“Just Let Em’ Watch TV!”

It’s amazing how often parents just stand by and watch their kids lose their innocence.

This past weekend on my flight coming back from speaking in Nebraska two elementary-aged kids sat next to me. Their mom sat a couple rows behind and her kids ended up by me– a boy and girl, probably 3rd and 5th grade.

I introduced myself and joked a little about the drawings on the emergency card. They laughed and I asked them questions about flying, “Have you ever flown before?” “Do you like flying?” I wanted them to feel comfortable with me for the flight. After the takeoff, I helped them order their drinks and work the tray tables. They were really polite, sweet little kids.

Soon the little girl pulled down her seat tray, removed a stuffed monkey from her bag and placed him up on the tray, sitting comfortably with his legs crossed and staring back at her with his shiny black little eyes. The boy pulled out a toy dragon and placed it with care on his tray table.

I remember thinking, “How young. How innocent.”

About 30 minutes into the flight, they slid their backpacks from under the seat in front of them and pulled out some magazines. The little boy had a MAD Magazine, the little girl had the newest tween magazine, littered with pictures of Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Robert Pattinson and other teen idols.

It was heartbreaking watching this little girl, probably just 8-years-old, looking in awe at pictures of Miley and Kristen, reading little “did you know” facts about their celeb lifestyles. It was upsetting because I saw the innocence slowly being sucked away. Here’s a sweet little kid who probably just learned how to ride her bike. Her favorite companion is a stuffed monkey. And what does our society want to do with these little girls? Grow them up much too fast!

Here little girl… look at this celeb named Miley. Or this one named Britney. Sorry, we can’t show you pics of Lindsey right now… she’s fresh out of rehab and back in jail.

Which ‘Twilight‘ guy do you like better? Robert or Taylor? Here they are with their shirts off. Aren’t they dreamy? Here’s a rapper singing with Justin Beiber. Oooops, don’t download any of this rapper’s music– it’s explicit.

I felt like covering the monkey’s eyes. I’ll protect you Baboo!

After the kids tired of the magazines, they started playing with their toys. It was adorable. “Hey, let’s say that Baboo rides your dragon!” The kids made their toys fly, wrestle each other (the dragon seemed to always prevail against the monkey), and romp off to an assortment of imaginary worlds.

All of a sudden their mother came up to check on them. “Hey, use the earphones and listen to the music or watch the TV show.”

The kids stared back at their mother like, Do we have to?

Mom dug the headphones out of their seat pocket and showed them how to put them on. “Here, watch this show.”

I looked up to see what United was playing for “family” enjoyment. An episode of Two and a Half Men (I kid you not).
The kids reluctantly put on their headphones and stared up at the screen while their mother returned to her seat. After two minutes the kids grew restless. The boy leaned over to his sister, “Let’s play some more.”

The headphones disappeared, Charlie Sheen’s sex jokes were silenced, and within seconds Baboo and the dragon were back to wrestling once again.

If only we could freeze this moment of innocence.

Unfortunately, in just a blink of an eye, middle school will arrive, the monkey and the dragon will probably be shelved, and the iPods of these two cherubs will be full of that day’s Katy Perry, Christina Aguillera and Miley Cyrus. Mom won’t have to encourage TV watching anymore; TV will trump building forts, riding bikes and playing with toys. ABC and MTV will become their teachers, innocence will be totally lost… all under the watch of well-meaning parents.

But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.’  (Ezekiel 33:6)

But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Matthew 18:6)

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over a dozen books including the new Get Your Teenager Talking, The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket, The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenager, and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the 10-Minute Talks series. Jonathan speaks and trains at conferences, churches and events across North America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.
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10 Responses to “Just Let Em’ Watch TV!”

  1. Patrick says:

    Thank you Jonathan;
    This one is a keeper … you’ve said it all. I wrestle with this as my children are right where these two are in your story.
    Sad.
    Thanks for letting us in on this epiphany.

  2. Anna says:

    Jonathan!
    That was one POWERFUL article, it was so brutally honest and TRUE.
    My eyes welled up with tears just reading it, my heart aches agrees with you at the same time. I don’t even have kids of my own yet, but the society in which kids are growing up today is sliding down the muddy slope so fast. Very sad!

    and that verse about the Watchman being held accountable, it gave me shivers! THANK YOU for being that watchman and doing YOUR part, it only encourages me to do mine!

  3. Benjer says:

    All of a sudden their mother came up to check on them. “Hey, use the earphones and listen to the music or watch the TV show.”

    The kids stared back at their mother like, Do we have to?

    Mom dug the headphones out of their seat pocket and showed them how to put them on. “Here, watch this show.”

    I looked up to see what United was playing for “family” enjoyment. An episode of Two and a Half Men (I kid you not).
    The kids reluctantly put on their headphones and stared up at the screen while their mother returned to her seat. After two minutes the kids grew restless. The boy leaned over to his sister, “Let’s play some more.”

    The headphones disappeared, Charlie Sheen’s sex jokes were silenced, and within seconds Baboo and the dragon were back to wrestling once again.

    Wow. That just makes me sad.

  4. Jesse says:

    It’s amazing what parents allow their kids to watch. I just got back from a youth trip where I was chaperon to four Jr. High guys at the hotel. They were dying to watch some pretty offensive stuff that was just part of their daily routine and they thought it was unheard of when I asked them to turn it off especially being only 25 and having no kids. But, because none of their parents had rules against it, they immediately deemed it watchable in any case.

  5. Jesse… I’m glad to hear that from a 25-year-old. Keep those standards. It’s a tough balance as an adult leader, being their friend but at the same time having to say, “Sorry, we’re not going to watch that.”

    It is amazing what kind of garbage the adults in today’s world have deemed okay to feed to our kids. And the sad thing is… there really aren’t too many clean options. It’s a struggle to find clean programming.

  6. ilona says:

    Wow….REALLY powerful. Don’t you just wish you could whisk those kids out of that impending danger?? I don’t know how you parents do it. I’m 23 and have an 11 year old sister that I keep a constant eye on. Thank God she’s come to realize real quick that all those “celebs” are no role models and does not even read magazines (that’s my girl, hehe).

  7. WOW!! Thanks, Jonathon for sharing that experience with us. What a perfect example of what’s happening in the homes of American families. I share your articles with my youth leaders all the time. The research you put into them is invaluable. Keep up the great work. God bless you, your family and your ministry.

  8. Thank you for sharing this story. Your story provides a great message and warning to parents. While no parent is perfect and make mistakes, it seems like some common sense would go a long ways. I wish more parents would put a value on creative play where children entertain themselves rather than needing outside “things” to be entertained.

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    from next time? Thank you for the post.

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