Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The art of censorship - for parents

For those of us who are liberal the idea of censorship is truly abhorrent, unless it is plans or outright calls to violence then we are probably our own worst enemies in the belief that we should uphold free speech.  Yet it is who we are and the notion is built on the belief that people are good, that they will try to see through the negative rhetoric.

However, as parents, us same folks who consider ourselves liberal are censors that would rival the Soviet era mail readers.    I love the quote from Judy Blume that I used for a pic, it applies to everything from books to games to whatever media is out there.  It is how I try and censor, not with only denial but also with discussion.

When my kids were really young this censorship thing was easy because no one questioned it, I had total control and most of all they were young,  really there was much less that tempted them to look at things they were not ready for.  It was easy to turn on Sprout or PBS or maybe even Nick Jr when they had TV time.  The shows were musical, colorful and had been scrubbed of the violence of my own cartoon viewing days.   I have to admit I did love my Tom and Jerry and Bugs when I was a kid, as did many of us, and no we did not believe that the violence could be replicated.  Besides where the hell where 1) any of us going to get an anvil 2) be able to carry it to drop on someone --- we understood fiction and fantasy.  

As my kids get older that line started to need to be drawn.  The games they have available today have great graphics.  Impressive what they can depict but the down side is they have great graphics.  Some have frankly bizarre story lines, like does any kid really need to know how to live like Grand Theft Auto???  I understand much like my Tom and Jerry, I get it's not real, they often cite the same thing.  You need to know your kid, if that kind of gore and violence stimulates their brain to the point where they are not the nice kid you usually live with it is not for them.

For me life is about ages and stages.  For me as well as for my kids.  It is not only the content, and the child's processing of it, but the age.  The brain goes through developmental stages so your 4 year old may be precocious but they are still not ready for Call of Duty.  

So I break out the invisible black marker with my own boys as they are tween and teen ages.  I love the guys in the GameStop by my house.  I not only read about a game the boys ask for, and often am appalled that they want something where a method of death is being eaten by rats -ewww or worse, but then I take them and let the "cool" gamer guys tell them what they think about it for their age.   So far my spidey sense on the appropriateness of a game has been in sync with these young men who work in the place because they love playing video games, withholding judgement on their ages and this obsession.

I censor through discussion mostly - the "I said so" worked well for their younger selves but I do not want to be the one that says no only I want them to understand that I say no and that they see why they aren't ready.

My father was appalled at the ripped out of magazine pictures on my bedroom wall of Vince Neil and the rest of Motley Crue, Ozzy in his full attire.  They were men who looked a cross between menacing, jailhouse material and weirdly full of make up and hairspray.  I loved them, their long hair and air of rebellion was exactly what this teenage girl's soul needed.  I liked their songs of angst and anger, of sexual undertones.  They were not singing about my life, they were singing of a life I had no access to in such excess.  What else is being a teenager about if not that?  The funny part was I always liked other music, found Dean Martin super sexy and no I did not wind up all those things my father told me I would if I liked those boys on my walls.  I still understood the difference between fantasy and reality - Tom and Jerry replaced by Vince and Axel.

I let my kids listen to music and I expose them to songs from all eras, they have an appreciation for Frank Sinatra, as they should, and others.  My 13 year old though, much like his peers, likes rap.  The rap they listen to though often is so bad, not because I do not like the genre because I do like a lot of rap songs, but because it is frankly crap.  There is no music in it, there are no statements, it is a contest to see how many times you can drop the f bomb, the getting your d&*k sucked and the number of women who are "ho"s who are just out for money.

So I do not ban it, because I know he can always find it, what I do instead is share some of my thoughts on it, ask him to alternate between that and some old school rap or even new artists that use rap with poetry to a beat it was meant to be.   I talk to him and make him wonder if a song really is worth listening to when the person performing it did not even bother to try and make a song but just cursed.  It does not eliminate it from his life but I do see that he can laugh with me at the ridiculousness of some of it and that in the end women are not to be spoken of and treated that way, that the f bomb is more effective when used more sparingly (cursing if I remember from my own days withers down but it is the ooh look what I just said among friends for a short teenage bit) and most of all that he should learn to censor his own stuff.

The same goes with movies, shows, graphic novels for both.  You cannot block out everything.  In the movie, amazing movie I should say, "Hidden Figures" the central character holds the black out to the light to see what she needs to solve a problem.  Our kids will do that too with whatever we say no to.

Same goes for their exposure to sexual content, it is not right at any age it is right for the right age.  There is nothing wrong with sex, actually it can be very right - say that in a Groucho Marx imitation, so I want them to be open with their questions, their thoughts but not open with their bodies or that of others until they are mature enough for it.

I do not know if I am right in my way but I do know my kids.  Maybe that's the best censor in all of us, knowing our kids and what limits they need.  It is not a one size fits all.  We all want them to be the best and for me that means teaching them to make good choices not because I said so but because that is what feels right.

Enjoy your day and remember our parents shuddered at our music and taste, their parents at theirs and somehow most of us learned to navigate life pretty well.  It is those who were overly repressed and become oppressors through extreme views who add the least to life.

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