Sheltered: On media exposure and parenting

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how sheltered my kids’ lives are in comparison to how my life was sheltered as a child. I grew up in a fairly strict conservative household that limited tv and movie viewing and book reading to titles with only G or PG rated material, and sometimes even the PG was a little much. Little to no secular music was played in the car or at home.  We watched Gospel Bill and SuperBook instead of the Smurfs and Scooby Doo. I went to a Christian school through middle school so I didn’t get much exposure at all to the popular music of the time.  My kids are growing up a bit differently.  We still limit a bunch of tv and movies, mainly because we don’t have cable! The tv is rarely on. But my kids know the words to several classic rock songs thanks to my husband, and are constantly humming top 40 tunes thanks to the music they hear on the announcements at school.

So, in some ways, my children are less sheltered than I was. But in one way particularly, they are extremely MORE sheltered. What way is this? The News.

Growing up, the evening news was always on the tv from around 5ish until dinner and then back on while dinner clean up was happening. I rarely sat down and watched it with my parents, but I was very aware of things that were happening. I watched the videos of the Rodney King beating, Gulf War SCUD missile strikes, DC protests of all manner, etc.  (Interestingly, somehow I missed the Challenger explosion. Apparently every other kindergartner was watching it, but not me. Maybe I was sick that day? who knows.) But now? Like I said before, we don’t have the tv on much at all. We don’t have cable (mainly a financial decision, not a philosophical one), we haven’t sprung for a roof antenna, and the tv just doesn’t get great reception down in the basement. I don’t have a little tv in the kitchen either. So my kids just don’t really get the exposure to current events like I did. I get the news on my phone, usually during the day while they’re at school and after they’re in bed. Sometimes on the radio – but I usually switch it off in the car when the kids are with me, because it’s usually the only time I have one on one time with them and it’s a good time to talk.

I know they hear about some things at school. For example, my husband and I had not really been talking about the election at home, but my big girls all still knew all about Trump and were fairly flabbergasted at his success. What’s interesting to me is that this sheltering is not intentional. I’m not trying to keep things from them; it’s just that my consumption of media and news is not as public or in front of them as my parents’ was.

I’ve read blog posts and articles about how to handle kids’ anxiety in today’s news world where it seems that some major disaster is happening every few days. I always read these and am like – wait, does my kid even know that happened? Should she know it happened? Just what does my child/teenager need to know about what’s going on? About Black Lives Matter? About the cultural battles being waged over LGBTQ issues? About abortion? About this mass shooting? About that terrorist attack? etc, etc, etc.

I don’t mean to be doing them a disservice by not opening the door to current events.  I also don’t necessarily think they need to know about everything happening – it’s overwhelming for me as an adult to engage with every story. I simply do not have the emotional capacity to handle caring so deeply about all of the major cultural discussions swirling today.

I would love to hear how other parents are handling this issue – are your kids media exposed? Are you intentional about it? Any lessons learned?

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