Nothing makes a parent realize the content of what they are watching on television quite like watching with a child. Last week, my family sat down to watch GLEE, which I love and watched all last season with my 12 year old daughter. This week, my second grade twins sat with us and half way through, I put the kibosh on the program for kids.
Last season broached some adult topics for sure, but at age 12…these are likely things my older daughter is encountering anyway, and I feel comfortable talking about them with her. In ways, it brings up subjects that may not come up another way. But this last week, watching with 7 year olds, I felt a whole new wave of conviction.
In 30 minutes I got the questions, “Is that a boy or a girl?” (In reference to the she-male football coach) “Does that boy want to be a girl?” (Kurt) “What is a boob job?” “What did she do to her boobs?” “That boy just saw another boy naked!” “The cheerleader was pregnant? Where’s the baby?” Yes, it is time for TiVo. While these questions are debatably appropriate for 12, these topics are certainly not age-appropriate at seven -at all.
According to the University of Michigan Child Development Resource, “71% of 8-18 year old children have a TV in their own bedroom.” What is to keep little kids from watching Glee at 8:00 if parents are not around? Who answers the questions that this program insights? It’s alarming to think what they may assume, in the name of adult comedy and certainly something parents should be paying attention to.
At seven, a child can barely grasp simple facts of life, let alone advanced social topics; many opinion. In addition, sarcasm is present in almost every line. Though adults enjoy sarcasm, specifically in the name of comedy (as proven by Glee’s soaring ratings), children are just ebbing on understanding sarcasm with people they know well. Sarcasm delivered by those they do not know is more likely translated as fact. What an older audience may deem total entertainment, is most likely confusing to young children and leaves tough unanswered questions for kids. Ambiguity leads to restless sleep and insecurity in children. For parents that allow uncensored television viewing, that is not just scary, it’s sad. We should protect our children from viewing anything they are too young to understand.
Though the theme of Glee, overall, is almost always “acceptance,” the message of acceptance usually doesn’t surface till the last 3 minutes of the show. In the meantime, young children are exposed to fabulous examples of bullying, how to be vindictive and judgmental, tricking and lying, nonstop sexual references and the ease of perfectly clear stereotyping. These are things all adults should want to spare their children from learning.
I love the theme of Glee and see the positive message there. Rightly, most 12-year olds can also understand the full circle of a theme that surfaces in 3 minutes of an hour long program. But can a 7 year old? Probably not.
Seven year old homework is still identifying a topic: “What is this about?” Can you imagine letting a seven year old watch a full episode of Glee and then asking, “What is this show about?” Imagine the responses! What would stick with them? This show is rated PG, but with the “stand out” material showcased in an average Glee episode, parents should guide their kid’s right out of the room!
For a more in depth Glee review for parents, visit http://www.commonsensemedia.org/tv-reviews/glee.