I know we all differ, even under the unschooling umbrella, in terms of how we approach the amount of tv/computers etc our kids watch. That's cool, we all have different experiences, situations, etc.
I am interested though, do you limit certain kinds of shows? I suppose I'm thinking of the obvious stuff that gives a show one rating or another (sex, violence, language, "adult themes"-and I can see the argument for limiting for only certain of these).
If you had a kid dead set on watching something you felt deeply inappropriate, would your bottom line be that they shouldn't watch it, or that they could? I'm assuming you've already tried guiding and discussing with them in this situation, obviously. And I know its something many of us get to sidestep in actuality, I'm more interested in where your bottom line would be. If you had six year old who wanted to watch The Blair Witch Project-and I know of such six year olds!- would you let them?
Right now my kids are happy to accept my guidance as to what they can watch and we tend not to go above a 12A (I don't know the US equivalent but this means that its advised only for kids over 12 but that parents can exercise discretion-this would be The Hobbit or Star Trek ) for my 10 year old and to an extent my 8 year old. We'd tend routinely to be more in the PG (bit scary, parental discretion but all ages) bracket. My 5 year old I restrict far, far more. I don't restrict for language and I don't restrict especially for sex (though there's not much in a 12A!), and certainly not for stuff like nudity, but I do restrict for violence, because this scares my kids. I know other families who are the opposite, who would object to a naked woman onscreen but would be ok with graphic violence.
My bottom line, my point of last resort, would be a "no, you cannot watch something that scary". But I know families who would not say this. I'm interested in where people here draw the line.
I don't think there is a right or wrong way to do this. I think all of us will be doing what is right for our kids, I'm just interested - purely nosily curious- in how different families work with this one.
I'm not paranoid about what my kids watch, but there are limits. For example, I watch Sons of Anarchy and American Horror Story on FX. I watch those in my room, without the kids. They have asked to watch the second one, and I just tell them no, because it's not appropriate for kids. Do they like it? Not always, but they respect that I've said no and that means they can't watch it right now.
But I'm not one of those parents that thinks my kids shouldn't watch violence, mild sex/nudity (meaning no full frontal, but hinting that it's sex or showing a naked backside), stuff like that. I think it's fine, to a point and as long as we discuss why those things are or aren't appropriate. So we'll watch a show where, say, someone breaks in a home and the homeowner shoots them. We'll talk about how yes, shooting people is wrong, but if someone's breaking into your home, you have the right to defend yourself, your family and your property, and if you choose to do that by gun, that's your right. We'll talk about how calling 911, using a baseball bat and/or hiding in a closet might also be appropriate responses and why you might choose one over another.
But as I said, some shows (like the two I mentioned at the top) are too violent and/or too sexual and I do put my foot down on those. I'm willing to let my kids make a lot of their own decisions, but there are some things that I feel are still my decisions to make.
I don't let my 12 yo ds watch rated R (adult, ages 18 and up) movies. He has watched PG-13 movies for years but we were more careful of them before he was 10. I don't let him watch a few tv shows I hate that are not intended for children (Family Guy.) I think that is the only thing he really wanted to see that I didn't want him to watch. This was when he was about 9 or 10. We did watch a few episodes together and talked about it with me freely interjecting my values. It's a confusing show for kids because the characters do outrageous stuff (racist, sexist, etc) and portray it as normal. Kids don't pick up on the nuances or that the show isn't necessarily promoting those sorts of attitudes. For scary stuff, ds has always self regulated. He doesn't want to watch anything scary or gory. I'll look things up and get details about a movie and run them by ds. I think the website is called Kids In Mind. It gives details about exactly how a movie is violent or sexual so you can make more informed choices. When he was really little (3-5ish), we were very careful because he was sensitive and was disturbed by most Disney movies and kids shows. He didn't watch anything before he was 3. He wasn't at all interested.
We haven't had to deal with this much. I think I cringe over the sexist/racist stuff more than anything. I grab "Smokey and the Bandit" at the library, remembering how much I loved it growing up, but lord almighty! I would have an easier time with a brief view of sex than explaining prostitution to kids. And the foul mouths in that movie! Sexism and racism and yikes. They also did not quite grasp cops=the bad guys. I think that was more of a 1970's counterculture leftover I grew up with. Luckily, the girls were very quickly bored. I'd love to introduce the Bond movies, and can navigate the sexism as an adult, but I cringe for my daughters.
