Confessions of a Geek Mom: Filtering Isn’t Fun

Many parents in today’s world pride themselves on what they filter. It’s become a topic to boast and shove in other parent’s faces. It’s something that fuels arrogant pride and vicious mom-war battles online and even at playdate tables.

“My sweet Jimmy only watches wholesome shows from the 1960’s.”

“Oh really? well MY dear Janie only sees shows about Jesus and the alphabet! She’s ready for first grade reading and she’s only 4 years old!”

“Oh that’s nice, but I’ve raised my darling Samantha on nothing but classical music, we don’t even watch TV because, as you know, it’s bad for their brain development.”

Ugh. Gross, right?

I’m going to be the one to stand up here – I’ll raise my hand and I’ll be honest; I hate filtering.

There. I said it. I HATE FILTERING. It’s time consuming, it’s frustrating, it’s annoying. I’d really just rather not. I do it because I have to, not because it makes me look like a good mom. Those “good moms” full of all their judgement and ego-based parenting can shove it.

I hate that I HAVE to filter in order to allow my children to be part of almost any experience. The fact there is so much crap my kids can be exposed to that filtering is a necessity is frustrating beyond belief. Monitoring every single little thing, 24/7, on every single form of media just to make sure we stay within the realm of age-appropriate content…. It’s exhausting and irritating for ANY parent, but I think it’s especially so for a geek mom. Why? Because deep down, we want to share this world with our children and we have to hold ourselves back on a constant and daily basis. It’s me against the “shiny” and my better judgement against the “long term effects” consequences of allowing some experiences too early. The conflict is maddening.

I am one of the more conservative geek parents I know and this creates huge problems for us. For me, it’s all about timing. Exposure to certain stories, behaviors and experiences is a carefully planned process and it can make momming pretty challenging when all you really want to do is immerse yourself, and your family, deep within the four color well of never ending awesome.

I know plenty of geek moms (and dads) who don’t think twice about it. They let their kids watch whatever they feel like and their children are perfectly well behaved, well adjusted humans with good attitudes. I’m not judging others’ processes here, I’m just saying, for me, it sucks and I hate it.

I wish I could be those moms for a day, the ones that just know that exposure to things that are not age appropriate won’t negatively influence their kids… but that is not the reality of my life. Well, my son’s life, specifically. See, I didn’t come to this style of parenting on my own – it was a process of learning what I can and cannot expose him to. He is an incredible, tiny human who is an expert of imitation and reenactment. He can remember the worst parts of any movie, the most unrepeatable phrases, the most inappropriate scenes and he can remember them in expert detail, then, much to my horror – repeat and reenact those scenes and lines in front of everyone who absolutely should NOT EVER hear it.

Yes, my child with the short-term memory of our favorite little blue fish has a gift for cherry-picking the worst behavior and repeating JUST THAT, over and over and over again, compulsively, for days.

For me, it’s a careful balance between “OMG I can’t wait to share this with them” and, “DARN IT, Absolutely NONE of this is age appropriate!”.

As a parent, I live with the tiny devil on one shoulder whispering into my ear at all times – “DOOOOEEEETTT!!!” while the mini-angel on the other is reminding me of all the reasons I am choosing NOT to step one foot into the doors of “you can’t take that back” bad parenting choices to let them watch things they shouldn’t.

It happens often enough without my help because YouTube does not filter their child-appropriate content from the inappropriate content very well. My kid could be watching some perfectly innocent game-play video with a 9 year old gamer talking about Minecraft, then, two seconds later, it’s some adult with green hair screaming things like “you sh*t eating c**ksucker!!!” at his TV screen, playing Five Nights at Freddy’s while I fall over myself scrambling for the remote to change it before those words get stitched into the fabric of my son’s core vocabulary.

The most recent struggle on my doorstep comes in the form of my favorite of all the Marvel franchises; Guardians of the Galaxy. With the new movie out, I have to make a choice – do I or don’t I… allow them to see it? They’ve already seen the first one, (probably not my best parenting move, I admit) all their friends have already seen it, but is it really a good choice for MY kids to see it? As I already mentioned, most kids are not my kids. Or, specifically, my son with autism, adhd and issues with compulsive tendencies. He just doesn’t know when to quit sometimes, y’know? So, while it might be okay for someone else’s child, I really have to take a long, hard look at the reality of my life and decide if it’s okay for MINE. Most of the time the answer is no, even when I’ve said yes, the answer aught to have been no.

