Ask BBB: Parenting Advice from Betsy Brown Braun

QUESTION: My 10-year-old daughter listens to hip-hop music that is altogether too racy and suggestive. I can’t believe some of the lyrics I hear. Am I being a prude or is it okay for her to listen to this stuff?

BBB: Join the party! You are no different than the parents of many tweens and teens who are shocked by the lyrics to songs and the images of online videos that saturate parts of many kids’ lives today.

Just yesterday I had a client who shared that her 3-year-old’s favorite expression is “Shut up!” She learned it from the repetitive lyrics to a song her 8- and 10-year-old brothers blast from their room.

The funny thing is that each generation of parents has its issues with the “inappropriate” language, images and ideas to which their kids are being exposed. I remember well stories of parents being absolutely horrified, even repulsed, by Elvis Presley’s pelvic rotations! Seems pretty harmless today, right?

I am sure that Socrates’ own children gave him plenty of worry and aggravation, pushing the boundaries he and Mrs. Socrates made for their kids.

We all want our children to stay young when they are young and to make the most of their childhood. We don’t want them to be exposed to ideas and realities before they are able to understand them in context. There is no question about the danger and damage of premature exposure.

When I was being raised (when dinosaurs roamed the planet), music came to us via black circles of vinyl called records. Parents actually allowed you to buy them and listen on the family record player. There were no videos, no music videos and the visuals were beamed through the television on which there were a total of six channels with two TVs per household. The point is that parents could actually control that input.

But in our all-digital age, it sure is hard to shelter our kids in the way many wish we could. That would mean using blinders and earplugs on our kids when we let them out of cold storage. The point is, racy stuff—inappropriate language and visuals—are everywhere, and it’s hard to avoid.

At younger and younger ages, kids are being exposed to sights and sounds meant for much older kids, whether by permission, parental inattention, peers, or peers’ siblings. What’s a mother to do?

Sadly, there is no definitive answer to this problem. As long as parents are allowing their children access to computers, iPads, iPods, iTouches and iPhones, it is there. There are parental controls galore, but even these don’t do the whole job.

You are not a prude, but likely your daughter thinks you are. Didn’t you think your mother knew nothing, didn’t understand you, and couldn’t possibly ever have been young?

The best answer I can offer is to stay your ground. All parents must have limits, boundaries and rules for their kids’ use of any devices and their media diet, as well.

Let your child know what words you don’t like. Have conversations about why and when those words are or are not used. You may be faced with lots of explaining, but better it comes from you than from the playground.

I can promise you that your daughter likely knows a whole lot of words that she does not use because she knows not to.

Help your child know that it is your job to monitor her exposure. Most children do not understand about “readiness” and will plead their cases. It’s her job, by the way, to fight you on it. But in the end, you are making your point, and it is having an impact. You’ll see.