But, OK, they are 6yo asking to see Blair Witch project. My parents might actually have let me. I do remember my father (dreadfully irresponsible divorced--he is not nor ever was my "parent" but he did let me drink beer and let my sister smoke at 11yo. You get the picture) Anyway, my father let us see Amityville Horror in 1978 and my parents' (mom, stepdad) only objection was it gave my sister nightmares. They let us watch Texas Chainsaw massacre and some seriously R-rated movies. My mom handed me some very graphic dime store novels at a tender age. I think it was her substitute for "the talk" which she was physically incapable of, probably more likely to implode into a singularity than utter the word "vagina".
But 6? I think I would say "no", and ask them if they wanted to try another scary movie first. Every kid is different as to what is scary. My oldest loves all the LOTR movies, but Men In Black, with the weird alien wearing a decomposing skin of a redneck and finally bursting out into a huge bug, scared the daylights out of her. But BWP? That's really more of a horror movie and not something just scary, so at 6, no, I doubt it, but I might find some older "horror" movies like the original Thing from Outer Space and King Kong. Gojira is really fun. And definitely no trouble with the LOTR, assuming they had the constitution for it (though in a dark theater? We'd have to work up to that.) If I felt deeply, I would be willing to put up a fight. And when I became exhausted because they refuse to give in, I might let them watch it. They'd either be bored or terrified and ask to turn the movie off, I think. Really, that's more my personality, but I admit I should probably stick with my guns on this.
10-11yo is the age of allowing horror movies and other stuff--like the sexism in otherwise fun Bond movies. We can talk about the tricky parts, they can be scared and maybe have a nightmare and learn about their own personal fear threshold without being permanently scarred (like my kids might have been if I did give in ).
Currently, because we homeschool and only have access to library videos, don't see ads for movies, etc., I am in a place to restrict access absolutely without them blinking an eyelash, but I don't. My girls like adventures, battles, and spooky stuff. I'm mostly limited right now to how much explaining I want to do during a movie. We watched "Oh Brother Where Art Thou?" the other night, picking out the scenes from the Odyssey, and I had to explain chain gangs, the Ku Klux Klan, record contracts, flooding from dams, who the movie's Lotus Eaters represent, what a Bible salesman was. I explained the Circe pun: in the movie the characters are turned into the "pigs"instead of being turned into pigs themselves. Had to explain police= "the pigs" etc etc.
Earlier that day I had had a conversation with dd1 about what "hate" really is and how frightening humans can act when consumed with hate. Well, the lynch mob scene in that movie was easier to explain as a result. But I really hate having to break the realities of racism, as necessary as those conversations are. It brings me near to tears to have to explain this to them, knowing they have to know. Makes the issue of scary movies pale by comparison. Unfortunately, the reality of human history is far worse than any movie can portray. Oh, yeah, we enjoyed the movie. I did some narrating along the way so the story wouldn't get lost.
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"Let me see you stripped down to the bone. Let me hear you speaking just for me."
DD is 5 and there are some things she watches that are rated for older kids...like ALL the superhero stuff is rated Y7, but she's been watching it for years. She watches some anime that's rated 14...but it was stuff we watched and knew didn't really have anything we minded (mostly mild swearing) and some PG-13 films (like The Avengers). If we said "this is too scary for you", she'd listen because she doesn't like scary stuff....though some kids DO.
I have an almost 10 year old that begs to watch all sorts of things that I consider inappropriate - American Horror Story, Walking Dead, etc. She really loves horror and never seems to have nightmares or be terribly affected by watching scary stuff, but at the same time I don't see any reason why she needs to see violent, bloody, nasty, disturbing stuff. I don't really have any rules like "PG only" but I stick to a case by case basis. We let her watch World War Z (PG 13), which she found boring but I thought was a mistake because I worried the theme of the world being over run by zombies might worry her (it didn't) but later we watched a rated R Italian ghost story that was really tame, not gory and I don't even know why it was rated R.
As for sex, I guess my feeling is overall the same as mentioned above - a quick love scene or some nudity is less of a big deal than a film about sexual abuse, child abuse, or rape or prostitution. I'd feel more comfortable letting my child watch some horror/ghost movies than most Lifetime movies.