The short answer is “sort of.” I find it best to think of movie, television and gaming ratings as rough guidelines for your child or teen. Consider these tips:
√ I wouldn’t allow your progeny to view material rated for older youth unless you know the material well and have good cause to judge it’s okay for your child. I’ve found that ratings are more likely to be too loose than too restrictive. So, if they err, it is usually not in the direction of blocking your child from viewing material that would be suitable for him or her. That said, there are exceptions (e.g., in my parenting book I describe why I found the M rated video game Halo okay for me and my son to play together when he was ten years old).
√ Keep in mind that material rated as being suitable for children your child’s age may not be suitable for your child. For example, if your 10 year-old child has an anxious temperament, a PG ghost movie may be overwhelming.
√ Of course, the ratings do not account for your values. A movie that is rated as being appropriate for children your child’s age may endorse values that you find to be objectionable. This is not to say that it’s advisable to cocoon your child. But, you may decide that you want your child to become more attuned to your values before allowing such exposures.
√ If your child is struggling in some significant way (e.g., controlling anger, struggling with anxiety), it’s advisable to consider whether certain media could stress the problem. For example, it may not be a good idea to allow a child who is struggling with aggression to play video games that celebrate violence, even if the game is rated to be appropriate for kids her or his age.
√ It’s typically advisable to limit sedentary electronic pleasures to two hours a day.
√ It’s a good idea to become familiar with media your child wishes to consumer. Fortunately, there are plenty of allies willing to help. Here are a few examples: www.tvguidelines.org, www.esrb.org/about/resources.jsp, www.kidsinmind.com
√ Keep in mind that while a theatre may stick to the age guidelines when your child purchases a ticket, most do not enforce which show s/he actually views (i.e., in the case of complexes, where multiple movies are played at the same time, kids are typically not restricted from going to whatever show they want once they’ve purchased their ticket).
√ It is advisable to confirm that your media rules are consistent with the guidelines that will be enforced (or not) when your child visits someone else’s home. If another parent balked at your guidelines that gives you information about whether a visit there is a good fit.
√ Make sure you have sufficient controls in place for your child’s access to media in your home. For specific strategies for pulling this off, see Chapter Three in my parenting book. For internet resources that can help, click here (scroll down to the resources for Chapter Three).
√ It is normal, and even healthy, for your child to push back against your restrictions. Actually, I would worry about a parent-child relationship that did not include such at least some of the time. So, keep that in mind as your child howls about your unfairness and how no other child in your geographic region is required to endure such poorly conceived restrictions.
√ It’s a good idea to consume media together as much as you can. (Though I draw the line at Wizards of Waverly Place, which I’m convinced wilts least at least 200 brain cells, for anyone over the age of 25, for each minute viewed.) This is twice as true when your child is watching media representing themes that are on the cutting edge of your teaching. For instance, maybe you and your 13 year old have just watched a movie that portrays an abortion. You might deconstruct it by asking your teen questions about her or his take on what you’ve just watched. (Keep in mind that a child is much more likely to internalize a lesson if the truth first comes out of her or his mouth in response to a non-leading question that you’ve asked.)
Here are some related blog entries that you might find helpful:
10 Tips for Parenting Your Progeny’s Online Life
Recent Research: Teens Need Parents to Monitor Them
10 Strategies if Your Chlid is Addicted to World of Warcraft (WOW)
The short answer is “sort of.” I find it best to think of movie, television and gaming ratings as rough guidelines for your child or teen. Consider these tips:
When considered from the lens of parenting, I liken Facebook, and services of its ilk, to dust mites. It’d be awesome if I could eradicate them, but that’s not realistic. Instead, I try to look upon online services that are available to my kids as offering opportunities to further realize my parenting agenda. This post offers my top 10 tips for tapping this opportunity.
#1. Maintain a weekly dialogue with your child. Having weekly one-on-one time to discuss how your child’s life is going is an essential foundation for just about any parenting agenda. “What are the best thing and the worst things that happened today, even if they were minor?” “Who are your top three friends these days and what do you like about them?” “What’s it like to be in 7th grade these days?” (Click here for a blog entry that lists other potential conversation starters. Please also see Chapter One in my parenting book Working Parents, Thriving Families, for detailed coverage.)
#2. Limit sedentary electronic pleasures to two hours a day. This is the recommendation of several authoritative bodies. If a kid is plugged in more than this he may be missing out on other important activities (e.g., being physically active, doing academic work, engaging in extracurriculars, socializing face-to-face).
#3. Use the social networking mediums that your kid is using and link to your child. If your child uses Twitter discover what it can do for you and be sure to follow each other. If your child uses Facebook use it as well and friend each other. You also want to make sure your child doesn’t have two social networking accounts: the one you’re connected to and the one on which he goes rogue.
