They Like It… so Let Them Do It!

Posted on: 10/11/11 12:16 PM | by Jonathan McKee

In the last few weeks we’ve had a lot of dialogue in this blog about the media teenagers are regularly digesting, anything from mainstream racy music videos to top songs with questionable content. It’s been interesting to see some of the comments in these discussions. Some are of the opinion that parents should simply let kids do what they want.

Sadly, I think that opinion might be a little more popular than we realize.

Last month if you popped on Yahoo’s front page, you might have seen an article titled, “My Toddler has a TV in his Room and I’m Not Sorry.” In this dogmatic article, the author asserts her reasoning from the getgo:

I make no apology for the fact that my toddler has a TV in his room for one very simple reason:

Kids love TV and parents love that kids love TV.

I mean, I know I do.

Well… there you have it. Case closed. I mean, after all, kids love TV and so do we.

I can’t wait until her toddler grows into a teenager. Teenagers love sex, and so do we. So they should have it in their room, right? (believe me, some believe that they should) And some teenagers love inhalants. So we should probably let them sniff these wonderfully addictive drugs, right?

Okay, maybe I’m pushing the envelope. But can I just please ask for a little more reasoning than “They like it!”

What do the experts say?

Interestingly enough, most the experts do chime in on the subject of media in bedrooms. For example: last year the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a study titled, “Sexuality, Contraception, and the Media.” This report recommended that parents “keep their children’s bedroom free of TVs and internet connections.”

The Kaiser Foundation did some sobering research on the subject as well in their M2 report last year. Here’s just a snippet of our article summarizing the findings from that report:

Part of the reason kids are watching more television these days is also due to the fact that 71% of them have a TV in their bedroom (and 49% of them have cable or satellite access there, too). KFF’s study clearly showed that kids who have TVs in their bedrooms watched an hour more of programming each day than kids who did not have a TV in their rooms.

The effects of extended TV watching are well-documented: it plays a role in kids starting sex earlier. In fact, multiple studies have observed this disturbing trend.

But, according to KFF’s report, less than half of kids’ parents (46%) have rules about what sort of television content they can watch. And a mere 28% of kids’ parents have rules about how much time can be spent watching TV.

It’s pretty clear– parents who actually create media guidelines for their kids are in the minority. Sadly… many parents would rather not know what their kids are watching. Out of sight, out of mind.

So who do you believe? Mrs. I Love TV… or a large group of respected pediatricians that are concerned with the choices young people are making today?

The AAP report mentioned above has some positive news for parents who choose to listen:

  • Teenagers whose parents control their TV-viewing habits are less sexually experienced
  • Adolescents whose parents limit their TV-viewing are less likely to engage in early sex.

(I go into greater detail in my blog about that report.)

So what about you? What media guidelines do you think should be put into place in homes today?

4 Replies to “They Like It… so Let Them Do It!”

  1. I’m not a parent, but I am a youth worker and someone who would like to have kids of my own someday, so I still think about these things all the time. I’m 26 and didn’t grow up with a TV in my room. Mom or Dad were almost always around when we watched TV, watching with us and talking with us about what we saw. I feel like their supervision has shaped how I choose media now as an adult. My little neighbor girls often come over and I’m very careful about what’s on my TV when they’re around. I know their parents are pretty lenient about what they watch but I figure, my place, my guidelines, at least when mine are more stringent.
    I’m also dating a great Christian man who agrees with me on how we would like to parent one day. We actually just talked about how our kids won’t have TVs in their rooms and we will monitor their media intake. Not to be strict disciplinary parents, but to help teach them discernment and to be involved in their lives. My opinion is, if you’re gonna have kids you better actually be a parent, even when it’s not popular. Letting kids just do whatever they want isn’t a Biblical way to bring up kids in a Christian home.

  2. I am a parent of 6 year old twins, and a 5 year old, and I’m a full time youth worker. My wife and I have had this argument repeatedly with her sister. I maintain that my kids can have a TV in their bedroom when they are paying rent, or move out, whereas my nephew had a TV in his room by age 2 (he is now 5). To me, there is one reason to put a TV in a young child’s bedroom; it makes the parent’s life easier. It is a lot of work to police your kids, to play with them, to read with them, etc… It is much easier to put them in front of the TV, by themselves, in their bedroom. I’ll be the first to admit that my kids may watch more TV than I should let them, and I myself watch way too much as well, but they won’t be watching in their room, and I police whatever they watch.
    Jonathan, I thought you would appreciate this additional story. This past July I was driving a group of my high school kids to our mission trip. I had 6 of them in the car, and “Last Friday Night” came on the radio. I left it on while they sang to it, and after the first chorus, I asked them, “Did you even think about what you were just singing?” Their answer was mixed, and this lead to a discussion of the influence media has on them. I asked them if they thought it had any influence, or if it was just “fun to listen to”. EVERY ONE OF THEM immediately said, “oh, it has a huge influence.” Then we had a long discussion on what TV teaches them vs. what they learn from their parents about drinking, drugs, sex, etc… I was really struck by how they 100% believed that all this media they devour affects them, and rarely in a positive way. They didn’t try to defend it in any way.

    1. That’s a great story about Last Friday Night. I’m glad that you used that song to springboard discussion. I think today’s kids really connect with talking about important elements in their world. Thanks Ed!

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