A Viagra-Free Zone for Kids

Filed under: Media, Mealtime, Opinions

I love dinner time at my house – it's a chaotic family event full of boiling pots, laughter, arguments over who folds napkins or fills cups, zooming cars underfoot (courtesy of our car-obsessed toddler) and the indelible smell of home-cooked food. While the television is off during the meal, it's usually tuned to the evening news while we prep for dinner.

Recently, in a familiar scene, my nine-year old sat coloring while I cooked. As we chatted about her day, she stopped to sing along to a catchy jingle from a commercial. Without even looking up from her picture, she began singing, "Viva! Viagra!"

At that very moment, my husband walked into the kitchen. We looked at each other with eyes that said, "What do we do here?" Through parental telepathy, we made a decision not to laugh and to pretend like nothing unusual was going on. When the commercial was over, she declared that she, "loved that song!" and we waited with baited breath for her to ask us what Viagra was. She didn't. And for that we were grateful.

While we dodged the bullet this time, later that night we discussed what we would do when she does ask. We agreed that we would not explain erectile dysfunction to a 9-year-old, who has yet to ask any questions about sexuality; if asked, we would protect (and respect) her innocence and describe the medication and ailment in the broadest of medical terms. "It's for when things aren't working the way people think they should in their body," we prepped. We also discussed rethinking our pre-dinner viewing habits. My husband and I are both peeved that our cable news show put us in the position of choosing between watching the evening news and exposing our kids to sexually-themed commercials. The one for Cialis is even worse, by the way.

Yes, yes, I can already hear your comments. "Just turn the television off," "News isn't for kids," and "What's wrong with talking about erectile dysfunction – parents ought to be honest with their kids."

But that's not how I feel. I enjoy the evening news, especially while I cook. I also enjoy the discussions with our kids that arise in the context of watching the news. When I was a kid, there was a family hour, a short period of time in the early evening when my family could watch something together without worrying about inappropriate content -- and that included the news. And while it's true that news stories have become racier, at least I know what's coming up and I can turn it off when warned. Not so with commercials.

Is it too much to ask for a return to a television family hour free of commercials that invite questions from kids about things they really don't need to know about? I made it through childhood and my teens without ever hearing the words "erectile dysfunction." Shouldn't today's kids have the same right?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.