Watching shows with edgier themes can make for tricky family viewing. But before you press "pause," here are some points to consider.
Does it seem like your family is watching more TV these days? It’s likely not just your imagination. According to a report from eMarketer, television viewership grew by 8.3 million in 2020 - rewinding a nine-year decline.
For many families, it’s been another unanticipated consequence of pandemic life. More togetherness. More screens. More togetherness - almost inevitably - in front of said screens.
The result? A blurring of the boundaries between adult viewing and children’s content. In many homes across the country and indeed across the world, it’s all just Netflix now.
It’s not just sex - although heaven knows, there’s plenty of that. It’s also drug use, domestic violence, murder, and absolute avalanche of f-bombs.
Yet watching shows with edgier themes can make for tricky family viewing. It’s not just sex - although heaven knows, there’s plenty of that. It’s also drug use, domestic violence, murder, and absolute avalanche of f-bombs.
How do you react when the storyline takes a turn for the dicey, and your kids are next to you on the couch? How should you react?
You won’t be surprised to learn that there’s no formula here.
First there’s the stubborn fact that all kids - and indeed all families - are different. What’s perfectly age-appropriate for a mature pre-teen may be an awkward disaster for another. That means age-based rules can only ever be regarded as rough guidelines.
If you’re too self-conscious or too rigid - snapping off the TV at the first sign of whiff of controversy - you may miss the opportunity to start a conversation about something important. Consent. Fidelity. Gun control. Contraception. Gender …
“If you fast-forward, the implicit message will be that this is not something we can talk about together,” notes retired psychologist David Gottlieb.
But erring on the side of permissiveness has its own dangers. Kids can become de-sensitised to violence and drug use, or develop a brittle knowingness about sex (when in fact knowing little or nothing of it in real life).
“If you fast-forward, the implicit message will be that this is not something we can talk about together.”
But the bottom line, notes author and adolescent development expert Peggy Orenstein, is that in a digital world, parents probably have no idea what their kids have been watching online.
“You can think they’re not ready for ‘Bridgerton’ or ‘Euphoria.’ but they may be watching them on their own or their friend’s devices — along with ’365 Days,' which has been all over TikTok” and glorifies forced sex and bondage."
- Peggy Orenstein
“As parents, so much of our current job is about managing media and part of that job is to take a deep breath ... and start having conversations that our parents never had with us,” Orenstein says.
“Because if we don’t educate our children about sexual ethics, healthy relationships, substance use ... the media will do it for us. And I guarantee you won’t like the results.”
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