Katy Perry, Elmo, and the Tough Decisions Parents Face with Media

One of the most talked about things in last week’s entertainment news was the Katy Perry and Elmo spot that was ultimately pulled from Sesame Street’s 41st season’s line up.  The biggest reason given for pulling the spot was the fact that Katy Perry’s outfit was deemed “inappropriate” for the young viewers of Sesame Street by many parents who caught a leaked version of the skit on You Tube.

Before I ever saw the video, I had my own opinions, based mostly on just the type of music Ms. Perry sings and the image she portrays.  While she is immensely talented, her choice of lyrics combined with her rather shocking music videos make me very uncomfortable, as a parent, seeing her guest spot on any pre-school show.

Would a different wardrobe selection have pre-empted the controversy?  I’m not sure.

Let’s face it: in the entertainment industry, image is something that is masterfully created to sell an individual within certain market and then, like it or not, that image (even in all its fakeness) follows that entertainer throughout their career.  Sometimes that means an entertainer can’t jump as easily from one end of the audience spectrum to the other.  Ms. Perry, in my opinion, happens to fall into that category.  Talented, yes.  But probably never appropriate, even fully clothed, for the tots.  Goodness, not even appropriate for tweens or young teens, in my opinion!!

Coming from the background of Christian media, you might think that I surround my children with only Dove-approved, Christian-based children shows.  Perhaps only shows that are written and produced with a worldview common to my own. At the very least, shows with a redemptive message, right?

Well, in all honesty, I let my kids watch some cartoons and listen to some music that would be considered totally secular.  Some things on Nickelodeon or The Disney Channel are downright cute. For example, I really like The Fairly Odd Parents, Phineas and Ferb, The Penguins of Madagascar and SpongeBob.   Other shows, like Nickelodeon’s  Degrassi and ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager, definitely cross our line of appropriateness, and my kids aren’t allowed to view those shows.

One of the areas that I feel necessary to expand on in my own tween’s viewing experience is that of using critical thinking.  He’s been spoon-fed what my husband and I want him to know about ethics, morality, virtues and our faith.  I like to challenge him a little, nowadays.  While allowing him to watch movies and TV shows that are geared to a more mature tween audience, I enjoy engaging him in conversations like, “Why isn’t that the way YOU would choose to behave?”  Because in my opinion, if kids know WHY they believe what they have been taught, those lessons become fruitful in their own lives.

On the other end of the entertainment viewing spectrum, I have really good friends who choose not to have cable, at all, because they feel there is so little value to be found in most TV shows. They use their DVD player to show their kids a very limited amount of pre-approved programming.  That’s great, and it works for them.  I’m one who respects each parent’s personal decision on things like this.  It’s really difficult to be a good parent in the 21st century!

The challenge for us is to figure out what we will allow our kids to experience on TV, the internet, or even as downloaded music and videos.

Gone are the days of only 13 channels and limited access to entertainment.  It’s a big business, and it surrounds us in a multi-media, 24/7 schedule.  It’s overt and overwhelming, and it can easily take over a child’s life.  The messages out there can effectively blur the boundaries which we have so diligently tried to set.

How do you choose what media is appropriate for your kids, tweens and teens?  It’s a very personal decision and one where we should show respect to each other.  But, given the plethora of children’s entertainment options, I’d love to hear what you consider to be ok, moderately questionable, or absolutely forbidden, and why.

Let’s talk about it…

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