One of the luxuries I have in working in the entertainment industry, and also because I have a large appetite for pop culture, I know what’s out there in movie and television land. For children and adults. Whether it’s a movie or a television show, I can usually discern whether or not it’s appropriate for an eight your old or a five year old. Although often the five year old gets to see things that are borderline, because we’re too exhausted sometimes to put different things on in different rooms of the house. Now everyone is watching Shake it Up, My Little Pony, or various superhero shows.
And the superhero ones are the ones you REALLY have to watch. Even Batman: Brave and the Bold there were episodes not suitable for kids under 10, in my opinion. Most were okay, but I previewed the ones I thought were borderline. Plus, I love watching superhero cartoons, so “preview” may just be an excuse for me to watch them in peace anyway. But there are a whole slew of animated movies from Marvel and DC that are PG-13 and a HARD PG-13 that are intended for teen and up. Okay, I think I am the actual demographic for a lot of them and don’t think I don’t know it. Buying an animated Superman movie for your kid at Target? Watch what you are buying and check the rating.
The real problem with media is that it’s not just about turning the TV off anymore. It’s about the fact there is a screen every 10 feet in your house. Laptops, iPhones, and iPads can all get video content from YouTube and other sources. Now you have to be the digital screen police.
But what happens when your eight year old is out of your control for a sleep over or at a friends’ house? That’s when you can’t monitor what they are watching, and that’s when we had a problem.
One night at a sleepover, our daughter’s friend showed her a scary YouTube video about “Bloody Mary”. Afterwards I tracked it down and it was just a homemade video made by a bunch of middle schoolers that looked ridiculous and fake. But to her, it was terrifying. To her it was the scariest thing she had ever seen, because… well… it was the scariest thing she had ever seen.
And when they other Mom found out she was not happy and apologized to us and assured us it would not happen again. We appreciated that, but to be honest, this was bound to happen sooner or later. You can’t keep out the digital world forever, and while I think I had done a really good job of it, that may have been part of the problem. Bella wasn’t ready at all for what she saw because I had made sure she never was exposed to that type of material before. It was a shock. It scared her and she couldn’t sleep. This went on for days.
All kids are going to go through those moments when they see media they are not ready for because you can’t be monitoring every screen on the planet. Only Oxymandias from The Watchmen or the NSA can do that. All you can do is your best and when something gets through (and it will) you are there for your child to help them make sense of it.
So as a therapy, I explained that it was all just pretend and a movie and we could make our own scary movie if she wanted to and then put it on YouTube. We could do everything that they did. The goal being that if she saw step by step how it was all make believe, she would be less bothered by it. She did want to, and we started writing the script together. I suppose if she ever finishes it we’ll have to shoot it, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. But just the very act of beginning the process helped her. We wrote a few pages together. She was able to sleep again and got over it and has put it aside. So for now, her project is currently in development with an undetermined release date.