How Long Can a Mom Monitor Kids’ Media? Is 17 years too long? :)

HannahMy kids had a good laugh while reminiscing recently about how I “previewed” Hannah Montana before letting them watch it many years ago. That show eventually became a family favorite.

Lest you label me a helicopter parent, when my kids were 12 and 13 years young, the world’s version of “PG” had radically changed from the time when I was 12 and 13. “Sexual references” and “Brief Sexual Content” were definitely in the rated R movies back then, not in the PG-13 films.

Consequently, I checked out what my kids were putting in their heads and hearts. After all, even in something as small as music and movie choices – it gives a glimpse into their emotional, spiritual and even mental condition.

After the Hannah discussion, my kids laughed even harder remembering how they had to write me a list of songs that they wanted to download off iTunes so I could look up the lyrics before allowing them to purchase.

Sure there were inappropriate song lyrics back in the dark ages of my teen years, but a song today on the car radio can be stunningly different on the downloaded iTunes version. Where one word was changed for the radio version 25 years ago and the CD had the “bad word” on it, today, you can discover a string of female-degrading, F-bomb dropping rap lyrics replacing one bleeped word on the radio version. Thus, the required and infamous “song list” on Mom’s desk in my house.

Obviously those days have passed. By the time my son was in high school, he began questioning my need to see everything in his iTunes account. I assured him that his questioning made me all the more attentive to his playlists.

Eventually, as parents we get to the point where we can no longer monitor everything. Well, we could and some do, but by 16 and 17 years old, a solid foundation of character is already formed in our children.

Fortunately for me, my teenagers still watch Disney, ABC Family and nightly re-runs of Full House. Before it sounds like I’ve raised angelic beings who have not viewed less-than-edifying movies, my two 17 ½ year olds have certainly seen rated R movies.

My son and his friends went to some obnoxious rated R comedy this summer. When I quietly asked annoying-Mom questions like: “Don’t you get enough F-bombs, sex talk, unnecessary girl degrading and the like in the sports locker rooms, on Instagram, Twitter and in the high school hallways?…Do you really want to drop $40 filling your head with more garbage?”

Yep – I know – I’m a total kill-joy Mom sometimes. The good news is: I’m really much better about keeping quiet most of the time :).

My son looked at me directly and said, “Mom, there is a huge difference between watching a comedy with bad language and watching the sick stuff that’s out there in rated R films. I don’t go to that and I don’t want to.”

After that, I reminded myself (again) that the “boy” is really a “man” and he’s going to watch what he wants! The fact that he even checks what content is in a movie is impressive. The lesson for me: a.k.a. “the nutty mother”? Teens can make good choices all on their own, without the interference of Mom. In fact, at this age, it’s much better if they do.

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22 thoughts on “How Long Can a Mom Monitor Kids’ Media? Is 17 years too long? :)

  1. Carol Balawyder says:

    I felt that the ending of your post was not completely true : Teens can make good choices all on their own, without the interference of Mom. In fact, at this age, it’s much better if they do.

    Teens will make the choices based on their upbringing and depending on the “interference” of mom or any other significant adult in their younger years. Our juvenile delinquent facilities are filled with kids whose parents gave them little or no guidance and often, even criminal examples, not to mention their own bad language. .

    Your son’s choices are based on the values he was raised on. Don’t deny yourself that credit, Mom. 🙂

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    • Family to the 5 Power! says:

      Yes, I see what you mean…and as I wrote that, I certainly considered how they can/are going to make either good OR poor choices. I indeed hope that my children will always remember the values they are being raised with and how their decisions really do affect them and also those around them. Thank you for your kind comment. I very much appreciate it :).

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  2. Susan Irene Fox says:

    My sister has closely monitored what my nephews watch for years. They now have a very healthy point of view about what they should and shouldn’t and desire to watch, thanks to her. And she watches TV with them, and has always given time limits to any type of media. No violent video games, no R-rated anything, and when they’re at a friend’s house whose parents allow it, they either choose not to play or walk out of the room. How does she know this? They come home and tell her! All this to say…bravo to you for raising kids in a healthy environment.

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    • Family to the 5 Power! says:

      That’s a terrific group of young men that your sister has raised! To be able to walk away from the TV or gaming in a room full of other peers shows that the boys are confident in who they are. It makes the hard times in parenting worth it when you observe later on that they are making good choices about what they put in their minds. Thank you for the comment!

