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:

  1. Let them read what they want
  2. Explain concepts in small bites, using terminology that they can grasp
  3. Be age/maturity/intellectually appropriate
  4. Don’t lie
  5. Keep answers short and sweet
  6. 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
  7. 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.

57 thoughts on “Anything Can Happen Friday: When is it Too Much

    1. But by putting the characters front and center, a kids going to look at them. The big bird one is at the bus stop in front of my building. Kids look at them and ask.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I think that unfortunately, kids probably understand them better than the so-called “adults” of whatever generation for whom they may have been intended. It’s about taking the long view of the problem which their elders, including me, have stuck our kids with. On the possible chance that someone may reach a solution before today’s kids become adults, I also think we should let them be as carefree as possible before they start learning even more graphically and personally as they age how polluted and therefore dangerous to their future existence the world is.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I had not seen those ads. I’m surprised to see them from Sesame Street. That’s the issue with education these days. They want to treat little children like they are adults, overload them with information that is not needed for their age range. This scares children when really they should be free to be happy, to play, to explore, be creative. It’s about age appropriateness in suggesting books for children to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know if it’s national, but it’s definitely here. One of these is right in front of my building. We have to explain things is a reasonable manner. These don’t help

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Is the objection because of placement, or objection to the subject? Of course kids are going to recognize the characters and the bright colors are eye-catching. Even if a young child can manage to read apocalypse or mass extinction, just as you noted, it’s up to the parent to explain (if they ask) in terms they can understand. Is there a need to fully define apocalypse/extinction? I would simply say that Big Bird and the Count want to remind all of us that we have to take care of our earth. Of course an older child is going to ask more, or more likely will already know the meanings. A wise parent can take that conversation to safe places about environmental science. These just don’t seem to be hugely controversial to me, given what kids are exposed to in other media on a daily basis.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The count one is placed a block away fromynhouse. Last week a five year old started crying cause we were going to die. While the kid and nanny were waiting for the bus to what appeared to be dance class. (FYI they took that particular sign down I noticed yesterday when I went to take picture. I got that image off internet)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well jeez, what did the nanny say?! Of course if an adult or older sibling blurts out an inappropriate answer the risk of scaring a young child is clear. I’d consider getting a new nanny who understands child development a bit better. I do still believe though that banning posters, adverts, etc would go down the same questionable path that you talk about with books. The world is full of all sorts of things a kid shouldn’t have to encounter.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The nanny just stood there trying to stop the kid from crying. Promised a cake pop. There are ads that are just I’ll conceived. This is one of them. It’s like marketing vape pens with bubblegum flavoring. Worrying about mental health is as important as physical health

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, those ads are inappropriate for children, agree!
    Our young people are already stressed to the max. Many young children on anti-depressants. Its sad! As you said, yes, they have a right to know, but we have to watch how we do it. We can’t go around talking gloom and doom and then wonder why our children are anxious and depressed!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A very thoughtful and truthful read this morning. I am 100% in agreement with all you said. I hate to say it, but your advice on explaining things is appropriate for ALL age levels. People will understand — if you explain things to them in language they can understand. Thanks for the article.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Bravo. LA this is a well written blog with wise and important information. You are exactly correct. As an educator I can tell you that the reason children MUST have things explained on their age level is because they are Concrete Thinkers. Young children CANNOT think in the abstract. That comes as they mature. They are LITERAL thinkers. So you can’t expect young children to understand abstract concepts like mass extinction. Their little brains can’t handle it. Literal thinking children would think the world is ending immediately. That in seconds everything would come crumbling down right before them. They’d be terrified and have nightmares, start bed wetting or freak out.

    My sons are almost 16 years apart in age. I can’t recall exactly what my oldest son joked about to his little brother but it was something about Halloween monsters. Well my youngest started being afraid of the dark, I had to buy him a dream catcher and leave his closet door open at night AND look under his bed before tucking him in. When I finally got to the bottom of things it was because he took something literally that his brother said about Halloween. You have to be very careful with young children. They can’t process like adults.

