As a parent, I’m faced with the question of what to censor and what not to censor pretty much every single day. From songs to books to movies I have to evaluate pretty much everything. This is the way of the world and while it’s a pain in the butt sometimes, it’s part of being a parent. I consider myself pretty liberal in most ways but I am not going to give my small kids free range to watch or read or listen to anything. Censoring things until my kids are the appropriate age to understand what they are seeing isn’t the same thing as banning it. I’m not saying that they will never get to choose for themselves. I’m not saying that I will go to war with my kids over music or movies with moral superiority. I am saying that at four and two, my kids aren’t mature enough to decide what they see or hear.
I’m not trying to put them in a bubble and keep them ignorant of the perils of humanity. However, I am trying to make sure that when they are faced with a serious topic, they are of a mind to understand it and make whatever peace they need to with it.
I recently saw a post in a mom’s group on Facebook that asked for some advice on censoring. The child was seven and had been watching the Netflix series “Shameless”. I’ve watching quite a bit of these episodes and in no way think it’s at all appropriate for a seven year old. However, the Mother in question was asking what to do now that her child had already seen some of it. Should she ban the child from watching further? How should she broach the subject of what the child had already seen? I gave my advice there and I’ll give it here since it’s pretty universal.
What the child has already seen can’t be unseen so ignoring a subject isn’t going to help anyone. I would start with asking the child if they have any questions about what they saw. That way you don’t bust into topics that aren’t a worry but still address what the child is curious or conflicted about. Also, child settings should be put into place on any equipment the child has access to. Keeping an eye on your child isn’t invading their privacy. It’s taking care to make sure your child is introduced to subjects at the right time.
Banning something out right is a whole different matter. Intentionally withholding information due to religious bias isn’t alright. It’s not your right to force your kid into believing as you do. They don’t belong to you. They are not your canvas to paint as you see fit. They deserve the right to disseminate the information in their own way and make their own conclusions. Banning them from reading freaking Harry Potter isn’t going to win you any points. It just makes you an asshole who is afraid that your world view won’t hold up under some scrutiny.
I can’t think of much that I would outright ban in my home. My kid wants to read about the holocaust when they’re older? Sure, lets look at the information. My kid wants to study Satanism? Sure, lets check it out and see what’s going on. Kid wants to go to a Church or Mosque? Why not. Lets go on an adventure. Interested in bondage sex? Polyamory? At the right age, I’m here to talk about what’s on your mind. These are opportunities for me to talk about consent or religion or the horrors humanity has wrought. These are opportunities for me to be the parent who turns out an educated and confident human. A human who doesn’t get rapey at the sight of a scantily glad person. A human who doesn’t distrust and hate another because they have a different skin color or speak a different language.
When you ban a book or a movie or a song, what you’re really doing is taking away your kids ability to have empathy for another. You’re taking away the chance that they will see another person as another person and not buy into some nonsensical stereotype. You’re taking away the chance to build self esteem in your kid and you’re taking away a chance for them to find who they are in the safety of a parent relationship.
So, think about it before you swing that ban hammer. The consequences could be more than you bargained for.