Parenting in a Media-Laden Culture

On Tuesday afternoon members of our staff stumbled upon the images of Chris Brown’s new tattoo. They shared some links to articles discussing the singer’s choice in body art, and a great conversation developed between a few staff members who are raising children. In an age of quick media, pop star heroism, and many children in the process of developing their own identities, talking about the latest celebrity news can be daunting!

I asked a couple staff moms if they were willing to share their commentary. Raising middle-schoolers in the midst of this media seems to be largely about navigating the distinction between someone’s talent, which is good, and their violent or disrespectful actions, which is just not cool.

On the Chris Brown neck tattoo:

“This is soooooo frustrating to me as a parent… My child likes him and his music even after all he has done and now this! I also like his music and think he is talented but there is a line. I don’t download or play his music but she does. When I bring this stuff up, I get the eye roll—‘whatever mom, you’re just too sensitive, it’s just music.’ …Yet another tale from the uncool mom!”

First, I want to emphasize that I think this mom is totally cool! Probably one of the coolest people I know! It reminds me of a poster that hung in my classroom waaay back in 6th grade. It read, “What is popular is not always right. What it is right is not always popular.” I really can’t remember what I learned about in 6th grade, but this will always stick with me. But figuring out what to talk about with your own children isn’t quite as easy as some after school specials would have us think. Another super cool mom responded:

“Yes, this is tough. The stance I’ve taken is that you can’t change opinions, but you can state your opinion in order to educate. Also, I don’t like to censor too much, but if my partner and I see or hear something very offensive our son has to turn the channel or station. There are limits!”

So how about a real life example of setting limits and educating in action:

“Take the TV show, “Good Luck Charlie.” It is funny, but the kids, can be conniving and obnoxious in an “open faced,” innocent looking way. We started talking about the show. I said, this show is funny, but the kids are rather disrespectful to their parents. That’s funny on TV, but not in real life. He has since commented a few times, saying that yes, the kids aren’t respectful and sometimes not very nice to their parents. It’s at least a conversation. It probably would have been better if I would have started out by asking him what he thought of the characters’ attitudes, but that just didn’t happen! Parenting is a practice!”

One thing that I really appreciated in this response was that she recognized something that could be done differently next time. It was a good response, a small intervention, and a teaching moment. But in practice as engaged bystanders, there is always room for growth! Another take away from this conversation is that parenting involves educating on complex issues—like the many different sides of a person’s personality or character. Check out this great explanation:

“There are some musical artists I really enjoy, but I don’t like things about their lives, attitudes toward women, etc. I can value someone for their talent, but not admire them for certain other attributes or attitudes. So we can admire talent, but put people in their place when it comes to attitudes, human issues, etc.”

So, finally, how about some parting words of wisdom from these super-cool, very smart parents:

“Parenting around media issues is often “parenting-on-the-fly.” Something happens, you see or hear something, and you’ve got to decide, do I (have the energy to) react, what do I say, will it be heard? I truly believe it will be heard. Your child might not agree, but they’ve at least heard an opinion and it may get them to think about it a bit. Also, as I mentioned earlier, it’s probably even better to let your child think it through a bit or ask for her opinion to get the thoughts rolling. But, hey, do the best you can. Every day is a new day and a new opportunity. At least that’s how I view it!

P.S. No matter how painful it can be, just be sure to watch and listen to what your kids are consuming. It’s tempting, but don’t put your head in the sand!”

For more ideas about initiating talks about media and other topics with the people you care about, check out 100 Conversations. This new project offers tips on building good conversations with youth, and topics that youth in your life might just be wondering about. Of particular interest after this post-10 conversations on media.

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