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?