Alan Smithee

Geek Dad Report — Drawing the Line

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I grew up with very little hindering me in my consumption of media. I wasn’t allowed to listen to metal (it was forbidden in my house) and I couldn’t watch “You Can’t Do That on Television,” yes… the Canadian show that launched the career of Alanis Morissette. Other than those two ridiculously religiously inspired restrictions, I could watch whatever. How do I draw the line with my own kids?


Short answer, I don’t.

Growing up, there wasn’t an easily accessible Internet with amazing speed of download and upload, there wasn’t cable/satellite television that offered about 600+ channels each with their own styles of programming. Hell, I was lucky to have anything other than broadcast television for a good chunk of my life.

Going to grandma and grandpa’s in Arkansas was always an adventure because the parents would normally leave us over the entire weekend (complete with horror stories of working the farmer’s market with g-man) and not tell us when it was time to go to bed. The grandparents would turn in around 8pm and from then on my brother, and I would watch whatever we wanted to see…and my parents had the expensive cable complete with HBO and Cinemax. And after reading that last network name, all of the 20-30 something men who are seeing these words just got a grin on their faces for reasons the fairer sex would just shake their heads at.

It was a hell of a lot more work during my formative years to see anything naughty, much less something that would scar me for life. In this day and age of information, all it would take is a trip through daddy’s browser history to see stuff that would be nothing to horror enthusiasts to see (Walking Dead zombies, Pennywise The Clown) but would give my poor little lady nightmares for a week. This first-world problem is new to me, and most parents of this generation I’m sure.

I’m not a hardass when it comes to stuff on TV and movies because I like to think that I have a pretty good handle on what she can and can’t handle…but even then sometimes she throws me a curveball like this week she let me know that she had a bad dream about The Nightmare Before Christmas, which she loves dearly, but one scene in particular is just too intense for her anymore. I can’t watch a good chunk of Adventure Time because of said fear of keeping her up at night.

I know that there’s no way to shelter kids their entire lives; you have to let them test their own boundaries of course. I’m working my hardest to keep the worst offenders off the television and mobile devices which isn’t hard right now. I can only imagine having to set up content filters on the router to keep her from getting into the dark-net, or as I like to call it the “deep-net.” You know, the stuff that has an iron stomached shock-a-holic like me feeling uneasy.

That brings up an interesting conundrum. I recall when the “parental units” said no to “things.” It had me yearning to see/listen to them just to spite their authority. Sure, now it seems silly that the Baptist upbringing meant I couldn’t listen to Iron Maiden (which is an injustice I’ve corrected many times over), but I feel that any censoring or blocking I’d do as a parent wouldn’t be to harm any of my kids’ freedoms, but mainly to protect them from the truly awful stuff out there.

I probably will never set up a PIN for any of the movie channels I have, nor will I say you can’t watch show XYZ, or will I ever say that you can’t listen to music because honestly that’s how taste is developed, and people learn what they truly enjoy. But you can bet your ass that when I’m at home with the kids, I’ll dictate what’s ok and not and be in charge of the remote control. I’ll check ratings of games, television, and movies before deciding if they can consume them. I’m going to be a parent as I should be, but not one that arbitrarily decides what fun my kids can have with media based on iron-age commandments. I’ll let them have what’s appropriate for their age and on the rare occasion something out that range if I deem it all right. When they get to be teens then I guess the wheels come off, and free flying will be the name of the game. Thank goodness I’ve still got a while, and they’re all still little. Drawing the line won’t be too much of a concern for a few years.

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