Why I’m a Censoring Censorer

When my daughter Hannah was first born I could take her anywhere. Well, maybe not because of all the crying, but I could in the sense that she didn’t pick up on much. If I wanted to watch movies or listen to the radio in her presence I could. She didn’t even look at the screen – in fact, she couldn’t see more than 2 feet from her face. She certainly wasn’t absorbing the meaning of the words or the images I consumed.

Gradually, things changed. When Hannah was a few months old she started looking towards the TV screen. From there her interest, attention span and understanding only increased. By the time she was 18 months or so I couldn’t watch anything when she was awake. By the time that Hannah was 2 she was seriously parroting my words and I experienced the singular joy of hearing her yell some swear words in front of older ladies at the grocery store. And by the time that Hannah was 3 she asked uncomfortable questions about news stories she heard on the radio. “Mom, why did he say ‘kill’? Who killed? Why did he kill? Will he kill me?”

Dressed up for the beach
She’s really cute when she’s not repeating swear words

These days, with a 4 1/2-year-old, even my reading material is subject to scrutiny. I recently read Persepolis, which is a fabulous graphic novel about a girl growing up in Iran. With, you know, lots of pictures because it’s a graphic novel. Some of these pictures depict violence or torture. Hannah, of course, is interested in the book because of its pictures, but I just don’t think she’s capable of really understanding these issues. And don’t even get me started on the newspaper. Books are also under lock and key, now, too.

I don’t believe in censorship, in theory. I like the idea of being open and honest with my kids. I know that they need to understand the world they live in. But every day I censor the things that my kid sees, and I don’t feel that bad about it. This is my job as a mom – to make these judgment calls as best I can, and to decide what information is appropriate for my child. So I continue to censor, in spite of the occasional twinge of doubt.

How about you? How do you decide what is and isn’t OK for your kids to see?

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  1. Betty-Ann says:

    absolutely, there is so much garbage trying to get in and do more harm than good

  2. Yes, I felt it was my job to be a good filter, especially when my children were very young. Now I see what passes for popular culture (MTV videos, movies, etc.) and I wish I could wrap my grandchildren up in cotton wool to remove them from the violence and vulgarity that passes for entertainment these days, not to mention the news. I sound old-fashioned, I know, but there is so much ugliness available and children become desensitized all too soon. So, good for you, for keeping your children's world safe, secure and innocent…at least for a while…

  3. I censor stuff all the time, especially now that my daughter is 6. It gets even worse when they start to read ( which she learned to do when she just turned 4). She is constantly asking me questions about things, that I'm not ready for quite yet. Especially when she is reading the word S-E-X in the grocery checkout line from a magazine sitting on the shelf. "What does that mean mommy?" Not quite ready for that yet….distractions often work at that point, and she hasn't asked me since! Now that she is a master reader, I keep my books hidden, especially my psychology ones! lol

  4. Naaturally says:

    Posted my comment on your blog & subscribed, too! ­čÖé

  5. They pick up on a lot more than we might think. When they're pre-verbal they can sense energy fields, so everything is important. I know that whatever gets through to her you will be able to talk with her about it. Good parenting.

  6. I have no problem with censorship. We watch the Discovery Channel almost exclusively since having kids. At least when things get a little gory there, you can explain it being part of nature unlike the twisted plot lines that some crime/suspense shows come up with these days!
    But even with something “safe” like Discovery Channel, some of the COMMERCIALS even scare me! The latest horror flick advertised for the theatres or even a commercial for a different channels series with some paranormal/evil theme going on. I am uncomfortable with that subject matter, even without the kids around.
    My husband and I agree, swear words and light sexual content can be explained easily enough with the simple words “that is a word/thing only for grownups, it is NOT good for children”. and they seem to accept that, but explaining away images of violence, (realistic or sci-fi)paranormal evil or other truly vile things that are not even for grown ups or are designed to give fear even to adult viewers? I have no explanation, I just don’t get it myself… and I try to limit their exposure so they won’t get desensitised to that crap. Video games are tough too. Their friends play games that involve gory violence, alien wars and zombies, and I won’t let them play any of it! I check the ratings carefully before letting them play it. And that causes some tears believe me!

    *** PS, my stepmom left a copy of “the Happy Hooker” in the den where I did my homework all the time, I read it at age 10…. I had pretty graphic and inflated expectations for sex WAY too young! But I was smart enough to not to say ANYTHING to ANYBODY! Good thing I never took it seriously.
    .-= *pol├é┬┤s last post ..It’s just gotta go =-.

  7. I censor what my kids see, but I think somewhat less assiduously than you do. I don’t let my kids see or experience things well over their maturity level such as horror movies or graphically violent stuff.

    However, I don’t hesitate to have the radio on around my kids, or to read the paper, even if Owen is hanging over my shoulder and says, “Mom, why does the paper say that guy shot that other guy?” In such cases, I just try and explain things in as age appropriate a way as possible. That’s sometimes tricky, but I’m generally satisfied with how it’s working out.

    Also – I do find it’s somewhat more difficult to keep things away from Miranda at age 4 than I did when Owen was that age (he’s now 7).

