Raising G-rated kids in a PG-13 world

The other day, I  heard a radio caller who had just won two tickets to a Justin Bieber concert. “Oh! My daughter is going to be so excited!” she exclaimed.

That’s great! How old is your daughter?” asked the DJ.

She’s five!

I groaned. Five?!? OK, I’ll admit we are not Justin Bieber fans. And while I think he’s a gazillion times less offensive than, say, Chris Brown,  aren’t there more, er, age-appropriate bands for five-year-olds? (Wait! I know the answer to this question!) Does she really plan to drag her five year old to a concert? (This is me being judge-y, I know. Sorry.)

A day or two later, I read this piece by fellow kindie music critic and all-around good guy, Jeff Bogle, in which he slammed parents in his area for exposing  young kids to older-person music and movies before their time. This has lead to a rash of grade schoolers in his daughter’s classroom using words like “hot” and “sexy” in the classroom. And not as in “wow, it’s hot outside“, but as in “he’s really hot” and “she’s really sexy.” Gag. While I’m not convinced they really have any idea what they mean, I still gag.

So while I read his angry rant, I shook my head in agreement. . .until he got to this: Your 8-year-olds DO NOT need to, by nature of the time in which we are living, sound like a fucking pimp, in school or out. Make no mistake about it, you will regret not doing more to prevent this, and I sincerely hope your children grow to resent you for not working more diligently on their behalf, for not allowing them to revel longer in the blissfulness of their youth.

Oh. Eight year olds? That’s the age he’s talking about?

Shoot. Time to step down off my high-and-mighty horse.

Because as much as I’d like to say that my homeschooled children have grown up listening to age-appropriate tunes and classical music their entire lives, that isn’t really all that accurate.  And when it comes to my youngest (my eight year old), he has definitely been exposed to more than his two older sisters were at his age.

From the moment he could watch TV, D. was watching what his older sisters were watching. Granted, they were only 6 and 4 when he was 2, but still—no Teletubbies for this kid. No Dora, no Sesame Street, no Mickey Mouse, especially when he was five, six, seven and, now, eight. He could pick out Victoria Justice before The Count in a lineup.

And while he still listens to some kids’ music, he proclaims he is “too old” for most of the CD’s I try to share, preferring instead the pop music of his 11-year-old sister. And last year, (at the tender age of seven) that meant that he loved—and I mean LOVED—this song. He loved it enough to sing it loudly wherever we were. My only hope was that his speech difficulties made it hard for other people to understand what he was saying. I’m sure we got the hairy eyeball from at least a few parents. (Though is this song any different than that iconic Right Said Fred song every 90’s kid knew by heart?)

I get what Jeff is saying, though, and try to limit some things that bother me most. We have the cable networks locked down so much that my oldest cries foul every time she tries to watch Cartoon Network. She gets upset that she can’t go onto YouTube to see the funny videos her friends share, or visit a website that hasn’t had prior parental approval. She was p-i-s-s-e-d last night when I told her she can’t start her own Blogger site without a long list of guidelines and privacy settings..

But, she’s going on twelve. So, I give her some slack. Which means that, since the other two are with her almost every day, they get some slack too. I don’t change radio stations as quickly as I used to and let her listen to a lot of the pop music her friends hear. All three kids curl up to watch a PG movie I never would have let my oldest see at the age my son is now. And when she wants to play Hunger Games (a book I only recently let her read) in the yard with her older friends, I let the younger ones play along too.

It’s a tricky dance, I know. Though it’s made me think about how much more my youngest has been exposed to compared to his older sister was.

It also made me think: Maybe that radio mama with a five year old who is into Justin Bieber also has teens who have his posters all over their rooms and sing his songs as they get ready for school. Or cousins who play the music whenever they are together. Or a bus driver who blasts the tunes on the bus (as is the case in our neighborhood).

I’m not sure how you keep these words and songs completely away from kids, though I’m with Jeff on this: When I saw two wee little girls, maybe four or five years old, standing in the Barbie aisle at Target and saw one of them point at a boy doll and say, emphatically, “he’s HOT” (while the mother smiled down at them), I thought, “Ick“. Really, ick.

Though, in hindsight, my son was probably two aisles away, looking at the LEGO sets and singing, “I’m sexy and I know it” under his breath.


  1. Good post. If Bieber is appealing to younger kids than the older teens will start turning their back on him, he’ll fall from popularity and soon we will be rid of HIM! W00t!!11!! Oh. Wait. That wasn’t the point, was it?

    It’s so easy to limit a child to age appropriate media when they are the eldest child or an only child. But it would be cruel to limit older kids to shows and music that are “safe” for younger sibling. As a homeschooler I walk a fine line between exposing my children to things that are current with their friends and censoring shows and movies and music that I don’t approve it. I’m fully aware that if my child doesn’t know about something trendy, they’ll be labelled as “weird, unsocialized homeschoolers.” That being said, I often find parents are pretty smug about their kid liking age inappropriate shows and music. The 5 year old Beiber fan is not necessarily more mature or more clever because she enjoys pop music, anymore than her peers who likes the Wiggles.
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    • Oooo, love your devious Bieber plot!

      Yes, I don’t try to shield my kids from my music all that much either (well, maybe some of it!), but that doesn’t mean I don’t also let them “just be kids” and listen to stuff made just for them. I cringe whenever someone says that all kids’ music is terrible—it’s just not true.

  2. And then they reach an age when all of their friends are watching whatever tween show is in, but their parents aren’t ready to let them do that. They’re teased for that, and while I don’t ever want to make my parenting decisions via peer pressure, how do I know when they’re ready to grow up? (NEVER. NOT HAPPENING.)
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    • My oldest is almost 12, so you can imagine the territory we’re getting into with her. . .it’s so so so hard. I don’t need her to “follow the flock” (yikes), but I do realize that sometimes I treat her like she’s 7 and unable to handle older-kid stuff. When it came to The Hunger Games books, I realized that she probably would be able to handle it, so I let her read it. It took a leap of faith but I am glad I did it. Not so sure about the movie though. . .

  3. He hopes their children resent them later? That’s a lot of negativity coming from someone preaching “blissfulness” of youth. Hmmmmm.

    I like your post. I still just have an infant, but it’s instructive all the same!
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    • Thanks Deb. I think that was just frustration—he’s a super guy. And he feels really really strongly (obviously) about this topic. Personally, I don’t think kids will really “miss” what they don’t know (my son, for instance, never pines for Sesame Street or Dora! Thank goodness! lol!) though I can see the wisdom of letting them have their “own” music, shows, books, etc, and not just giving them a diet of “our” favorites. But it’s almost impossible to shield them from everything. And, oy, when you hear what 12yo girls are discussion? I’m still cringing over one recent discussion I heard. Sigh.

      • Ok, I will take your word for it. 🙂 Also, I’m trying to be less judgmental.

        I have a post swimming around in my head about how I can’t deal with real tv anymore and I’d rather watch the Big Bang Theory with my husband or Sesame Street with my niece. (Not Dora though, oof, good lord.) Maybe I’ll have to unpack that one of these days.

        And please, don’t tell me what 12yo girls are saying. Accckkk!!!!!!
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  4. Oh, I’m so in the same boat Christina! My 7yr old is 7 going on 17. With two older brothers, I feel like he’s never watched or played with anything age-appropriate. I shudder when I think of him at school hanging with other children his age who happen to be the OLDEST in their families. I’m sure he’s “teaching” them a thing or two…
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