I know you like to check out that new Youtube craze or watch the latest scandalous TV series, but kids ARE affected by what they see on television or online, and if you don't want your kids to behave like the depraved lunatics you tend to see in those places, you simply cannot watch it in front of your kids, even if you're constantly going to judge the content and tell them never to act like what they see. They saw it, you laughed, you lost.
Kids are smarter than we think. Helena is able to speak in German because she's at an immersion school. She will know German almost as well as English in a few years. I know this because I went to the French Immersion school. If kids can absorb a language that no one in their family or community speaks, what can they absorb from television or the internet? Sure, they can learn a lot, and both mediums are great learning tools, but they can also be manipulated and taught what you might not want them to learn, so you have to be careful and act on the behalf of your kids. You also need to realize that they can get places on your computer and DVR that maybe you can barely get to, so prepare yourself.
Use your DVR to record shows. Skip ads if you're watching with the kids. They will ask for ridiculous products if they see them. It's OK for kids to want stuff, but it stinks when they are bombarded with ads and propaganda that tells them what they want. Let your kids look at websites that review the products and allow them to be good consumers at a young age, but don't send the kids blindly to a product or show web page. Those sites can be just as manipulative as the ads during their favorite shows. If you can't be around all the time for the kids, then use DVDs from the library or watch another channel. If you want to watch your own shows, DVR them and either make them off-limits or watch them that night after the kids are in bed, then delete them right away.
Watch PBS. Ads on PBS are boring and not going to make you buy the product. While its government-funded, the content is not government propaganda. The PBS website is a closed site that does not link out to lots of products for sale. Sure, they want you to buy some stuff, but it's generally what you want your kids to want. If you left one channel on TV all day long, wouldn't it, shouldn't it be this one? If there is one perfect family network, it's really PBS. While you might think that some of the news is too this or that, and the kids might not be as excited about the shows as on some of the other networks, if you are a young parent, you should thank your lucky stars every day for PBS and for the fact that someone is watching over you when it comes to what your kids see. Really, no matter where you stand on anything else when it comes to a free market, if you want kids to have decent values, then support PBS and our government's role in keeping it independent of mass-marketers.
Preview content. Being a teacher, I know all about this one. If I don't watch a Youtube clip, it will inevitably have something inappropriate, boring, or just wrong factually. Since administration likes teachers using these tools, I need to preview all kinds of educational videos during my prep time. I have to know that what I'm teaching is what the parents expect me to teach, yet many of those same parents allow their kids to view anything that comes up with a certain search criteria, or anything in prime time television. Just keep this in mind: much of what is humorous or intriguing goes against the norms of society. Take my wife... please! See? Didn't see it coming in that context, and that made it surprising, maybe even humorous if you'd never heard the much used joke. To most of us, however, that joke is lame and old, so we've got to go further to surprise and entertain. I've done the search once and click forever on Youtube before. While Youtube might be PG-13, you will end up places you might not want to be, and Google Images can be the same way. My students now have laptops every day in the classroom, and when I have thirty freshmen with their computers open, I need to guide them each second. I can keep them busy, entertained, and educated with the right content and supervision, but I work all the time at doing this. Parents need to do the same if they want similar results.
Use the library. You know there's this place you can go to get free entertainment. It's called the library. You might scoff, but a lot of kids become grown ups who forget about the library. The library has age-appropriate books, DVDs, CDs, and even some computer programs. FOR FREE. Yes, we all pay a bit in taxes for this luxury. Maybe you see it as a waste of tax money, but even my conservative in-laws used Cash for Clunkers, whether they agreed with the philosophy of the "entitlement" or not. Even if you routinely complain about public funds being used to buy books and lend them out free, you sure as get out ought to use it while those books are still free.
Read reviews. If you must purchase items, read what others have to say. We love Amazon for the reviews. You might have to read a dozen reviews before someone mentions what you're thinking of as important, but you will generally find the information you want. Don't just buy based on star-rating, but it's useful. Read a little. The fact that you're looking at this article means you care, even if you can't do everything suggested (they are, after all, merely suggestions based on our experiences).
Be there. If you send them away and allow them to find something to entertain themselves, do you think they're going to turn it off and come running to you when they find something questionable? We're all curious. Don't let them discover alone. You'll make mistakes and watch the wrong thing once in a while, but you'll be there. Really, that all you can do. You can't personally change what they'll see or spare them from the first Friday the 13th marathon at a friend's house, but you can communicate with them and try your best to help them handle what will be coming their way.