    It’s a treacherous road to navigate, for sure…
    .-= Karen Munro´s last post ..FOP and butterflies =-.

  8. We censor a lot! Our TV is not connected to the outside world and we are Very selective about what videos we show – David Attenborough, Mighty Machines (Canadian show ;), Reading Rainbow, Mr. Rogers, and Signing Time. That’s about it…

    We also censor books. We try to remove some of the unneeded negativity from children’s books, and avoid scary/violent books. I have been thinking about this a lot lately because I recently started reading Little House in the Big Woods to my 3 year old. I had forgotten how scary the story is at times, and I find myself editing a lot. I remember being disturbed by some of portions of the story when my father read it to me, and so I’m leaving those portions out for my son, or editing.

    At first I felt bad about censoring (not TV, but for books). But now I feel that there is no need for him to be exposed to those things now. I think it’s okay to maintain some innocence at this age. There will be a time, but the time is not now for our sensitive child.
    .-= mamasapplecores´s last post ..camera eye of a 3 year old =-.

  9. Well, yes. We don’t watch TV, and what we watch on video, I’m careful to watch along with the kiddos, and explain things as they come up. I actually prefer “real people” movies because they can actually see emotion on real faces, with actual words & empathy & motions rather than the cartoon/animated type films. For example, we love Mary Poppins & Sound of Music. And even though there are violent themes throughout the Lion the Witch & the Wardrobe, I would choose that by far over just about any disney animated film, because you can actually see & hear the faces & voices of the people – and they are PEOPLE, not just cartoons w/no real feelings.

    We do very similarly with books – I prefer to read with them about reality over the cartoonish fictional books with made up themes trying to “teach a lesson” – they all seem so contrived. Kids learn a lot more from real situations & real life things. Not to say we sit down & read the NYT together, but we do read about spiders, plants, real people, etc.

    Out in the world, when a topic comes up – maybe DD (5) hears someone say something in an angry way or sees someone treat another person badly – we stop & talk about it – in ways that are reassuring & understandable for her, and then for her 2 yo brother.

    This IS our job as parents to help our children navigate the world by giving them tools & guidance & sharing our experience.

    Love your post!
    .-= kblogger´s last post ..Fabulous Fall at SeriousShops.com! =-.

  10. While I think some ‘moderation’ is fine, I don’t agree with editing (childrens) books while reading them. I choke down words sometimes, but if I feel something might scare them, I pause and explain that I find some of this a little scary and if you want me to stop reading, say so. Books are to learn from, so we always talk about them afterwards. I will be honest if I feel the book was negative and why I didn’t like reading it to them.

    Editing certain materials based off your childhood doesn’t seem fair (in response to another commenter’s feelings on little house in the big woods), because your child isn’t you. They might find something else scary that you didn’t, or vise versa.

    I think giving our children (mind you, I am not a mother yet, just the caregiver) the power to know what they find frightening very valuable. For them to be curious but also know what is too much for THEM.

    Keeping literature within a reasonable maturity level in the house gets harder as the children get older, and you have more children. Some books will be fine for a 9 year old, but not their 2 year old sister.

    This is such a great topic. I will continue to think about how I feel about censoring materials.

    I have no problem with censoring television shows while they are younger. Everything moves too quickly and gets to the ‘message’ so fast that I find there isn’t much time to think/explore/question topics before you are told what to believe. My comment was on childrens books mainly.

  11. Jasie VanGesen says:

    Silas is a bit older than your wee ones, so some things we have to censor a lot less, and some things we censor more. I’m real sensitive about what sexual imagery he’s exposed to. it’s a rough world for kids when it comes to sex… it’s a lot to deal with and we’re answering his questions frankly and honestly as best we can.

    Violence is a little tricky. We finally got cable shut off and so now his only exposure is through video games, movies, but we’re careful about what’s he participates in without limiting him. Certain games will never enter the house, but the ones that did, he can do as much with them as he wants.

    We’re pretty frank with him in general… We got some sideways glances in the store yesterday because he started asking me about guillotines and iron maidens and I was explaining what each one did and he was all, “Oh COOL!!!” and it was funny… atleast to me.

  12. I don’t let my 9-year old see anything on TV that’s scary, gross or violent. If there’s a scary commercial I yell “close your eyes!” and I mute it and change the channel as fast as I can. Then he says, “It’s not scary. I’ve already seen it.” I reply with “It’s scary to me and I don’t think it’s good for people to see that stuff.” He says, “It’s not real, mom.” I say, “I don’t care. Our adrenal glands think it’s real and we…” And he says, “I know. I know.” and finishes my sentence about cortisol.

    My husband lets my 13-year old watch things that I would censor. That’s their “guy time”. It’s usually odd stuff that didn’t really need to be part of the plot.

    We watched a documentary on marijuana last night as a family. My 9-year old said “It should never be used. It’s bad!” My 13-year old said “People with cancer and AIDS, people in pain or with post traumatic stress should be able to get it prescribed.” I said, “But YOU won’t smoke it, right??” He said, “No way.”

    My 9-year old said “No one should be allowed to smoke it!”
    That’s the one I worry about. Not the 13-year old.

