for it. Being in style is cool once in a while as long they don’t get to sacrifice time, money and relationships just for a fad.
Love & Sex
Acts of intimacy such as kissing may be regulated in television but not in the internet. Metacafe, for one can have a “family safe mode” but anybody can click on that “I am 18, let me watch” button. Movies are now can be streamed for free unrestricted access as well as the flood of pirated DVD’s in the streets. When your kids asks you questions about intimacy, how do you respond?
The best way for help younger children to interpret kissing scenes on TV is to kiss them too (gasp!). Kiss your children as well as kiss your spouse candidly. Let them realize that kissing is entirely normal expression of love. The more you avoid this concept from them the more you fuel their curiosity. Tell them that expressing love is normal to in the family -not strangers. Younger children do not need too much details, just tell them what they need to know for personal safety. Teens on the other hand, need a more adult-like decent talk about seeing love scenes, boyfriend-girlfriend relationships and pre-marital sex on media. Teens have to be enlightened the responsibilities of promiscuity if they will imitate what they see on TV. This may be touchy issue for you but at least you did your part. The best techniques is have a sound relationship between spouses; with both of you sharing balanced insights on this issue to your children. Let them also watch films about expressing love in different ways such as brotherly love (Pay it Forward 2000) and friendship (Valiant 2010).
Bad Words & Violence
“Mom, I just go out, be right back before dinner” says your 12-year old son. You know very well he is headed in the nearest internet cafe to play DOTA. While you have no idea what the game is all about, the kids’ yelling and cussing while making an “Instant Kill” and become “God-like” will give you a clue. Violent RPG may not teach your children to hurt others literally, their animal-like instinct heightens more than healthy moderation. This instinctively makes them utter cuss words or threatening words even if they were just joking or excited. (“Upakan kita jan, eh! @#$% ka!”), a habit no normal parent would like to hear from their children.
Make a healthy discussion after dinner on your family’s stand on saying bad words and thinking ill of other people. Let them know that playing RPG games is okay as long as they don’t get too affected by it. Depending on your personal values and religion, state not only the rules, but the very reasons why should they abide to it. Construct healthy anger management: how to handle strong emotions anger, excitement and frustration. Agree on your stand regarding offensive words and violent gestures such as pushing other people. Demonstrate it to them, utter these bad words or imitate you are punching somebody yourself, just to let them feel how offensive it is to see it from directly you.
Drugs and Other Vices
Tobacco and alcohol is being advertised. Celebrities and even yourself might be honest to admit having a vice or two. But of course, this is the least thing you would want your kids to learn. Take the case of the 2 year-old smoking kid from Indonesia. The most common reason for juvenile addiction to smoke, drugs and alcohol is the feeling of being all grown-up. They clamor the authority and freedom we adults enjoy. This type of issue is a little harder to solve if parents do not have a strong bond with their children.
Aside from telling them the effects of vices on their health, you must first have to address your relationship to your children. Are you their protector or interrogator? Stressful family relationships also triggers them to result into smoking to “relax them off a bit”. If your kids trust to you for their safety, then it is easy to teach them that they can ignore negative things they watch on TV.
Media does not have to be swallowed. They can watch it but no need to imitate it at all. All you got to do is to stand firm on your values, communicate with your children. Teach them how to criticize what they are watching: if it is good or bad for them.
Maribeth Oliver is a home-based micro-entrepreneur, writer and a mom. She shares her insights about family life, internet use and home-based career opportunities. Visit her sites at http://maribetholiver.com and http://articlelab.net.