What ever happened to just hanging out and listening to music or reading? We live in a world where popular music has to be marked with an explicit tag, and you have to show ID for the latest beats as if it were beer or cigarettes. The subtle lyrics of romance have been replaced with crass declarations. Your kid’s radio needs parental control settings.
They took away comic books by making them even darker and more sinister than they used to be. The heroes are more troubled and morally ambiguous in the name of character complexity. We call them “graphic novels” so that baby boomer adults can feel justified in buying them. And they are, as advertised, more graphic—and more disturbing.
Now, they’re coming for your TV. Actually, they’ve already got it. You may have purchased that big-screen TV for wholesome, family entertainment, but show by show, network by network, you’re losing the ability to turn on your television without it undermining the values you’re trying to instill in your kids. Violence and sexual situations make even prime-time, “family” TV shows earn their MA rating (for mature audiences only). Aside from TV Land and the Cartoon Network, our options as parents are getting narrower by the day.
The time has come to reclaim your family TV for your family. Here are a few suggestions:
Use a Curated Service
There is still plenty of good television out there; it’s just gotten a lot more difficult to find. A curated service surfaces the good stuff, and acts as a gatekeeper to exclude unacceptable offerings. The arrangement is very good when the curator’s values are in sync with yours.
If you like the inspirational fare presented by the Hallmark Channel, you are probably going to love their variety of movies for kids. They also have a range of TV shows, short films, and original content. They offer a one week trial period, and subscriptions for as low as $2.99 a month thereafter.
Give Your Kids Devices with Parental Controls
One of the best portable TVs money can buy is an iPad, and it doesn’t even have a TV tuner. Besides the legendary reliability, ease of use, and unrivaled ecosystem, it has industry leading parental controls and accessibility. The parental controls are universal. If you do not want your kids to watch content with certain ratings, you can restrict it. That also applies to games.
iOS also has an accessibility feature that can make any iDevice even safer. That feature is called Guided Access. When enabled, the device is locked to a single app. You can hand a kid an iPad with a kid-friendly entertainment app running with confidence that she cannot close the app and launch something else. You can even disable certain areas of the screen when setting up the feature. That can prevent your kids from accidentally launching an ad. This feature is unique to Apple devices.
Restrict TV Time to Family Time
All the curated services and tech-enabled restrictions in the world can’t come close to a single hour of quality time with parent and child. If you are concerned about what they are watching, watch it with them. The biggest problem is not your child hearing a swear word on TV. They hear that everyday when they are not watching TV. Have you ridden a school bus lately, or been in an athletic locker room? Even at a religious academy, the reality is not pretty.
What kids lack is context. That is one of the most valuable things they can get from TV and movies. They can get that context from you. Or they can get it from their friends. When you watch TV together, you develop bonds over shared cultural touchstones. This ensures that you and your child will always have a few things in common. Baseball works the same way. When something challenging happens on screen, you can talk about it and contextualize it. If you do that often and well, you never have to worry about what they are watching. They will contextualize it the way you taught them.
Use curated services, provide devices with parental controls, and teach your children to appropriately contextualize media. Do these things and reclaim your TV for the whole family.