#4. Monitor your kid’s computer use. We want to strive for the middle ground. Over monitoring a successful and responsible child dampens the development of independence and can unduly tax a parent-child relationship. Under monitoring a child who is struggling, or who is putting herself into harmful situations, is obviously not a good idea either. This is where your world’s leading expertise of your child is essential to inform your steps. Regardless of the dosage of monitoring that you decide is advisable, programs that allow you to track your child’s computer use can be very helpful (e.g., www.spector.com/spectorpro.html, www.webwatchernow.com).
#5. Network with other parents and use parenting resources. Whenever you’re hanging out with other parents (e.g., on the sidelines of games, before a parent meeting starts) ask them what strategies they use. While you may hear from parents who seem misguided in their approach (e.g., washing their hands of a monitoring responsibility), others may have clever insights and ideas to share. There are also an abundance of online resources available for parents. (e.g. www.wiredkids.org, www.familyinternet.about.com, www.familysafemedia.com).
√ No swearing.
√ No discussions of sexual or illegal activity.
√ No threatening others.
√ No “friending” people above the age of (i.e., your 11 year old child’s 19 year old cousin may be super nice to her and a great person, but friending her on Facebook may afford your child access to inappropriate adult material, either on her cousin’s page or on the page of someone in her cousin’s network).
√ Under the “How You Connect” portion under “Privacy Settings,” make sure they are all set to “Friends.”
√ Public searches should be disabled on Facebook. This means that people cannot find your child’s page through internet searches. Under “Privacy Settings” click on “Apps and Websites,” then click on “Edit Settings” that is next to “Public Search.” Then uncheck the “Enable Public Search” box.
√ You must get others’ permission before posting his or her picture online. Depending on the age and maturity of your child you may also decide that you must also approve all pictures before they are posted; this would also allow you to determine if your child’s friend’s parents’ approval should be garnered.
#7. Role-play scenarios. This is an excerpt from a 2008 national study of the online experiences of kids aged 10-15, authored by Drs. Michele Ybarra and Kimberly Mitchell, that appeared in Pediatrics: “Fifteen percent of all of the youth reported an unwanted sexual solicitation online in the last year; 4% reported an incident on a social networking site specifically. Thirty-three percent reported an online harassment in the last year; 9% reported an incident on a social networking site specifically. Among targeted youth, solicitations were more commonly reported via instant messaging (43%) and in chat rooms (32%), and harassment was more commonly reported in instant messaging (55%) than through social networking sites (27% and 28%, respectively).” Given how common such experiences are we do well to train our kids how to respond. “Hunter what would you do if someone put on their Facebook page a hurtful lie about you?” “Aiden what would you say if someone asked you for your address?”
#8. Set up parental controls on computers that your child uses. This would include things like using browsers designed to block explicit content from kids (e.g., bumpercar, www.cybersitter.com), not allowing your child to covertly install software (i.e., through settings within the system software), and making sure that there are sufficient parental controls on your child’s other gear that can go online (e.g., cell phone, video game console, portable gaming unit). After you set up your controls offer a tech savvy 20-something person a gift card if he can try to circumvent your controls; offer a higher value gift card if he is successful and can show you how to install effective countermeasures.
#9. Make sure your child understands the limits of privacy on the internet. Colleges search Facebook pages for information, as do employers, volunteer organizations and other people who might be a gatekeeper for some experience, membership or standing that your child may desire in the future (e.g., I recently heard of a coach of a travel baseball team who rejected a kids application to play on the team because of what he found at that kids Facebook page). A good rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t want the world to see it, think four times about posting it.
#10. Consider what you might do to promote the privacy of your family’s online experience. Each computer has an IP address that tells internet sites you visit where you’re located. However, there are services available that make it more challenging to do this (e.g., www.hidemyass.com, www.anonymizer.com). As a start you might read up on IPs and privacy (e.g., http://www.livinginternet.com/i/iw_ip.htm). Moreover, many websites will, without you knowing it, collect information from your computer. However, there is software available that allows you to approve or disapprove this activity (e.g., for Macs: www.littlesnitch.com; for Windows: www.zonealarm.com). Keep in mind that some have argued that Facebook’s true customers are not its users but the corporations to which it sells information about its users.
For other websites and resources please also see the “Further Reading and Viewing section of Chapter Three in Working Parents, Thriving Families, or the Chapter Three section at www.resilientyouth.com. You may also enjoy reading 10 Strategies If Your Child is Addicted to World of Warcraft (WOW).
The purpose of this blog entry is to highlight recent research that demonstrates the importance of parental monitoring.
