The Affects TV Has on Our Culture and Kids Why MTVís popular show Skins has many parents concerned and what you and your spouse can do to help bridge the gap between media and your kids. BY ERIK FISHER, PHD
Knowing what your kids watch is important, but parenting requires much more.
“ Freedom comes with a price and a responsibility. Use it wisely, and teach your kids to do the same.”
For many married couples with young teens, or for couples that have younger children who get free-reign of the remote control or have a television in their room, keeping tabs on what type of TV theyíre watching can go right out the window when it comes to monitoring them on a daily basis. For instance, the highly publicized and risquť television show, Skins, debuted on Viacomís MTV with a viewership of 3.3 million viewers and was its highest rated show in the 12-34 year-old demographic. Viacom, by the way, is the same company that brings you Dora the Explorer on Nickelodeon. You and your spouse donít have to look too far to see the concerns with the show Skinsójust watch the trailer if you havenít already seen the show or read about it in the news.
However, I donít want the focus of this to be the show itself, which is concerning enough. Instead, as couples that care about the influences placed on their kids, I think the focus should be on our culture, itself. After all, we may not have lit the fuse, but we have collectively allowed it to burn all the way to the bomb itself.
Skins Didnít Start The Fire
Back in the í80s, the heavy metal bands Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne were implicated in the suicide of teenagers for the lyrics in their music and this was taken to court. What I believed then and believe now is that while these teens and young adults listen to the genre of music, their musical interests were only an indicator of their beliefs, emotions and attitudes. As it pertains to Skins, this show is no more responsible for the sexual attitudes of our kids than heavy metal is for suicide. However, these are influences that impact our culture and our kids.
Kids from infancy on are exposed to sexual contentówhether we realize or notóand this exposure contributes to the vernacular of their unspoken language and ours. We all have to see that we have become numb to many of the influences in our culture that became the fuse that led to this bomb. Skin is everywhere and what kids see on TV and in the media is that sex is power and drugs are an escape. These are very powerful messages indeed, and arenít we all seeking power in some form?
Freedom, We Wonít Let You Down
Over the past decade, the internet has become more and more of a vehicle for our belief systems and information is shared at an eye-popping speed, while many kids have had unprecedented and unsupervised access to it. In addition, cell phones have contributed to another avenue of exposure to life that is also often unsupervised. Like kids in a candy store without supervision, and even sometimes with supervision, many of them will eat too much candy and make themselves sick.
We live in a country that values freedom, and some powers of the internet and media work to protect these freedoms that, on the flip side, sometimes protect their interests more than ours. As parents, itís your job to monitor and manage your childís freedom. I would prefer it not be control. Freedom comes with a price and a responsibility. Use it wisely, and teach your kids to do the same.
Many of the issues kids are having with sex, drugs and their sexual attitudes are influenced by their concept of love and their attachments and relationships to you, as parents, and others. We have serious problems with the strength of our attachments with our kids and sex and drugs often become a way that they are reaching out for comfort and escape from pain. Just because we give them everything they want, doesnít mean they have everything they need. Acting out behaviors, be it sex and/or drug-related are often a sign of deeper issues that go back to love and security. Like a marriage, itís time to step back and see what you can do to repair, heal and strengthen the gap between you and your kids. Here are some simple tips that you can implement into everyday life that will help bring you closer as a family.
First, donít make a big deal about this show, and others like it, and forbid them to watch it. That may make it more attractive to them. Talk about the concerns and ask them what interests them about it.
* Give your kids more hugs and love. We all need them.
* Sit down with your kids and talk with them about their life, beliefs and attitudes.
* Donít lecture, but instead listen.
* Turn off the TV and do more together as a family.
* Eat dinner together as a family.
* Meet your kidsí friends, boy/girlfriends and their parents.
* Watch what your kids are watching with them sometimes and talk about it.
* If your kids are having difficulties that you realize you canít handle, get help.
* Donít just complain about what should change in our culture, do something about it.
This isnít just a game people play. These attitudes and beliefs are a way of life for an emerging generation. There are many more losers than winners, and the results can be tragic. Just like many hair and clothing styles in the past, I hope we wake up one day, look back and say, "What were we thinking?"
Erik Fisher, PhD, aka Dr. EÖ, is a licensed psychologist and author who has been featured on NBC, CBS, FOX and CNN. Visit him at www.DrEPresents.com to learn more about his books "The Art of Empowered Parenting" and "The Art of Managing Everyday Conflict" or to check out his blog.