Can Reading a Book Actually Harm Your Child?

Every now and then someone comes into your life that makes a difference. I met a lady, actually, not a lady, but a blog, like that some months ago. You’ll find her at: http://www.helicoptermomandjustplanedad.com/. I encourage you to folow her!  Go there after you read her guest post below and after order your free readers guide to Messengers in Denim by subscribing to my blog. Simply click on the “follow” button on the lower right margin of this page! Enter your e-mail and I’ll send you an e-book to enjoy and help you be an even better parent!!

Thanks C.Lee Reed! I appreciate your thoughts on this very important issue!

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Philippians 4:8 [NIV]: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

As the mother of a teenage girl, I am vigilant about the media options that I allow my daughter access to [VMA’s are a no-no]. As the mother of a teenage girl that LOVES to read, I have found that passing on my love for a good book can often be problematic in today’s Young Adult genre. Today’s authors have written beautiful stories intermingled with content that seems unnecessary for our children. I fully respect freedom of the press and am thankful that I live in a country where anyone can publish their art. However, as much as I wholeheartedly believe in our rights, I also know that it’s my right to protect my child from some of it. It’s a delicate balancing act and one that is made more difficult by the booming Young Adult book sales. girl reading shocking book Which brings us to the recent article that has caused an uproar online:  The Case for Good Taste in Childrens’ Books. The wonderful Dr. Par graciously asked my opinion on the stance and by golly; he’s going to get it! The trouble is, after reading and re-reading the article, I have found that it gave me more pause than I was expecting. I am fully torn between my job as a parent [an overprotective one at that] and my love of the arts. Being a writer myself, I am driven by the fact that my readers enjoy my prose and while they expect me to write about parenting issues, I could easily slip a story or two about health or fashion onto my blog without much reproach. Authors seem to recognize that once your readers have dedicated themselves to you, they will remain faithful; and this issue of inappropriate content may stem from that. They know they can get away with producing risqué subject matter after they’ve become popular among young adults. We’ve allowed young adult book authors leniency and our children are paying the costs. Graphic content sells, whether in books or on the big screen so it’s easy to ignore the inappropriateness, particularly for our teenagers who are just forming their opinions about love, life, sex and their futures. So why then, have so many authors chosen the easy route and included smut in their young adult books? Meghan Cox Gurdon mentioned that the authors all say they are writing today’s reality into their stories and that teenagers are more advanced than in previous generations. I don’t buy into this “well they already know about it anyway” mentality. Even if that were true, and I assure you that for many teens they aren’t exposed to this type of content regularly, does that mean we need to reinforce the horrible truths so often? Can’t they just be left to “know” about it and escape to books for a better reality? My life commitment is as a wife and mother so when I grab a book to remove myself from a crazy day, I read of far off travel to exotic lands with an endless supply of sleep and desserts. I don’t want to read about the 9 to 5 grind; I already live it in real life. Our children are the same. Give them books about travel and heighten their curiosity, tell tales of colleges filled with amazing new friends and they’ll look forward to that time in their lives, describe families with loving parents, 2 kids and a dog and they’ll wish for a Godly spouse. young teen thinking of future I realize that in some cases, our teens have been exposed to issues they should not have been. Many would make grown adults cringe. Pornography, sex and rape, thievery and suicide are all too common subjects that have become accessible and it seems there is no longer a taboo to discuss them publically. I remember my parents speaking in hushed tones about adult topics and we knew not to listen. It seems as if parents now feel it’s okay to speak of these things in front of their children. Why? I presume it’s because they “know” their kids are reading it, viewing it, and doing it already so it’s no longer a mystery. Teens, often afraid to ask their parents for clarification, reach to their friends for answers on mature content. If their friends don’t know, these books lay it all out for them; unfortunately, it’s often in a skewed, tabloid hyping way. They often describe the worst case scenario just as if they were speaking about preparing breakfast. This is so wrong and we need to stop with the laissez-faire attitude about inappropriate topics for our children. And yes, my 17 year old is STILL a child. We need to get back to parenting our children and preparing them for smart choices in adulthood. We need to make them aware of the horrors of life in a calm sensible manner, not graphic detail. We need to support the arts and freedom of the press, however, we need to demand that it’s age appropriate. We can do this by refusing to buy material that is inflammatory and not suitable for our 12-18 year olds. Publishers need to stop worrying about their bottom lines and take responsibility for the smut they are stocking our shelves with. Authors need to leave volatile discussions and descriptive text to those that write for adults; or to non-fiction books and manuals that explicitly mention they are written to describe adult content and come with advisories. Parents, we need to stop thinking that our children are grown and can handle material that is nonchalantly slipped into today’s books, without realizing that it does affect them or stimulate them in some way. A perfect example of this is the Twilight series. Kids are intrigued by the scary vampire aspect (who doesn’t love a good scary movie?) and it would have been a perfectly good story without all of the sexual innuendos and gory scenes. Just because my daughter knows that sex is happening between other teens, doesn’t mean that I want her to actually view it. And sadly, the graphic scene in this book (made into a movie) could have been watched by a 13 year old as it was rated so loosely PG-13. Twilight missed the mark on being a good, sort of scary, book about friendships, conflict and forever love by adding in gore and sexual content. Shame on the author for including mature content in a young adult book. Shame on producers for exaggerating and sensationalizing the story so it would sell. Shame on parents for buying it because of branding pressure. Of course, the naysayers, as in the article, will reason that “fairy tales” aren’t believable and have no affect on our teens as they are known legends. Teenagers certainly understand that vampires or mummies don’t exist but by putting these creatures into real life fictional situations; it can be overwhelming. Let’s remind our children that only the Holy Ghost is hanging around them! Let them read a story and surmise the peril that has ensued, don’t lay it all out there for them. I bet we’d all be surprised by the answers given if we asked a handful of teens to “rewrite” a story. I would venture to guess (and Dr. Par has experience with teen conversations, so feel free to back me up); most teens would write of happy relationships where love prevails, scary stories where the hero wins without a graphic murder of the opponent. They prefer to be entertained not reminded of the horrors in the world. Be responsible for what items come into your homes and speak your values to your children; often. Let them understand why you want them to value their bodies enough to forego pre-marital sex, ask them to tell you about the friend that is cutting herself as a mental professional may need to evaluate, and describe the impact that rape has on the victim. Let them learn from you, not a writer that makes money by adding grandiose content in an unnecessary way. I’ll jump down from my soapbox by saying that I appreciate each and every writer and their commitment to keeping our children reading. I just believe with every fiber of my being that they could accomplish the same task by writing interesting and uplifting content that has our teens begging for me and lingering over their thoughts on the book. Fill their hearts and minds with discussion of friendship and love; don’t leave them replaying a savage mutilation over and over in their minds. Parents, we are our children’s advocates and we can create change by becoming aware of the mature material that is easily accessible to our kids. Books, movies and music need to be carefully reviewed and approved by parents for the sake of our children. Kudos to Ms. Gurdon for bringing this to light. Hovering high and low, Helicopter Mom and Just Plane Dad C. Lee and Khris Reed hope to change the world’s perception of helicopter parenting by proving that no harms comes to children whose parents hover. You can stay highly involved in your children’s lives and still maintain a happy, healthy, loving connection. Listen to their Tales from the Not-so-Darkside of Parenting at Helicopter Mom and Just Plane Dad. Visit them on Facebook and Twitter. Now, aren’t you glad you read this? Does it make you question what books your kids are reading? Or, do you think C. Lee fell out of the helicopter and landed in the wet, wet sea? Let us know your thoughts!!

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