I wrote about this in depth on a Transit Dialog piece, but I would like to reiterate it on this blog.
You see, I’m the type of mom that doesn’t censor content from my daughter (most of the time, at least). She has a phone at her disposal that she can use to view videos, make calls, pretty much anything she likes. Disclaimer: she is turning four years old, and only reads through pictures (and letter-by-letter, for simple, familiar words). From that, you can probably grasp what sort of apps she can use and how she uses them.
One app that she loves using is YouTube. She particularly likes browsing YouTube shorts. And why wouldn’t she? They appeal perfectly to a kid’s short attention span. Imagine – a whole story told in just a few seconds.
Interestingly, we find that she is often the best judge of the content she consumes. She doesn’t like anything that involves gruesome monsters, so she actively avoids that kind of content – often shutting it down (or asking us to get rid of it if the device is not in her control). However, she does like the softened-up, cartoon version of Halloween creatures and Halloween-themed shows for kids.
We’re loosely follow the lazy parenting approach that’s pretty much the talk of the town on the Internet.
Does this mean we leave the child to her own devices without parental supervision of any sort? No, far from it!
We empower her to make her own choices, and guide her so she can learn the skill of self-regulation.
We allow her to take calculated risks (and sometimes fail accordingly) so she can learn her own lessons and figure out what to do next time.
The goal is for her to learn how to do things on her own, with minimal supervision.
Another bonus is that she gets to develop self-confidence because of how self-reliant she is!
Imagine how wonderful it is for a kid to be so, so proud of herself!
Parents tend to be concerned that leaving a kid to her own devices, particularly when consuming media, will lead them to questionable content.
It may be graphic, sexual, violent. Anything that could psychologically damage a kid!
I agree that the goal is to keep the child as mentally healthy as possible. But I believe in utilizing a well-balanced, non-authoritarian approach.
Sometimes, we do catch our child looking at content that might be questionable – such as short videos with kids playing in an unfair manner, destroying household objects for fun, or wasting resources (have you ever seen those shorts with people dumping out entire toothpaste tubes? Ick.)
In these cases, we calmly explain to her that such actions are hurtful or destructive, therefore doing them in real life is bad.
The key here is catching her in the act of watching them. This requires us to be present whenever she is watching.
Naturally, this is not always possible. But we aim to do so for at least 15-30 minutes a day. It’s a big deal and the lessons do carry over to the times that she is alone.
Another disclaimer: I monitor her phone use through Google Family Link, which gives you data about how long your kid has been watching videos, what games she plays, and even her phone battery level. All for free, of course!
I have also restricted her viewing to videos appropriate up to 9 years of age. So yes, there are still limits even when one chooses to follow a lazy parenting approach.
A child that young still needs to have some form of guidance.
The goal is for her to define her own boundaries and stick to them firmly. For her to grasp the whys and whens behind “right,” and “wrong” (and eventually, the in-between).
She may not be able to fully do so now, but she will learn through constant practice.
And what about “bad words?”
I personally believe it’s an inevitability that kids will hear so-called “bad” words at some point of their lives.
They’ll hear it on the streets, in school once they start going, and oftentimes from their very own relatives!
There is absolutely nothing we parents can do to 100% prevent them from hearing such words.
In fact, censoring these words while we are present (though they can still hear them when we are not around!) often has the opposite effect!
Children are extremely curious, and there is a very primal appeal drawing humans to things that are prohibited, or “taboo.”
This appeal gets even stronger during the teenage years, when peer pressure has a much larger impact on children than we do as parents.
So instead of framing “bad” words as taboo, we teach them how to use these words in the appropriate context.
I am perfectly fine with most cuss-words as EXPRESSIONS – as interjections when they feel an extreme emotion. That is my rule!
Cussing is scientifically proven to cause emotional relief – and in this case, cursing can even be a powerful tool for emotional regulation!
The most important thing is that they don’t use these words to put down or offend other people.
So yes, that song “abcdefu” by Gayle that’s trending on TikTok can be heard quite often in our home. It’s got a fun, upbeat tempo, and it’s all over the place. What a killjoy I’d be to press “stop” every time it comes on!
Sure, there’s a non-explicit version, but at some point, we’re going to hear the original anyway.
And, at the end of the day, it’s just a song.
If the child gets curious about the song’s meaning (which probably won’t happen until later on), then I will explain the context behind it.
“The singer is angry because she got cheated on, and she’s expressing her anger through a song.”
This isn’t to say that my setup won’t be changing ever. Someday, we might see the need to modify the “rules,” and we will do so as needed.
But for now, we will keep on doing what works for us until we see a reason to change it.
And that’s “lazy,” free-range parenting.