Eternal Vigilance

Family Police: when your children are invited to another home, ask the host parents whether they would be watching TV, and if so, what would it be. This will cause the other parents to pay closer attention to what they will expose your children to.
by Jim Fair | Source:

The media, especially television, offer some great programming – and some truly awful things.

There are great movies released all the time – and lots of truly awful films.

If you are a parent and want your children to be watching the good stuff rather than the bad, you have to keep your eyes peeled and watch what the kids are watching. Like many things in life, I learned this the hard way.

Last week my teenage daughter was asked to a birthday party. It was all girls from her very conservative all-girl Catholic high school. My wife and I know the parents of the girl hosting the party, who profess to be serious Catholics. There would be no boys, no alcohol, no drugs. The girls are all rather health conscious, so there would be salads and healthy snacks.

Ah…as parents we could relax. What could go wrong?

Well, the omnipresence of entertainment was what could and did cause something to go wrong, at least from our perspective.

When I picked up my daughter (she is just about to get her driver’s license, which could be the basis for many more commentaries), I noticed the girls glued to the television screen. My daughter was disappointed to have to leave before the end of the movie they were watching.

Being the not-always-subtle father than I am, once we were driving home I asked what movie they were viewing. I won’t repeat the name, since I want to protect the remaining innocent.

Let’s just say that even though it was a movie I have not seen, I had heard enough about it to realize it wasn’t appropriate for teenage girls. We had a brief discussion about the film, enough for me to make the point that it wasn’t something she should be watching. She was, as teenagers tend to be in such situations, a bit defensive and dismissive – “Oh come on, dad, it wasn’t that bad.”

From my perspective, it was bad enough. I went to one of my favorite websites for getting analysis of the appropriateness of films: There I learned that the film carried an “R” rating and offered lots of blood, gore, guns, profanity, sex, nudity and violence.

I also remembered a family policy my wife implemented when our children were younger and were being invited to another home. We would ask the host parents whether they would be watching television or a movie and if so, what would it be. We discovered that by simply asking this question we caused the other parents to pay a little closer attention to what was going on.

In this case, given the character of the parents and nature of the kids involved, we figured the situation was safe. We were wrong. Next time, I’ll be a more nosey father.

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