How to set rules about children’s media use


Since my last post, some parents have asked me if I think parents should set any rules about media use, since talking with kids seems to be the way to empower and protect them against undesirable media content. My answer is yes, rules are good, but alone they aren’t enough.

When I was a kid my parents did not allow me to watch the Simpsons. As a parent now, I can see why. Sure, it’s funny, but it’s adult-humor funny, and it can be pretty crude. When I was 13 or 14 I went on a campout with my boy scout troop on the property of one of our scout leaders. Because it started to rain like crazy, we moved inside his wood shop. To keep us entertained, he brought in a TV and VCR, along with a VHS tape filled with recordings of the Simpsons. That night I think we watched the Simpsons for 8 hours straight, and it was one of the great nights from my young life.

So, let’s put this in perspective. My parents had rules in order to prevent me from watching the Simpsons. It worked, as long as I was in their house. But once I had the chance, I enjoyed every minute of watching the show. Looking back, here’s where I think things went wrong. I remember my parents forbidding me from watching the show, but I can’t remember them explaining why. Now, young kids need rules and need prevented from watching and seeing things. But as kids grow and start to gain some autonomy, they need to know the reasons behind the rules. And, once again, that involves conversations that explain the rules in ways that satisfy older children’s self-interests.

So, in my last post I said that protecting our kids is good, but empowering them is great. Yes, I think kids should have rules about their media use in order to protect them. But the added layer of protection, I believe, comes when we have conversations with them about those rules so that there is a chance they’ll internalize the rules for themselves.



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