Today, there are abundant entertainment options for children. Traditional toys, games, make-believe and television are augmented with sophisticated game consoles, tablets, laptops, electronic learning devices and smartphones.
Are mothers rejoicing? Not at all.
An overwhelming 81 percent of women participating in a recent SheByShe parenting study say the entertainment industry makes it more challenging to be a parent today. One woman said, “There are far more avenues I have to monitor to guard against what my kids are being exposed to. When I was growing up, there were no smartphones, tablets, Internet, etc. I dread the day my daughter (4) will ask for a cell phone. It’s a day that I worry about.”
Many women are horrified at the content today’s entertainment industry produces. A mother commented, “Not even the Disney Channel is safe for kids to watch. Almost every show has something sexual or inappropriate for young kids.”
“There’s lots of suggestive material out there and it seems like the ‘norm,’ which makes it harder to help children realize that most of what they watch is very scripted and not what is reality for 99% of society,” a mother shared.
Another said, “TV has awful things, even programs meant for children. The violence and attitudes on shows are horrible examples.”
Another participant said, “I fear that our media normalize violence, and violence against women. I fear that our children are experiencing a much higher level of violence on a daily basis due to movies, TV and especially games than any other generation has ever faced.’
Another said, “Neurological studies show that exposure to this changes the brain - and that means changes in behavior. Children also become addicted to the 'rush' of the games they play, making it harder for parents to ration the amount of time they spend on electronic devices. Just recently there was a story about a 15 year old who killed his parents because they wanted to limit his time on his iPad.”
Another mother shared, “The industry is focused on ONE thing: making money. They will promote any product as long as it makes money. Video games are beyond violent. Music and music videos are filthier than they've ever been. I have a few more years where I get to guide their choices, but soon my children will have more and more access to these things without my supervision. And it will be hard.’
“Do you remember Karate Kid? That was one of the "popular" movies when I was growing up. Take a look at the clothes, the music, and the way children talked to adults and to each other. I saw it again after years and was shocked at how much we've changed. Try it. I guarantee you will be surprised at the difference.”
These challenges are compounded for some women because they believe many parents are too lax about what they let their children be exposed to. “It is more challenging in that only a minority of parents are thoughtful about the boundaries they put around content and technology, therefore my children feel peer pressure to have greater access,” said a respondent.
Women also worry that the entertainment industry makes it difficult to battle a consumption-oriented society. One explained, “Kids believe they should have it all. Kids have always believed that, but having it all for a 6 year old went from Barbies, to expensive electronics, name brand items, cell phones, and the freedom to utilize these things as they wish. I often feel mean for not indulging my son in this world because of his perception that he is being left out.”
Not all women in this study share this point-of-view. Some believe the challenges presented by the entertainment industry haven’t changed. One woman explained, “We had all those things. It was our parents’ choice to limit them and send us outside. I send my kids outside to play. There's not a lot of difference. And there has always been violence. Look at Tom and Jerry.”