The kids are home or will soon be home for the summer holidays or what we used to call ‘long vacation. So, it’s that time of the year and we get to have this conversation again. On one hand, parents are happy that the kids are home. On the other hand, how best to occupy or entertain them is a real and pressing challenge. Add the fact that some children will end up spending up to seven or more weeks at home and you can picture some parents feeling the ‘long’ in the long vacation.
My immediate concern of course is what kids watch on television. Do you know what your children are watching on TV? Are they watching programmes/films/shows appropriate for their ages? This would mean that you – the parents – know what’s appropriate.
Knowing what’s age-appropriate has been made easier by satellite/cable television since most shows have the ratings displayed. I always remind parents that those ratings are not just designs on the screen; they serve as guidance. However, you also have a right to decide what’s appropriate for your own kids. Just because a programme is rated a certain age category does not mean you, the parent, shouldn’t decide whether it’s appropriate for your children.
That’s the easier part. What about stations on terrestrial TV, which don’t have ratings? Not only that, they are not always sensitive to when kids could be watching TV. Surely, it’s not so impossible for TV stations to actually have a holiday programme schedule? After all, summer holidays come every year.
Still making parents’ lives more interesting is the fact that TV has fast moved from the good old box in the living room to all kinds of devices at kids’ fingertips. The typical Nigerian parent, especially those who want to show they’ve ‘arrived’, buys the latest gadgets for their kids. So, in addition to knowing the content of what your kids are watching on TV, think iPads, smartphones and laptops, too.
At the end of the day, parents do have the most important task of ensuring that their kids watch clean TV. It isn’t that they have to turn policemen. Even that would not be enough to keep kids from all the sleaze on the airwaves. A good plan is carrying the children along. As clichéic and Nigerianese as that sounds, it simply means letting the kids know the risks involved in watching certain programmes etc.
This should be an ongoing conversation which should also entrust some of the responsibilities of doing the right thing on the children. And it actually helps to begin this conversation/negotiation as early as possible. The idea is that you’re not helpless and should not be a hapless receptor of garbage disguised as entertainment.