Teenagers not only have brains that are not fully developed in their capacity to control impulses, but they also often have a sense of invulnerability. This is why survey results of risky behaviors that teens engage are often alarming. An example of this is the Center for Disease Control’s just published 2009 survey of 16,410 high school students in the U.S. These are some highlights quoted directly from the summary document:
• Among the 69.5% of students who had ridden a bicycle during the 12 months before the survey, 84.7% had rarely or never worn a bicycle helmet.
• 28.3% of students rode in a car or other vehicle driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol one or more times during the 30 days before the survey.
• 31.5% of students had been in a physical fight one or more times during the 12 months before the survey.
• 19.9% of students had been bullied on school property during the 12 months before the survey.
• 13.8% of students had seriously considered attempting suicide and 6.3% of students had attempted suicide one or more times during the 12 months before the survey.
• 19.5% of students smoked cigarettes on at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey.
• 41.8% of students had had at least one drink of alcohol on at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey. 24.2% of students had had five or more drinks of alcohol in a row (i.e., within a couple of hours) on at least 1 day during the 30 days before the survey.
• 36.8% of students had used marijuana one or more times during their life. 20.8% of students had used marijuana one or more times during the 30 days before the survey.
• 46.0% of students had ever had sexual intercourse. 34.2% of students had had sexual intercourse with at least one person during the 3 months before the survey. Among the …sexually active students, 61.1% reported that either they or their partner had used a condom during last sexual intercourse.
In a subsequent blog entry I will summarize the results regarding the poor health habits that teens often engage in. For now, we all do well to institute a monitoring protocol that includes knowing, and approving of, the answers to three questions whenever our teen is outside of our eye line:
1. Who are you with?
2. What are you doing?
3. What adult or adults are responsible for monitoring? (Keep in mind that effective adult monitoring might occur from another room in the same house, in the parking lot of an event, or in a restaurant next door. Of course, it’s also important to confirm that the monitoring adult is responsible and shares your values and attitudes about acceptable activities and behavior.)
Sometimes this can be complicated business. For a more thorough discussion please see Chapter Three of my book, Working Parents, Thriving Families.
According to the 2010 Guinness Book of Records, World of Warcraft (WOW) is the number one “massively multiplayer online role-playing game” or MMORPG, with over 10 million subscribers world-wide. WOW is a fun open-ended online game that can, for some kids, become an unhealthy obsession. If you’ve determined that your child is overly engaged in WOW, consider these ways of responding:
- Try to understand what human need is being met for your child by taking part in WOW. Is it to be liked? Is it to lead? Is it to be competent? An effective understanding of the reasonable goal(s) your child is trying to reach through WOW can give you insights into what is being frustrated in his or her real world.
- Try to partner with your child in expanding upon the success she or he is having in the real world. This may be socially, academically, extracurricularly or within your home.
- If your child has not identified areas of top strengths, use tools like the VIA Signature Strengths Survey or StrengthsExplorer to generate theories about what he or she might be very good at.
- If he or she has not done well with popular activities (e.g., sports offered at school, the most readily available clubs, etc.), try activities off the beaten path, using your child’s interests or insights from the previous recommendation to guide you.
- Look for partners in generating plans for increasing your child’s success in life. This might include teachers (most of whom are most willing to help), coaches, family, parents of your child’s friends, etc.
- Try to limit your child’s sedentary electronic pleasures to two hours a day. This is the sound counsel of more than one authoritative body (e.g., the American Academy of Pediatrics). If your child is doing more than this he or she may be missing out on other important developmental tasks (e.g., getting enough physical activity, advancing in reading skills, etc.)
- Explain to your child why you are putting any limits in place. This is done not to solicit approval (e.g., “thank you mother for being so wise and self-less in the administration of your parenting mission”), but to be respectful and loving. Of course, this will not typically mitigate passionate objections to the court from your child.
- Put appropriate electronic controls in place. Blizzard (the company behind WOW), has parent controls available within the game. Please click here to get started. There are also a variety of controls available either within many computers and televisions, just call the relevant technical support person. Finally, there are companies that sell products that make it easier for you to put controls into place (e.g., www.familysafemedia.com).
- Try to make sure that you are your child have at least one hour a week together where all you do is pay attention to your child and value either what your child is doing and/or saying. Called “special time” this involves a more intense dosing of attention than “quality time” (i.e., something else typically captures a parent’s attention during quality time, such as shopping, fishing, etc.).
- There is an army of lean-mean-healing machines available and willing to help you in your efforts to help your child. If you find that this is complex or difficult for you to resolve on your own or that your child is having a toxic reaction to your efforts to establish loving controls, consider taking the step of identifying a child therapist to help. One place to get local referrals is here.
Research suggests that effective parental monitoring is one of the most powerful ways to promote resilience, happiness and wellness in your child. Hence, your well designed efforts along these lines are usually well worth it!