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  3. April says:

    That was always a tough one for me—when to stop monitoring everything they did, watched, or listened to. I finally had to trust that we taught them well. We tried to keep the communication open with the hope they wouldn’t go behind our backs. Of course, I had to have one who still tried to be sneaky in one form or another. I used to have to tell him that moms know all. On top of that, if he was stretching the truth, it was written all over his face. Sounds like you’re doing a great job!

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    • Family to the 5 Power! says:

      It is a tough one: when to stop or perform less monitoring. That’s all we can do after a certain age is keep the communication open like you said, and pray for good choices. Another blogger (Iris) also commented about how they get “sneaky”! 🙂 I appreciate your comment, thank you.

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  4. Lilka Raphael says:

    I loved this post. I often thought I was the only mother screening the shows on Disney. You are correct that so much has changed, but it is gratifying to see our kids make better choices without our prodding. It makes all those years of screening and scrutinizing work it!

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  5. Mama's Empty Nest says:

    From one ‘nutty mother’ to another, you’ve done what we’re called to do — parenting. 🙂 We guide and protect our kids until they do reach the age where they can make wise decisions for themselves and it sounds like you’re doing your job well. When my kids were young, I did the same things you’ve done and my motto was “If you take garbage into your mind and heart, garbage will come out of it.”

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    • Family to the 5 Power! says:

      Great sentiment! Thanks for the encouragement that I’m not alone! I tell them that you can’t always brainwash out things you’ve already put into your mind, no matter how hard you try – better to avoid it altogether. They’re going to make their own choices, so hopefully, they’ll usually be good ones :). Thanks for the comment.

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  6. Emily Rose Lewis says:

    I meant to write ‘even many PG-13 movies I don’t bring into the house.’ Although I am more lenient on what I let him watch than I am myself. Sometimes I’ll rent a movie for him and go into my room to read. I am just more sensitive to things than he is and that’s okay.

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  7. Emily Rose Lewis says:

    You are not alone! I know that I have been and still am a helicopter mom. We don’t even have a television. We have a tv and DVD player but not even basic channels. I had basic cable for a few years when he was much younger but I was working night shifts and had to leave him home alone. This was when he was 8 or 9. The cable connection was locked in my room but he figured a way in and was watching who knows what so I just had it turned off and since I was watching nonsense myself occasionally, I made the decision just to forgo tv. He’s 18 and still has no smartphone, although now that he has started getting paid as a ballet dancer he is going to buy one. This post is for me this morning. I am a bit freaked out by him getting a smart phone. I have been trying to figure out if or how I want to regulate it. Do I set the internet to go off at a certain time of night? It just seems scary for him to have what is essentially can become a hand held porn device, especially in his room at night. We have a clearplay filter for movies and even many PG-13 movies I bring into house, although like your kids I know that he has seen some rated R movies when away. I bought him a smartphone a couple of years ago and between downloading songs like you mentioned were completely inappropriate and a few other mishaps that made me realize he was only going to be harmed, I took it and sold it, keeping the money as I had warned him several times. Anyway, this is all to say, thanks for the post. Forrest is in a much better place now and he is 18! I know I have to cut the umbilical cord more than ever this year to prepare him to be on his own. He doesn’t even have a license yet! Mostly this is because I haven’t had the money to buy him a car. Its been a struggle to keep one going at times. He is saving for a car now though and will likely be driving within a few months. I’ve worked through a lot of fears but the fear of trusting him to God has been one of my greatest battles!

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    • Family to the 5 Power! says:

      I understand completely! Smartphones make it ridiculously “easy” to access whatever they want or sometimes even what they didn’t intend to search out. I have a friend who turned off her son’s internet use at a certain hour through the carrier’s website (Verizon or whoever). We still make the kids plug in their phones by 10pm on school nights and 11pm on weekends in our room simply so they sleep! My twins absolutely HATE that rule. We can only hope as Moms that we’ve trained them up properly and that when tempted, they will make the good choice most of the time. Surely, they can access whatever they want at any time, day or night. I was never taught that the eyes are a window to the soul, so I’ve tried to instill that in them! Thanks so much for your really thoughtful comment and for sharing your own experience right now with your son being 18. How cool is it that he is a ballet dancer?!! 🙂

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  8. atimetoshare says:

    I was often laughed at when my kids were growing up about being too old fashioned, but it’s good to stick to your guns when your children are so impressionable.

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