I was out with some co-workers the other day, and we started talking about Christmas shopping and what gifts people planned to buy. Most of the conversations revolved around shopping for children.
I don't have any children of my own but I do have several nephews and nieces to buy for. At any rate, one of the mothers asked if we thought it was OK to buy an iPod for a 10-year-old. Several people chimed in their opinions and then I said, "Well, I think it's OK if you plan on screening the music or at least explaining to them what's off limits for downloading. Otherwise you don't know what kind of crap they might be listening to."
Each of them looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. They seemed dumbfounded by the very thought of invading their child's privacy.
"Well," she said, taking a sip of water. "I don't think he would download anything inappropriate. He knows my rules," she added with shaky confidence.
"OK." I said.
The National Institute on Media and the Family presented its 12th annual video game report card a few weeks ago. I bring this up only because institute officials cited "growing complacency" among game retailers, parents and the gaming industry on video game ratings. Complacency in the form of "just buying what the kid wants" instead of doing a little research.
At Christmas, it's easy to dismiss good judgment to keep your kid happy, but reality suggests that kids, no matter how well-behaved, still want to be like their peers. They want to play the same games, watch the same movies, wear the same clothes and listen to the same music. And unfortunately, more often, the music, movies and TV shows, aren't suitable for young eyes and ears.
A few days later, the same co-worker stopped by my desk. She asked her son what kind of music he would download if he had an iPod. He started naming artists like Soulja Boy, Mims and some other names I can't even remember. The first two are hip-hop artists who excel at using the "N" word and grabbing their crotch. All behaviors every African-American mother wants her son to explore.
Anyway, she said she did a little research on these rappers and she quickly learned that they were indeed not the kind of music she wanted her child exposed to. She actually thanked me for causing her to think about the purchase more. She bought him a karaoke machine instead.
Parents who fail to monitor what their child listens to or watches are asking for trouble down the line. Those who say, "I can't be there all the time" are missing the point. Nobody's asking you to. But a parent is responsible for nourishing the mind and spirit, not just the body, of their child. We eat enough junk food in our society; why clog the mind with musical and visual garbage. After all: garbage in, garbage out, right?
It's not old-school to expect some sort of integrity from our recording artists, sports figures and actors. Especially considering many don't think they should be held accountable for their actions. My suggestion is simple: expect more from people in general, but especially those folks that are supposed to be entertaining us. When you expect little from someone, you usually get less. I think the lazy way out is to let entertainers of the hook and let them think they are above standards. Entertainers need us, we don't need them. They have convinced us it's the other way around. My motto: if we don't buy it, watch it, read it or wear it, or support it, perhaps it'll just go away!
As Christmas 2007 approaches (faster than we could have imagined) I want every parent considering purchasing a game or downloading a song "just because my kid says so" to consider this: turning a blind eye to evil doesn't make it go away. Creating a bad habit is far easier than breaking it. Ignoring a problem makes it grow, not go away.
Apathy is the greatest problem facing us as a people. Apathy starts when we begin to think that "it's not my problem" or "no one is getting hurt by this or that." When we fail to see the responsibility of parenting, we are dooming ourselves to a form a self-imposed slavery of the mind. Responsible parenting means being inquisitive, too.
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