    I would rather talk as a family about sex and drugs and these shows often are great conversation starters. But violence and gore? I never let them watch that. It is pointless.
    .-= Amy´s last post ..We Lied to You, Kids =-.

  13. PS I censored books when my kids were younger. My youngest became very upset about the Daniel and Lion story in the Bible. He was really sick and asked me to read him the Children’s Bible. When it got to that part he said “This is scary! It’s supposed to be for children!” He has never requested the BIble since.

    I myself censor parts of books that I am reading. I don’t need to read about the sodomy in Kite Runner or the rape in The Lovely Bones. I am delicate. It disturbs me too much to read that stuff so I turn pages until the scene calms down again.

    For my kids I would do that, too, but usually their books didn’t have anything scary. They were drawn to comedy or sci fi.
    .-= Amy´s last post ..We Lied to You, Kids =-.

  14. Mama Rissa says:

    I believe in censorship. I think we, as parents, are responsible to filter what our children absorb for their own sake.
    The truth is, even if what we’re censoring is a fundamental part of the world we live in, our children are not always ready to process the information. For example, why would we voluntarily explain sex to a child that doesn’t even understand physical attraction? It’s pointless, and would probably freak them out. Now, if they ASK, that’s a different story. But I’d rather introduce things like that to my kids when I know they’re developmentally ready to receive that information. Does that make sense?
    Another reason I censor? I want to give my kids a good chance to be found respectable. Since I know my son is far from being capable of choosing how to appropriately apply certain swear words, I don’t want him to use them.
    Love this post – very thought-provoking!

  15. I’m not sure censorship is even the right word here. To me, censorship is when a governing body denies mature adults the opportunity to decide what reading or viewing material is or is not suitable for consumption. Our children are not necessarily capable of making that decision for themselves. I don’t agree with what some people will or won’t let their kids see, and vice-versa. I suspect that I err on the side of permissiveness — I was livid when I found out that a mother caused Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes to be taken out of our school library because it had the word ‘slut’ in it. In England, the word slut means someone sloppy or messy. How hard is that to explain? To me, that is a woman with too much time on her hands and not enough real problems. And Eve wants to see Twilight, and really the only reason I’m not letting her is that it’s the dullest film in decades. Let her learn to read — the books have way more witty banter.
    .-= Allison´s last post ..************Sometimes I put dishes in the dishwasher too! =-.

  16. It kind of breaks my heart to think of the things my daughters will eventually have to learn. That animals and people get killed, for example.

    We went to the beach over the summer and my husband went fishing with his brother and dad. They came back with a cooler of sharks, and took them out to the back porch to clean them. They weren’t paying attention to two-year-old Suzi and she walked back there and got a glimpse of a gray fin. She got excited because she thought it was Baby Beluga. Luckily she didn’t see enough to realize what was going on before I grabbed her and took her to another room.

    I’m not ready for her to see these things yet. My heart gets broken about every day just watching the morning news. She should enjoy a few years of happy innocence first.

  17. Some things we censor, some we explain in simpler terms than a movie or book might do. Even in G rated movies, there are parts where Q-ster asks us to skip, since they make him uneasy.
    .-= Lady M´s last post ..Running, Reaching, Climbing =-.

  18. Great topic, Amber! I find that most of the times I have the opposite problem: because we have no TV and a house filled with books mainly in English that my kids aren’t tempted to read and age appropriate books in Italian, I often fear that my kids are growing up too ignorant about many issues. And we’ve found that discussions on particular sensitive topics give better results when they come up accidentally, as explanations rather than “lessons”. My 12 year old boy has began reading the newspaper recently, and learning facts from words (read and discussed) other than images seems good to me.
    .-= Francesca´s last post ..Family bike rides =-.

  19. I’m barely beginning to censor since my son is only 2, but I plan on doing a lot of explaining and censoring later on (particularly with violence – I won’t mind so much if he sees sex or hears swearing, it’s the lobbed off head with all the blood I’m most concerned about).

    And I’m with @*pol, how in the hell do you censor the commercials?? Sometimes those are freaking terrifying! Remember the Excedrin one recently where the woman was HOLDING HER OWN HEAD in her hands?? OMG!
    .-= Jessica – This is Worthwhile├é┬┤s last post ..Offically 2! =-.

  20. Hi Amber,

    I think it’s important that we censor what our children are exposed too. I really liked Treehouse tv when Madelyn was little (she’s 6 now) because there were no commercials. Now that she’s watching the “older kids” channel, she begs me to buy Tide detergent, dishwasher soap with the energy balls in them and asks me if I have blackheads :). I am still working on my husband to censor more from them – especially movies that he watches. He was watching a particular movie one day that I felt was too complex for Madelyn to understand but he felt was ok (“I watched this movie when I was 6”), as soon as she started with the questions I explained to him that she doesn’t understand the content, hense the questions. I don’t feel it necessary to explain adult movies to a child unless there is a lesson or I feel she’s ready for it. He changed the channel. So mostly I’m censoring TV but I did come accross a Blink 182 cd case in Madelyn’s room, it is covered in what looks like cartoon people. Upon closer inspection, some of the people on the back were naked! It was immediately put away. : X

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