8 posts categorized "Censorship"

Social Networking and Kids: Do they mix?

March 18, 2012

In our most recent weekly school newsletter, it was shared that a growing number of elementary students have Facebook accounts, even if Facebook is not to be used by children under the age of 13. From the Common Sense Media website: "73% of 12- to 17-year olds have at least one social networking profile".  Youth have access to the internet in libraries, on phones, or on other mobile devices.  

When we received an email announcing big money for Pixy Kids, a social media platform for kids age 6-12 and their parents, I immediately felt conflicted.  Actually, I might have said outloud: "Hell, no."

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Halloween Costumes Verboten at Buckman; How 'Bout the Candy?

October 17, 2011

However tempted I am to say something like, "Halloween was simpler when we were kids!"; it's just not true. When I was of trick-or-treating age, I was faced with an enormity of moral and safety concerns each October 31st. My family, very faithful Conservative Baptists, approached Halloween with great suspicion thanks to its age-old ties to the Devil himself. A few years, we went to church on Halloween for witch-free celebrations (that's where I got my first goldfish!); I always chose "good" costumes, princesses and fairies and, ok, I really only ever wanted to be a princess. Also, we had the specter of razor blades and poison, which must have happened one time ever, and yet most of our parents were sure there were razor blade vendors on every block. Beware of the caramel apples! Take heed of the popcorn balls!

This year, in Portland, we have a modern flavor on the ages-old debate over Halloween. At Buckman Elementary, costumes will be banned for the second consecutive year; the principal "says celebrating Halloween at school excludes some kids and can be very offensive." (My six-year-old's school, Grout, is allowing costumes but banning weapons and gory/offensive/skimpy "content.") This has brought up all the debates you'd think ("what's happened to childhood?" "Halloween is an American celebration" "children need to have the opportunity to use their imaginations and dress up, but I do not believe this needs to be accomplished through Halloween"), and a few new twists. A few commenters on Think Out Loud said that they were disallowed from costumes by their family due to strict religious beliefs, and they appreciated the opportunity to stand up for their beliefs (in one case) or to soak up the "normalness" of the culture around them (in another case).

I'm not very passionate either way on this one; costumes at school, for me, means I have to have them ready earlier (I'm a very-last-minute homemade costume aficionado). And I do understand that they are distracting from the learning environment, and agree that there are ample times outside of school to wear costumes. On the other hand, I disagree that Halloween costumes in particular create disparity and cultural discomfort. As one commenter said and I agree wholeheartedly: these differences are always apparent, and Halloween costumes don't highlight them more or less than any other day at school. In my experience, you can see the cultural/economic differences best in the clothing worn to school when it's cold and rainy outside. (And as someone who was once a very poor high school student and is now a high school coach, I'm telling you, the disparity issues only get worse and more obvious every day that goes by in public school.)

Want more reasons to feel ambivalent about Halloween? The candy. It's not just probably pretty bad for you and your kids (and even I let my kids gorge for a day or two on Halloween and a few other holidays; childhood, right?). It's also the product of child slave labor.

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Kids & Lyrics: do they know what they're singing?

February 12, 2011

*thump, thump, thump* are common sounds coming from my daughters' room.  Aged 7 and 10, they love to listen to music and dance along.  It's not unusual for me to walk into their room, find each one standing on their bed, hips swinging, Z100 blaring, and them singing Katy Perry: "Let's go all the way tonight, no regrets, just love....."

If I didn't pay attention to the words, I would think it was so cute.  And, I do.  But, is there something wrong with these girls uttering these words?  Another favorite song references "boys trying to touch my junk, junk".   Gone of the days singing about the moon or rain boots, a la Laurie Berkner.

We are a music-loving family.  There is always something playing in the background.  We don't want to deprive the kids of listening to new songs, pop music.  But, do we have to censor?  The content is just troubling, and - with two young girls - I am always concerned about female stereotypes and demeaning depiction of women and girls.  Do we have to come up with playlists of only approved songs?  Would that limit us to just a few selections?  What are safe, wholesome, but fun & upbeat artists, go-to songs or even radio stations that you'd let your [pre-tween] kids listen to? 

Clothing Optional: even when friends are over?

September 24, 2010

Growing up, my parents, my religion, and my culture taught me to be ever-conscious about my body.  There were so many constraints to my dress, so many restrictions on what was appropriate, so many opportunities to feel bad for being exposed.  Our household is very liberal about the kids and whether they want to be fully clothed.  We, the adults, are no different here.  We're clothing-lite.  I often sleep unclothed.  I wake up and greet the kids "good morning" even before I get dressed.  The other week, a friend spent the night, and I tucked the kids in with no pants on.  I don't often walk around topless, but I very often walk around pant-less.  For some reason, it only recently occurred to me: Should I be more modest when other kids are over?  Should I have a top and bottom on?  Should I close the door when I potty (as this is another thing we are all very liberal about in this household)?

