Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Modern Media in the Unschooled Life: Why your child won't be mentally scarred from a pop-up ad
My mother sat down with my brother and watched it with him. Instead of throwing him into foreign territory, she slowly eased and guided him into the corn syrup-splattered, high-pitched scream filled corner of the entertainment industry. She paused the movie, and noted the special effects that were used. She made sure my brother was confident that everything he saw was fake. She answered a million questions that he had; about how the movie was filmed, how the special effects were implemented, how the script was written, etc.
As a result, my brother was not horrified. He was intrigued and comfortable. If anything in the movie had made him uncomfortable, he simply didn't watch it. By the age of five, he already knew how to navigate through material that might be unsettling (he knew that it was all fake, and could turn it off whenever he wished), understood the difference between fake violence and real violence, and had learned a bit about how the entertainment industry functioned. All in all, it was a good experience.
There is a difference between setting your five year old in front of a horror film, and then leaving them to deal with material they might not be prepared for all on their own, and letting your child electively watch a film they selected and watch it with your guidance and support. The entire time, the parent is there to answer questions, and the child won't expose themselves to anything they aren't ready to be exposed to. Children aren't naturally drawn to the elicit. They don't want to watch things that are upsetting, or that make them uncomfortable. But banning something-the act of making something seductively elicit-piques their interest. Children and teens will often put themselves in situations they aren't prepared for, simply because the situation is forbidden. The siren's call of the banned is one few children can resist. As a result, they expose themselves to things they aren't ready for.
I'm sixteen now. Every day, I am bombarded with modern media. From billboards advertising naked women (the objectification of women in modern media is a whole different blog post), to magazines, commercials, movies, television shows, pop-up ads, and music, I see (and hear) lots of different things. I am not drawn to forbidden things because nothing is forbidden. As a child, my mother would help me find my internal compass and guide me from things I wasn't prepared for. Now I know where my internal compass is, and can do it myself. Dirty pop-up ad? I can click out of it. I have the tools I need in order to navigate life all on my own (which is the ultimate goal of parents).
There is a difference between forcing, or voluntarily exposing your child to something they aren't emotionally or mentally prepared for. But eventually, your child will find something that intrigues them. With unschooling, the parents' job is to support and guide their children until the child is old enough to do it themselves. They aren't limited-no child will want to see something that makes them uncomfortable or upset. This trust in your child (and yourself), leads the child to trust you and themselves. They can trust themselves; they don't need rules to regulate them because they can regulate themselves.
Trusting your child is very difficult in a world that insists you shouldn't. Trusting doesn't mean throwing them to the wolves. It means guiding them and giving them the tools they need to regulate themselves.
Thanks for reading! :) Here is a link to an article I wrote in Life Learning about children's freedom. It is located on page seven.