The other night my husband and I had our weekly date night. A drink at our favorite bar and then a nice relaxing dinner sans kids! Well, this time, we barely made it to dinner because we spent our time at the bar....arguing. And, we hardly ever argue about things. So, what sparked this heated debate? I believe I said something to the effect of "I think it's wrong that everyone points the finger at the media when it comes to the degradation of society." In short, I've been hearing a lot about reality TV, the Kardashians, what's the name of the show with Snookie? Silly stuff, basically. And a lot of people are saying that it is because of shows like this that our kids behave the way they do...bad behavior is celebrated. Hard work isn't rewarded because all you have to do is air your dirty laundry on TV and you're an instant celebrity. TRUE. Reality TV does laud the least common denominator. HOWEVER, I don't believe that reality TV is the problem. My husband disagreed. He believes in the power of media (as do I). He had some valid points. Young girls read magazines and want to emulate the girls in the mags. They want to be skinny. They want to have flawless skin and perfect hair. Sure, magazines hold up an unattainable standard, but I believe that our ideals of beauty should begin at home. In can see my husband's side and appreciate it, for I am sure that many people would stand by him. But, my opinion (which I felt strong enough about to raise my voice) was that the media is what it is. But we, as parents, can't just stand by. What happens at home - the conversations we have with our kids, the examples that we set, the actions that we take on our behalf and on behalf of our children - is more powerful than an ad in a magazine or Snookie on TV. These days, we parents are busy. The economy sucks, we're working hard, we're trying to do the best we can. Add to that all of these devices. Instead of talking to our kids, we pass them a DVD player or our iPhone or iPad to keep them occupied and quite while we get things done. We text while they're trying to have a conversation with us. I'm not pointing the finger...this happens in my home, too. So, where do we think this is going to leave our children. Where is their sense of self going to come from if we leave them to their own devices (maybe a pun is intended here).
Media content is going to evolve, for better or worse. And magazines are probably always going to have flawless people featured. For some reason, we just aren't intrigued by people just like us. But, that's ok. The important thing to remember is that these things aren't real. What's real is what we instill in our children. We need to remember that it's our responsibility to lay the foundation for them to watch Real Housewives (maybe not the best example for kids!, but you get the point) and realize that it's not real. That this is not something to emulate.
Before I sign off, I have to say that I sometimes find these ridiculous shows quite entertaining - for being so ridiculous. They quite frankly make me laugh and there's nothing wrong with that!
I completely agree you about what we teach our kids at home. That being said, though, we are all inundated by the media, so it can impact us greatly. What we see and hear can impact our thoughts, and our thoughts impact our feelings and behaviors. We must constantly be on guard of our thoughts to ensure we remain moral creatures. Young children don't have a solidified moral compass (nor do many adults). Teens like to rebel--after all, parents don't know anything. During these times, their exposure to the media can have a drastic impact on their lives. There are the millions of children who are being raised by teen parents who have limited understanding and resources. And the children of parents who are drug addicts. Or of parents who don't care. When we take a nonchalant attitude that parents should be laying the foundation so what the media puts out is no big deal, then we will all suffer in the long run as our culture becomes more and more lax as a whole.
Another point I would like to make is that no matter how good you are at laying the ground work, there will be times when children will question it. Also, young women often go through a phase when their bodies are changing and their hormones are messing with their brain. It is very difficult for a young girl to feel beautiful when only 2 people in the world are telling her that.
That being said, my mother laid a strong foundation. We were not allowed to watch soap operas in high school when all my friends were watching. When Three's Company was on, she watched it with us, interjecting her moral stance. Did it protect me? I think it did. I just wish all parents were concerned.
Ann: I agree with you that there are many parents who do not have sufficient resources or understanding. And, yes, teenagers do rebel against any and everything that their parents say at some point. I remember that stage in my life. I don't think that what the media puts out isn't a big deal. Media does influence culture. However, at some point we do have to take on a greater responsibilities as parents and challenge ourselves in the ways in which we parent. It's only going to become more difficult and it's not media in terms of TV that we're going to have to deal with, but all the content on the Internet, the apps at our kids' fingertips, FB, video game content. As parents, we have to not only acknowledge this, but learn it, be fluent in these new technologies so that we do have some credibility when we speak to our kids and help them navigate all of this.
It's not a black and white issue, but I'd really like to see the conversation tipped a bit in favor of parents. I'd love to read an article or hear a segment on the news that provides insight and guidance to parents.
Thanks so much for weighing in. I truly appreciate it and I appreciate hearing all sides of this discussion.