Can You Inoculate Your Kids From a Raunchy Culture?

Filed under: Opinions

Last week, a friend told me that her teenage daughter walked out of the room when she saw "Jersey Shore" on the television. You heard right, some teenagers don't want to watch Snooki and her morally-depraved roommates. It was enough to make me, a mom of an 11-year-old, cry tears of joy.

But the hope it gave me wasn't enough to stop me from being angry when I heard that MTV's new teen drama, "Skins," is so racy that the excutives behind it may be charged with kiddie porn. And I expressed my frustration as a parent recently on Anderson Cooper's show.

Up against these corporate machinations, is it even possible to raise kids with enough confidence and common sense to withstand the deluge of vapid, tasteless and sexually-charged programming that passes for teen culture these days?

The answer, as my friend's daughter proves, is yes! You can minimize the influence of "Gossip Girl," sexting, and hooker fashion in your children's life.

The first step is to honor the dignity of children. When we truly acknowledge the intellectual, creative and spiritual dimensions and potential of kids, we can't help but set the bar high in terms of their media. And that doesn't mean you have to throw out the TV or cancel the cable. It just means you have to be discriminating. And savvy enough to use Tivo and DVRs to help your kids take in the good stuff and leave the junk.

Check for age appropriateness. I had a 5-year-old who was invited to a "High School Musical"-themed birthday party. Five-year-olds who watch "High School Musical" and "Hannah Montana" will be 9-year-olds begging to watch "Twilight" or "Glee." Do your part as a parent to slow down the process while you can. Besides, children deserve to have their childhood and innocence protected. They have a right to be princesses and climb trees and make forts without the pressure or confusion of being prematurely introduced to adolescent themes and angst.

Elevate the conversations. Don't underestimate their curiosity about the world, nature or current events. Kids who are curious about the world are less likely to care about what the Kardashian girls are up to. And this goes for the under-12 set, too. If there are protesters on the streets of Cairo, pull out the atlas -- as I did with my kids last week -- and show them where it is, and why its location is important to America. Talk to them about oil, democracy, dictators and human rights. Kids are naturally curious and have innate sense of justice and I always find myself amazed by their questions and conclusions about the world we live in.

Arm them with the classics. Encourage your kids to read and rediscover great books. Show your own enthusiasm by reading to them or reading the same book so you can talk about it together. Resist the temptation to give up when your kids complain about the TV being shut off or swear to you that they hate reading.

Introduce them to sports. Kids who like sports become teenagers whose after-school hours are filled with practices and games instead of "Real World" reruns and mindless video games. Plus, sports are a healthy physical outlet for all those hormones.

Focus on faith. My children's faith and religious instruction is the foundation of their understanding and appreciation for what is truly beautiful and lasting in life. I can't imagine helping them navigate our culture without it.

Finally, don't forget about the family dinner. It's a ritual that studies prove over and over again is a parent's best hope for maintaining influence in their child's life. Kids and teens who have regular family dinners are more likely to have a better relationship with their parents and do better academically, and they are also less likely to engage in risky behavior. It can seem daunting to compete with a ubiquituous and powerful popular culture, but's it's our job to do what we can to minimize its influence by raising well-rounded, grounded kids who are curious about a world they know is bigger than pop culture. The days of cruise-control parenting are over. If we don't parent, The Situation will. Wow, that's a scary thought.

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