    Yes, answer their questions. They don’t want or need long answers. Just simple to the point answers that don’t go off on abstract tangents. As they get older the detailed answers and questions will come. But age appropriate answers are key!

    Those posters are ridiculous and will create nightmares for kids. What idiot approved them? Certainly nobody with any knowledge of children. Children are not little adults. People who publish material for children should have knowledge about how youngsters process information.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I felt I had to write about this as I was waiting for the bus and saw a kid melt down from reading the ad. That was exactly how the kid thought…they’re going to die now…

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      1. Yes! That is exactly how the mind of a child works. Poor kid is petrified. If there’s a way to find out who published the ad it would be important to shoot them an email and let them know what you witnessed. Your experience should open the eyes of those fools. OR repost your blog to some concerned parents groups. These ads border on child abuse. Who knows how many children see them and are emotionally terrified from their content. We need protesting moms and grandparents picketing in front of the ads. ( that’s the kind of stuff I’d do if I weren’t dealing with cancer and oncoming surgery prep.). I’m glad you wrote about it. Perhaps a letter to the editor to your local papers etc. The ads are outrageous!

        Liked by 2 people

  6. It’s certainly challenging to have to deal with something of that nature, especially if other people are reacting in a way that makes it clear to smaller children who can’t read/don’t know the word Apocalypse that this is something distressing. Is this some type of stealth underground education/manipulation like when they started to teach children in school about the dangers of smoking? I know my daughter came home highly distressed that I smoked – which did lead to my giving up, so the aim was achieved, but I’d have rather handled it differently.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Those ads are wrong! I agree with you about explaining to your children at an age appropriate level. Our son was an early reader and he was sitting in my husband’s lap looking at a magazine with my husband. There was some sort of ad with Lance Armstrong and testicular cancer, that my husband had to explain. I’m glad it was him and not me.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Definitely not appropriate and I agree with your ideas about how to inform kids. Another ad that is particularly disturbing to me right now is the Subaru ad with the disabled dogs. It is for National Make a Dog’s Day which I never heard of but the ad shows crippled and maimed dogs walking down a highway. I think it is horrible, even though at the end one of the dogs is comforted by a human. Who approves of these things?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have an issue with both big bird and the count appearing quite happy while the children look horrified about the statements on the poster. I mean these ads promote nothing but fear.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I haven’t seen those ads in Florida. Each region of the country is different. I do something in my classroom about the use of pathos, ethos, logos. I hope to use advertisements but since most of the families don’t subscribe to magazines, this limits us to commercials…interesting take. I will definitely screen carefully what I show, if at all.

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  11. Sesame Street has gone badly astray. Put those in the file with the poster of the woman who is told to congratulate herself for using illegal drugs “responsibly.” You ask if their purpose is to instill fear, guilt, and anger. Isn’t that exactly what our government has been doing to us for the last three years? People who live in fear can be controlled. (Orwell’s Big Brother, etc.–it’s not science fiction anymore.) One children’s book (for preschool-1st I would guess) starts with “You may have been wondering about abortion.” Really? Wondering will there be cookies for snack time, when can I go outside, can I have a dog? But abortion? Talk about age inappropriate. That is an adult agenda, not something for kids.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. YES!! That’s what I don’t think people get! If you made your kid cry over an explanation you would be a bad, abusive parent….it’s ridiculous.

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  12. I think the real issue is the fact that we even need shock ads like these, but I guess society has become so complacent over climate change drastic measures are needed. It’s looking like kids are going to be the ones saddled with solving this problem, so I guess the idea is to plant the seed early?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To play devils advocate again…what if people see the adds, think, oh, we’ve already lost, and then go off the rails? Wwii the Brit’s started that whole keep calm and carry on because panic wouldn’t help.

      Liked by 1 person

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