Mixed Media Mixed Messages – What’s a Mom to Do?!

I have noticed that in recent weeks my sassy seven year old was living up to her nickname and becoming increasingly sassier and sassier (Editor’s Note – “sassy-seven year old becoming sassier and sassier” is fun to say out loud – try it, you’ll see!). She has starting to talk back and showing a little attitude – which for a little girl with big attitude already programmed in is saying a lot.  

I know there are MANY parents who think this is not a big deal and completely age appropriate (including my BFF), but this new found personality was not welcome to find a permanent place in my home.  In an attempt to discover the impetus behind her way-to-early teen-attitude, I started to pay more attention to what she was reading, watching and listening to.  What I found out was horrifying – to put it mildly.  She had been watching, playing and listening to the same shows, games and music as her friends, but up until this point she seemed to have managed to avoid the highly negative messaging.  Let’s just say that now those same messages that she was glancing over are officially sinking in.  It was time for an intervention stat. 

  • Intervention Step 1 – Books
    • Problem – Seriously, who would have thought I needed to be concerned that my daughter was reading?!  Well, upon further inspection of the stories she was enjoying led me to find source one of her sass.  Girls that were sassing and talking back to their parents, friends, teachers, etc. 
    • Solution – We joined that Family Book Club at her school.  While we were at our first meeting, I explained my dilemma to the librarian.  Fortunately she agreed that many of the literature readily available for children my kid’s age was highly inappropriate in language and topic, but she was able to provide a long list of really interesting sounding books, that we would be able to read together. We both left the book club excited about our new finds.
  • Intervention Step 2 – Television
    • Problem – The question of TV was a bit more difficult to handle.  She watches Disney and Nickelodeon – not HBO.  But when I checked in on the sit-com style shows she enjoyed I was finding it difficult to give my approval to what she was watching. 
    • Solution– We sat down and talked about the messages that these shows are giving to girls her age. We talked about the language they use, the way that the characters dress, and whether these ‘kids’ she was watching were doing ANYTHING to be better people. While my ladybug mostly agreed, she gave a strong argument for one of her shows. We compromised that we would DVR the show and watch it together once a week. I felt that this way we would be able to talk about the positive and negative messages.  We then talked about what might interest her if she wanted to watch TV. To be clear I am not opposed to TV for my kids, just to the messages that were sinking into that malleable little brain of my child. We agreed that there were shows of interest to her on the National Geographic Channel, The History Channel and The Cooking Channel. After she was able to see that she still had varied choice she was on board.  (Editor’s Note 2: For the record – National Geographic and The History Channel will in time present lots more topics for discussion – but at least it will be educated conversation about people’s background and history – and you thought ANT Farm raised questions!)
  • Intervention Step 3 – Video Games
    • Problem – What video games, if any, are redeemable for kids to play?
    • Solution– My in-laws actually helped me in part with some of this (credit given!).  They had sent my daughter The Daring Game for Girls for the DS. This is an adventure game where my child can choose from a variety of characters (of different ethnicities), and play games (basketball, spy games, cave exploring) all while learning little facts about famous women in history. I wouldn’t have picked this game for my daughter but she really loves it, and has turned out to be a great find.
    • Solution 2– the iPad – One of the greatest things about having access to technology is the ability to play interactive educational games together. Lately we have been playing Ansel and Claire’s Adventures in Africa on our iPad. These characters travel through Africa while teaching kids ages 4-9 all about the landscape and animals. It is incredibly true to life and full of tons of interesting information. At $4.99 it is definitely worth it.

 So…what’s a Mom to do?  We want our kids to stay current and be aware of the world around them, but at the same time we don’t want that same world being the ones to bombard them with mixed messages – especially when character and moral issues are at stake.  Best thing I can come up with is like it or now – we’re parents – and we have to get involved.  We have to listen to their music (yuck), read their books (can be rewarding) and watch their shows (no matter how droll they seem).  Armed with the information, we then need to take the next more difficult step of setting guidelines on what music, shows, books and games we want them experiencing – and we need to talk with them about the messages both good and bad. 

Side Note – I just want to take a minute to say thank you to everyone who has posted comments and emailed me over the past few weeks. I love reading what you have to say, and I am especially interested in what products and topics you would like to read about.  Keep sharing!