My family is in a weird place when it comes to TV watching.
Yes, we watch TV, and a pretty decent amount of it, and we always have and it’s FINE. It’s just called something different now, because can you call Hulu and Netflix and Amazon Video TV? I don’t know. It’s screen time. It’s watching shows. It’s whatever, and it’s not going away.
But my kids are getting older, and I’m realizing I don’t always know what’s on the screen anymore. There is so much out there to find and watch, and having elementary-aged kids on a spectrum somewhere between Paw Patrol and Ozark is a little bit terrifying.
This is that tricky place when it comes to TV, where a kid can surf Netflix a lot better than her grandmother, but where we as parents can’t always blindly trust the shows they’re going to choose. A lot of parents approach this development from a place of fear, wondering whether they should be actively monitoring everything on the screen. And if you’re anything like me, sitting down to watch an episode of Mako Mermaids with your children makes you actively want to stab your eyes out. But sometimes I just grab a glass of wine and my Kindle and half pay attention, just so I know what these little merpeople are getting up to.
These pre-tween years (is that a thing?) are also the point in growth and development where it’s important to give your child space to find and watch things on TV that really interest and excite them, even if you find it absolutely awful or boring or weird. Maybe loosen the reigns a little bit, and you’ll find out your 8-year-old really just wants to watch Bill Nye the Science Guy all the time anyway.
Just like we did when our kids were toddlers, we have to navigate a new world of modern TV.
There’s a lot of scary stuff out there for our kids to find, but it’s not all bad. There’s also a lot of creative and thoughtful programming, we just have to know how to find it. We don’t have to be unsavvy old people who don’t know anything about what modern kids are watching and imitating because we’re too stuck watching Grey’s Anatomy– since that’s just what we’ve watched for the last ten years. (Obviously not me, but you know, people.) We can sit down and watch an episode of Gravity Falls just to see what it’s all about. We can learn to play Fortnight. We can take it upon ourselves to learn about the latest YouTube stars and search through our kid’s browser history.
Because yesterday it was Thomas the Train on TV, and today it’s Liv and Maddie, and tomorrow it’s Game of Thrones, and then all the sudden we’re trying to figure out how to explain why Circe is making out with her twin brother. Look I’m not saying spy on your kids for the rest of their lives or be a total psycho. You do what you wanna do. But for me, I feel better if I at least know what we’re talking about when somebody mentions Dove Cameron.
If you’re wondering where to go to learn about some of the shows your kids are watching on TV, try Common Sense Media or Kids in Mind. Or ask another parent you trust? Or maybe just ask your 13 year-old neighbor. We all have different parenting styles and set limits and boundaries differently. Some of us are okay with more mature content, some of us aren’t. And you can always implement parental controls and try to stick to kid-centric content. But the bottom line is, it is up to you to know what your kids are zoning out on. How are you going to be cool with SpongeBob if you don’t check it out yourself first? And don’t tell me you watched it in college. Because I’m pretty sure you don’t remember much of it. It’s time to pay attention!