The word shot out like an accusation from my almost-twelve-year-old. Overprotective. The discussion about video games and our concerns over violent themes we would not allow in our home was escalating into a lecture.
For many of us parents who are trying to push back the dark tidal wave of insanity and garbage in media, video games, and cyberspace, the accusation of “overprotective” comes as no surprise. I mean, when you compare us to the complete lack of protection in what the world offers, any effort to safeguard their innocence might seem overboard.
I think back to a few years ago where I confronted a Toys R Us manager about their store’s large front-and-center display of a violent video game rated M for “mature.” That rating means the game is one notch more intense than something that would be considered appropriate for teenagers. “Isn’t your company’s motto ‘Where a Kid can be a Kid?’” I asked him. “This game isn’t safe for kids, yet you’re advertising it right next to the checkout lane with a mile-long line of kids waiting with their parents.” Their brand promise insinuated the preservation and perpetuation of innocence, but as often happens in the corporate world, the bottom line had seemingly muddied the water. The manager responded by giving me his business card to email him a formal complaint. My email was never replied to.
Although it would be nice to see kid-centered brands do more to protect innocence, it’s ultimately not their responsibility. It’s my job as a parent to protect my kids from influences that are emotionally unsafe for them, including influences found in media, video games, and cyberspace. I won’t apologize for it. I don’t care if “everyone else gets to.” (That’s not a true statement anyway, because plenty of parents share our concern.) Yes, my children need to be prepared for the big, bad world. But that preparation does not come by abdicating my responsibility and allowing them free access to whatever they want.
I love this article from Dr. Tracy Bennett, clinical psychologist, about how to protect our kids from what she refers to as “secondary trauma” brought on by kids knowing too much too soon. It’s all about understanding what is age appropriate as well as what each kid’s psyche can handle, as some are more sensitive than others. It’s not a matter of shielding our kids from the realities of life, but rather, firmly building in them a foundation of safety and security so they can emotionally navigate those realities when they are ready to.
So for all of you lame-o moms and dads out there who are, like us, refusing to let your kids get sucked out to sea by peer-pressure, media-pressure, and the lure to “know all things” via the Internet… just know we have your back. We’re raising our voices collectively to say we will never stop fighting for our kids.
We will walk in our full responsibility to train them for success in life with wisdom, courage, and yes, even the beautiful lessons that come from learning through their own mistakes. We will give them a safe place to land. We will help them navigate the digital world and give them wings to fly as they learn to use technology for good and not evil. We will help them develop real social skills that go beyond the superficiality of social media. We will teach them to care about the welfare of others and to put others’ needs above their own. We will provide opportunities for them to experience the need, pain, and poverty of other cultures, while giving them tools to creatively be part of the solution.
Our kids may think we are overprotective. That’s okay. Someday they’ll see it through different eyes and be able to discern what was too strict and what wasn’t strict enough. They’ll learn from our mistakes and be better parents themselves because of it. For now, we’ll continue to push back the tidal wave however we can.