As with lots of kids, Becky and Ro do enjoy their share of goggle-box entertainment, but I've taken care to always limit the amount of time they spend on it, and to monitor what they actually do watch as well. While I do allow the occasional inane programme -- ok, I have to admit Phineas and Ferb is funny -- I generally try to ensure the shows have at least some educational and moral value.
Every so often, I'll recall a show or movie I enjoyed as a child, and I'll ask my husband to see if he can find the DVD of it. The kids will sometimes moan and groan when they hear that tonight we won't be watching Barbie (get the 12 Dancing Princesses though -- it really is good), but invariably they get into -- and really enjoy -- the shows I pick.
Well, last night the hubs put on To Kill A Mockingbird, which I'd asked him to get. There was much doubtful hemming and hawing about how the kids were probably too young for it, how black-and-white movies would bore them, how racism is too deep an issue for them to grasp, etc etc. I simply said that I'd enjoyed it very much when I was their age, and that was enough.
Long story short, the kids got totally engrossed in it, Becky especially (she's eight); she even cried when Tom Robinson gave his testimony, and was later shot dead trying to escape. Without doubt the film and book bring up many deep issues to ponder -- racism, rape, the courage to stand up for one's principles, and the loss of innocence, to name a few -- and I was glad to answer Becky's questions and discuss them with her in greater detail. She asked, for instance, what "nigger" meant; when I'd explained, she likened it to the protagonist Jesminder being called "paki" in the movie Bend It Like Beckham. I was glad that she was upset by such offensive, disparaging bigotry, and the fact that it continues till this very day.
I did To Kill A Mockingbird in school when I was about 13, but it was the image of those carved figures left by Arthur Radley in the knot of the tree that has never left me since I saw the film when I was seven. Gregory Peck, still unbelievably handsome at 46, was phenomenal as Atticus Finch; the author Harper Lee -- whose own father was an attorney who had defended two black men accused of murder -- even gave him her father's watch and chain because he reminded her so much of him. And the music, written by the amazing Elmer Bernstein, is as haunting now as it was some 50 years ago.
Seeing the kids' rapt attention reminded me that some works are classic and ageless for a reason, and one should never underestimate a child's profundity. Equally, the degree to which they absorb the things they see and hear should make one very, very circumspect about their TV, and even internet and cellphone, activity. Violence, suggestive themes, lax morals and bad language are all too easily accessible in today's shows and video games, and they all have far-reaching social and behavioural implications. I think parents have a definite responsibility in this regard -- simply leaving Junior with the TV or Xbox as a babysitter is not the answer to realising his full potential or creating a better world for future generations. There are lots of helpful resources on this available, including this and this.
Have a lovely, tranquil weekend everyone!