censorship at home. where do we draw the line?

I’m really confused, and more than a bit worried too…

How much is too much information?

How much is too much access to the internet?

How much is too much control?

… too much monitoring?

…too much leeway?

When you are a parent, the questions always outnumber the answers by some 400%.

Till O was nearly 2, we hardly ever let her watch TV. There were a couple of films that we watched together — ice age, lion king.

Then I took up a full time job, we grew lax, we realised the TV doubled as a good baby sitter. Not too often, nor too long. But often enough and long enough for her to be totally bitten by the idiot bug.

O is 8 now and TV is largely regulated. Not on school days, not certain types of programmes, not when there are guests at home or friends are over to play… Still she managed to get enough of Hannah Montana to become obsessed with the celebrity!

R & I are careful about what films we take her to, what sites she browses, what programmes she watches on the telly.

I am sure she feels wronged because most of her friends have unlimited access to hindi films and television; but she has grudgingly accepted our rules that she can watch programmes or films that are about children of her age. When she gets to her teens she can watch Camp Rock and Montana…

Now comes the trickier censoring. Internet. She usually is on subscribers-only sites. Sites that either R or I have vetted, and for a few, paid for.

But O is at home only for about 5 waking hours a day during the week. The rest of the time is spent at school or activities with other children (some of her age, some older). Children who know enough to fib about their age to get on to facebook; who know the lyrics for every latest hindi song and also the moves to match every dimwit heroine there is; children who dress like Hannah Montana; kids who make O feel uncool because she doesn’t know what Miley Cyrus did for her birthday and how Rancho’s friend hanged to death; children who hush her up when she talks of Captain Haddock and Pippi Longstocking, because it sounds like gibberish.

Suddenly, Barbie no longer seems evil. Barbie actually is child’s play compared the rest of the stuff out there …

Most recently I had a long argument with her friend. who was sleeping over, on why I will not allow her to access facebook (firs at 11 p, then again at 10 am), even if she might use it regularly at her own house. “No, even if O decides to stay in her room or shut her eyes, you can’t use facebook now. You can play,” I persisted equally stubbornly, as O looked on visibly embarrassed.

Later in the day, as I explained to O on how the Internet could be as unsafe as walking in the middle of road, or wandering off alone in a mall, she cried, “but everybody does.”

Is that a good enough reason to give in? Because everybody does and I don’t want my daughter to feel left out?

What is to stop her from accessing proscribed sites and watching films we don’t let her, when she is out with her friends.

She did say ‘no’ when asked to watch 3 Idiots at a friend’s place, because ‘my mother won’t like it’ — though I wouldn’t have really minded that, it’s safer than a lot of other crap out there.

What if it’s something really appealing? Like the entire season of Hannah Montana or even worse, Veer? I am sure there’d be times she would watch, and handle me later. Or watch and not tell me at all. There may be times when she goes on to facebook or myspace instead of kidzui, and I would be none the wiser.

The Internet really scares me. Even adults don’t know how best to handle all the information out there, so how discerning can children be?

That brings me back to the questions that keeps me up at night… how much control is too much? how much freedom is excessive?

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11 thoughts on “censorship at home. where do we draw the line?

  1. inbavalli says:

    Most exasperating this. And we are just a handful of parents who are really bothered. My unofficial cutoff age is 14. Till then I breathe down their neck, then I let off. The husband is more lenient about this than me – he feels too much control would have them doing things without our knowledge.

    • UmmON says:

      @14 seems a good age to me too. but 8 and on fb or watching dostana/kaminey is too much no? that much control we need to exercise.

  2. shyam says:

    Had that problem with Pete’s kids about 5 years back. They had access to the Net, but vetted sites only. And any site they logged on to or visited, Pete got a report so he could monitor them. But like you said, when they stayed over at their friends’, we had no control over what they did or saw. The best we could do was tell them about the dangers out there and trust them to be sensible. Too much control has exactly the same effect as too little, is what I think. There’s only so much you can do, anyway. The rest is up to good luck and good sense – in what proportion that works, though, I dont know.

  3. imemyself says:

    I too, like you, have a take on this… while not exactly breathing down her neck, i make sure i know what she is doing virtually. She has hours restricted and has to do things when either of us are around… yes, there is resentment, but that is neatly glossed over. And guess who is in the same school as we are: Tom Friedman, who, after his talk yesterday, said, “You can download everything, but not judgement which is something you inculcate your children with.” I silently did a jig and collars up.

  4. Sindhu says:

    I am confused myself…I am not so sure too. I have never watched much TV in my chilhood hence it holds much fascination to me even now. But having said that, I dont want my kids to spend too much time before it but I do allow them to watch one of their favs and with my younger one who is at home with the maid for a longer time, I cannot impose any restrictions. Till now, we haven’t had issues but I guess I need to look into restricting them more…

  5. UmmON says:

    @uttara: they already have. even when we go for outdoor activities, sooner or later one child will dig out a handheld gaming device!
    @sindhu: don’t mean to be preachy, but all the more reason to control tv, when parents not at home. if it’s not the programme itself, then it’s the awful ads! books are a blessing that way, great alternative to keep a bored child away from TV.

  6. Laksha says:

    Hey Umm, I so totally get you – my kids are 6 and 4 and as yet, the only desi movie my older has seen is Guru and my younger none at all. Unfortunately, we have friends that take their kids to theaters to watch movies like Anniyan (for God’s sake, Anniyan! a tamil movie, violent and graphic) and think we shield our kids too much:( As for the computer, I vote for keeping kids computer illiterate till they are 18! Just kidding, but I am pushing it as far as I can. And keeping them busy with sports and playdates(where I am present but still impotent to say anything if the mom puts in a DVD that I don’t approve of). But hey, my kids are just beginning, so I appreciate the climb ahead:(

  7. Teesu says:

    Scary world and complicated too. Honestly, and without being holier than thou or excluding myself, parents just don’t do a good enough job most of the time these days. The quality of parenting given today’s challenges should be really high. BUT it;s really low. On an average I mean. GRR.

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