I’ve always spent considerable time trying to keep tabs on the media environment that’s surrounding the kids. I can try to limit the television and computer time, but there are still other screens and devices to focus their attention and I generally take the random sampling approach. That’s simple when the media in question is in a public area, such as the television and the family computer.
But how do I not appear heavy-handed when approaching the personal devices, such as the iPod and the mp3 player? Some of the lyrics are short-term harmless but long-term corrosive to the ‘tween/teen attitude and psyche.
- Make your own mp3 or iPod available for sharing with the kids. Hey, you wanna hear some real music, try this! Then swap devices and take a little cruise. It has been effective in giving me a glimpse of what they’re listening to and whether I should be concerned. I was truly surprised to find that Eldest had a selection of Etta James pieces from the 1950s on her iPod.
- Pay attention to what you see them playing on Youtube or the various websites, then take some moments to visit some of the other offerings by that group. The upshot is that you do have to act on it if seems extreme. In one instance here, Killer Clown Posse has been banned, inasmuch as I can do so. The discussion with one of the teens pertained to the question of how cool something could be when the video acts out sniper attacks on innocents. I was frank in evoking the Columbine massacre as well as the more recent Amish School Nickel Mines shooting and the teen in question has acknowledged the point.
- Visit the websites for favorite stations and view the playlists for most requested songs. Then check a sample against the on-line lyrics from sites such as Lyrics.com and read them. There are opportunities – if you’re willing to make them – to discuss the songs with the kids and if things are bad enough, then you have to be willing to force the issue. It’s unpleasant to confront a teen about burning highly objectionable discs but the reality is that it has to happen.
- Use technology to turn the private media into public media. A friend recently told me that there are devices that be used to hook the mp3 or iPod up to the car radio and I’ll investigate that this weekend. I believe that the kids do want to hear things on the air versus having to wear earbuds and I’m willing to invest in such technology.
When the average kid is spending hours each day saturated by the electronic media, then something unpleasant – photo, lyric or otherwise – is going to leech through to the kids. But casting a wide net into the electronic sea at least gives you an insight into the waters in which they swim.
And whether you also need to jump in as well.