I am against book banning. There was never a book that my daughter wanted to read that I did not let her read.
I am also the kind of parent that always explained concepts and ideas to my child. I answered every question truthfully, and in an age appropriate manner. I believe in arming kids with the facts and with the truth, but I will stress: it must be done in an age appropriate manner!!
For example, my precocious, early reading four year old, after seeing it on a bus ad, asked me what Birth Control was. I simply said that it’s when Mommies take the time to decide when to have a baby. (I know parents who at that moment would have gone through the whole story about how babies are made. While I applaud teaching young children about their bodies and how they work, the city bus is probably not the time to launch into how and egg and a sperm unite)
In short, LA’s parenting philosophy, especially with regards to young children:
- Let them read what they want
- Explain concepts in small bites, using terminology that they can grasp
- Be age/maturity/intellectually appropriate
- Don’t lie
- Keep answers short and sweet
- Be aware of where you are: if you are in a place where you can’t give a good explanation to the question, say something simple that will suffice
- Teach them about everything, but in ways that they can understand and appreciate
And this is why I find these most recent ads disturbing:
I think these ads put parents and caregivers in a very bad situation. How do you explain this properly to a child when you are waiting for the bus?
I don’t know how I would have explained these ads, with beloved Sesame Street characters on them. I really don’t know how a babysitter or a caregiver or an older sibling would explain them either.
How do you tell your kids that Big Bird says the end is near? How do you explain it? I mean, I know kids are intelligent: I know they grasp things. But really, is it irresponsible for ads like this, aimed at young children, to be out in public where parents don’t quite know to interpret or respond to them? Or to be unaware of them until faced with it? Where’s the parental guide? Where’s the “For More Information…”? I mean really, give us a hashtag, but nothing about how to explain it to a child?
Is the intent to scare a child senseless? To fill them with anxiety and dread? To we want to be handing out antidepressants along with the oatmilk and gluten/peanut/sugar free cookies at first grade snack hour?
I definitely think that children should understand that doing things to the environment can be harmful- which is how you explain these concepts to a child. But to peak their interest with a character aimed at a young audience, but not give a reasonable explanation? I think this is foolhardy. You’ve made the already difficult job as a parent ten times harder.
Supplying children with information and answers is vital. But what’s crucial is explaining it to them so they understand and don’t get scared. These ads go straight to scared. Is this what we really want?
Fear does not make things better. Neither do guilt or anger. As a society we have to stop using these and pull out other tools from the toolbox to make a point. A society raised on fear and guilt and anger will lead to all those dystopian novels and horror movies becoming our reality. Can you imagine if your partner used fear and guilt and anger in your relationship? How would you feel on a day to day basis?
Children must be taught, but they need to be taught in the right way. Ads like this don’t help, they harm. Be careful of the messages that we put out into the world.