Children & Computers: how much and when?

July 31, 2010

In our household, the adults are often on the computers: working, updating this website, paying bills, ordering groceries, coordinating playdates, researching dance classes, signing up for sports teams. So much of our day-to-day lives are facilitated by the use of the computer.  So, when asked "Mom, can I get on the computer?" and I respond with "NO", I am not surprised to be met with conflict: "Why?  You're always on the computer..."

My eldest daughter is nine going on ten.  She recently received an evite for a classmate's birthday party.  Had I not happened to let her get onto the computer on a random Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, we would have not known about the party, as there were no paper invitations sent home and parents didn't get emails.  It made me wonder: is it the norm now that all ten-year olds have email addresses that they check semi-regularly?

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Turnoff Week: Ideas to get out and about

April 14, 2009

This year's "turnoff" week is next week, April 20 to 26.  And, instead of being billed as "Turn Off TV Week", the organizers, Center for Screen Time Awareness, is calling the week "Turnoff Week", meaning we unplug from not only TVs, but also videos, games, computers, cell phones, and iPods.

Why turn off?

  • Screen Time cuts into family time and is a leading cause of obesity in both adults and children.
  • In the US and other industrialized nations around the world, screen time use continue to increase every year. 
  • The average daily usage for all screens, in some countries, has reached 9 hours per day.  This is for recreational use of screens and does not include work time.
  • On average, people watch 4 hours of television and then spend another 4 plus hours with computers, games, video, iPods and cell phones

So, what can we do?  Here are some ideas to start:

  • Hit the playground, and invite school/neighborhood friends.  Make it a huge playdate!
  • Find out what activities your school may be hosting.  Better yet, offer to plan and host an activity.
  • Host a session of board game playing at the community center, library, school, or friends house.
  • Check out free or reduced-cost swim sessions at the public pools (Columbia on Wednesdays; Buckman on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays; and Dishman on Saturdays.  Call specific pools for details)
  • Gather friends for a short bike ride in the neighborhood.
  • Organize a scavenger or treasure hunt.
  • Check out the urbanMamas calendar for more ideas for fun.  There is something going on every day!

How will you be recognizing Turnoff Week this year?  What activities, if any, are planned at your school?

Need more tips or resources?  Kaiser has a great run down of sample activities, more information, and a screen-time toolkit to learn fun and healthful alternatives.  Check it here.

I say "$h*t", you say "Sugar"

December 08, 2008

I was doing nothing but law-abiding the other day when the car behind me pulled up next to me.  The woman driving rolled down the window and said, "Don't be such a bitch," referring to how I could have nudged up and over so she could sneak past me and make a right turn on red.  I looked into the back seat, where her toddler was sitting, watching, and listening.  I thought about how much we may or may not use "swear" words in front of the kids.

"Bitch" isn't the worst of the swear words.  It's really not.  Growing up, my parents let me know that words like "stupid" and "dumb" were inappropriate.  So, to this day, I don't really use those words.  I'll probably use the word "bitch" more that I'd use "stupid" or "dumb".  I did let a "shit" slip this morning with the kids right behind me.  As for the other big cuss words, I really don't like to use the "f-" word in the kids' presence.

I was recently talking to another urbanMama who says she talks like a sailor.  Using bad words in front of the kids isn't the worst thing we could expose our kids to.  What about in your household?  Do you make the concerted effort to make the language rated-G?  Do you use your normal everyday adult language, even if the kids are within earshot?

When she says: "I'll email you"

September 23, 2008

Previously on urbanMamas, we've talked just a little about internet safety, our kids and mature media, or YouTube as a learning tool.  Not sure what came over us this weekend, but we went ahead and set up our 8-year old with her very own email account: first name [dot] last name [at] gmail [dot] com.  Not too creative, I know.  We let her know she can use the email for communicating with our extended family, who is scattered everywhere, geographically.  We know she has other friends who have had email for a little while, but we know that the majority of her peers don't have email accounts yet.  Our intent is for her to use it strictly for family, and she needs to ask us before getting onto the computer.  We also intend to check her email for her and keep track of her password.

I would love to hear other parents' thoughts about this: when would you/will you let your child have his/her own email account?  What would be some of the parameters you would set for usage?  Have you encountered this in your household yet?