Breaking Your Mom's Rules

By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media Reviewer

One of the biggest challenges of being a mom or dad today is choosing which of our parents' rules to keep and which to toss. Finding our own style when it comes to 21st-century media management faces an extra hurdle because the media landscape we grew up in was so incredibly different (no Internet!) from our kids' experience.

Some of our parents' rules still translate -- my mom limited the amount of after school TV I could watch, and I do the same with my kids. But when it came to books, she was totally hands-off. I aim to take a more active role in steering my kids toward the good stuff and away from the V.C. Andrews novels that I used to read.

Our early experiences with media -- from TV shows and movies to websites and video games -- make a big impression. And, as parents, we have a lot of control over our kids' relationship with media. What we say and do now might one day be what our kids say and do with our grandkids. Did your mom know best? Was television a babysitter when you were growing up? Did your mom and dad make exceptions to their rules for truly excellent movies or shows? See how some fellow parents have interpreted the examples they grew up with.

Music Appreciation: Ingrid, kids ages 6 and 8, broadens her kids' musical horizons by exposing them to lots of different styles.

"As young kids, we only really heard gospel, contemporary Christian, or kiddie music. I think we were one of the only houses on the planet that didn't own Thriller," Ingrid says. But she does things differently. "For the most part, we're not overly restrictive -- we just keep it age appropriate."

Sports TV: Mick, kids ages 5 and 7, maintains his boyhood "sports exemption" -- but is stricter with screen-time limits.

"Growing up, we could watch unlimited hours of football, tennis, or soccer," says Mick. And though he's replaced Saturday morning cartoons with board games and Harry Potter audio books for his own kids, "I've continued the free pass for sports," he says.

Big Bird the Babysitter: Jill, daughter age 2, focuses more on content and co-viewing.

As a kid who spent hours in front of the television, Jill wants a different experience for her daughter. "I don't want media to be a solo sport where she's left to figure out the content on her own," she says. "I want to be available if she has questions and be prepared to discuss what comes up."

No Media Zone: Caroline, son age 13, continues her family's tradition of evening wind-down time.

Growing up, Caroline's mom made sure the television was off at least an hour before bedtime. "As my son gets older, I've started to ask him to turn off all devices and shut down the computer right before dinner," she says. "I like how it sets aside time to just be together."

Cuckoo Exceptions: Jayme, kids ages 7 and 9, stays flexible so her kids don't miss out on really good stuff.

"When I was 10, the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest came out, and my parents saw it and were totally stunned by it. They went back to it and took me, even though it was rated R. I wasn't allowed to see another R-rated movie for at least four years, but they thought this one was important enough that they would break their own rules for it," Jayme says. "Media can touch us in a very profound way that we want to share with others."

More from Common Sense Media:
Diary of TV-Free Mom: Getting Ready to Go Screen Free
Watching Sports Responsibly
How Video Games Helped My Kids Get Along