Should an 11 year old be watching Pretty Little Liars? I don’t think so. I find there is a huge gap in television shows for children between the ages of 5-11. When our daughter was a tiny tot, she of course used to love to watch Sesame Street, Blue’s Clues, and Dora the Explorer, as all toddlers do. But how do you go from Barney to Hannah Montana? By the age of 5 she liked watching Hannah Montana and the Suite Life of Zach & Cody. However, I didn’t feel comfortable with my 5 year old watching some of the things the kids on these “Disney Channel” shows were talking about, and much less, the way they spoke to their parents. I found myself constantly telling her that these kids only spoke to their parents this way because it’s a TV show, and that no one does that in real life (sure). My husband would repeatedly tell me that these shows were really inappropriate for such a little girl to watch, but it was a very difficult choice to make. Anytime we went to Target, Toys R Us or even Macys, there were tons of toys, clothing and DVDs of these programs that she had become familiar with, and that as usual, most of the kids in her school were also watching. And honestly, she had outgrown Blue’s Clues, and there were no other shows for her to watch.
When I was growing up, I used to watch The Brady Bunch, The Flying Nun, I Love Lucy and The Partridge Family. These were all very innocent shows, where children acted like children and were not so incredibly disrespectful. I realize that in today’s world these programs might appear “corny” and very old-fashioned, but at least they were wholesome, and my mother didn’t have to worry about any inappropriate topics coming up. That’s when I realized that my daughter and her generation were growing up too quickly. By the time she was nine, she was watching iCarly and The Wizards of Waverly Place. These were OK; however, Alex Russo is no Jan Brady.
By the age of 11, she started telling me that her classmates were watching Pretty Little Liars, The Secret Life of an American Teenager and Switched at Birth. These shows all have ratings of TV-14, clearly not appropriate for 11 and 12 year olds. And don’t even get me started on Gossip Girl! Once again, I was facing the issue of, “Everyone else’s parents are allowing them to watch”. Of course I used the old line, “I don’t care what anyone else is doing, only what you’re doing”, and I forbid her to watch these shows. Luckily, she was content with still watching the Disney channel and its new programs, such as Good Luck Charlie (which is my favorite of all these Disney shows), Shake it Up, and Jessie. She also loves watching Full House (which she has the entire DVD collection) and old episodes of Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Boy Meets World.
Jump 2 years ahead and now at the age of 13, she’s really into Dance Academy and House of Anubis on Teen Nick. I’ve recently allowed her to watch The Fosters on ABC Family, but because it’s rated TV-14, I watch it with her (against hubby’s better judgement). I’m not thrilled about some of the topics on this show, but at least now I believe she is old enough to understand that life is not perfect, and that these are some real topics that others kids her age face. By watching it with her, she can also ask me questions on topics that may sometimes still be over her head. I know some of the parents reading this will disagree about The Fosters, and that’s OK. Only you know what your child can handle, and only you should be making those decisions.
I am not trying to raise my child in a plastic bubble (although I have been accused of that in the past), but I’m also not interested in rushing her childhood. There is a place and time for everything, and she will soon find this out on her own. I wish I could tell some of these parents to allow their kids to be kids. Everyone seems in such a rush these days for their children to grow up. Maybe it’s different for me, as I only have one, but it puts a smile on my face whenever I catch my daughter truly acting her age.
Now, if we could only bring back shoes like 7th Heaven and The Facts of Life!