Like that time I let them watch Invader Zim and he was walking up to random people yelling about how he was going to conquer Earth and destroy all humans. Or that other time I let him watch YouTube without supervision and he found a show where the kids were telling fart jokes or the other kids who made these movies where they ran around their house pretending to shoot each other in the head with explosions and animation. Yeah, that was a super good time at grandma’s house, let me tell you… He now tells people he wants dynamite for is birthday because of things I’ve allowed him to watch that I knew better than to let him see but did it anyway because I’d hoped he wouldn’t latch on to the ONE bad thing and that ONE bad thing is the ONE thing he remembered. He was obsessed with Gravity Falls and now pretends to summon demons in my back yard. I let him watch Pixels… Wanna know what he remembers most? When PacMan ate his father’s hand. He thinks that was hilarious and talked about it for a week after to literally every single person we saw.

He goes into gory details of what he has seen in these movies, all while the adults around us are looking at me, horrified. I try to bury my head in the sand and cover my child’s mouth who refuses to stop talking about death, explosions, zombies and aliens blowing up the Earth. I have to prep him on the way to certain activities… “now, honey… remember; we can’t talk about dead things at church, grandma doesn’t want to hear about someone being eaten by a shark and I PROMISE you, your teacher at bible study doesn’t want to know about Bill Cypher”.

“Now, honey… remember; we can’t talk about dead things at church, okay?”

The fact is, I can kick the ground and sigh all day about how much I want to share things, but the answer is still going to be no. Of course they shouldn’t see those things- and not just the myna bird 6 year old, the 4 year old doesn’t need that stuff in her head, either, and the justification; “well, they already saw part 1” isn’t a good enough reason this time because, apparently “Vol. 2” is ten times worse on all fronts; sexual content and innuendo, bad language, snark, sarcasm, bad attitudes, terrible people and LOADS of violence being condoned throughout. It’s rated PG-13 for “sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content”. Bottom line; even if I wasn’t dealing with the added factor of sensory processing issues, my kids aren’t 13. They are six and four (that’s still a toddler, guys!). There is absolutely NO REASON on the planet I should allow them to watch this movie other than the fact that I love it, I want to watch it, and cannot wait to share it with them. There’s also the fact that I’ll feel bad because all their little friends have already seen it, so there is a bit of peer pressure from the mom circle, too.

So, why do moms even have to make these choices?? Well, the real issue is the marketing and peer pressure and the culture of parenting that says “meh, who cares? They’ll see it eventually anyway”. Our culture makes it okay to expose children to content that should be reserved for older humans and on top of that, demonizes those of us who wish to allow our children to just be children a while longer.

The system is wired for you to not care. The system is designed to break the “rules” and let your kids see these movies even when you KNOW deep down you do them a disservice by allowing it. I mean, let’s be honest, it’s not that you don’t KNOW a six year old shouldn’t see this movie, right? But the companies fill their preschool/kinder shows with commercials for merchandise from it. They fill the toy isles with amazing things for ages “3+” with characters who say the word “a**hole” every 2 pages of the script. They dump a giant, glittering, LITERALLY golden theme park ride less than 30 feet away from the ONE land in the park designed for 2 and 3 year olds and they expect you to make the “right” decision?

No, of course they don’t. They expect you to cave because you love your kids, you love the franchise, too, and literally everyone else’s 5 year old has already seen it. You don’t want to be the lame parent with the only kids who haven’t seen it yet, right?

At the root of my rant is a frustration with two, specific things:

1; Ambiguous marketing that targets children FAR below the actual target demographic for a film/TV show/video game. They deliberately make the parents the bad guys in every situation possible because it always has to be US who say, “no, not till you are older” and deal with the tears and confusion with toys and cartoons they can watch, but films and games with the very same characters that they can’t.
2; Films that SHOULD be child-appropriate suddenly aren’t, causing even MORE confusion and frustration for children AND their parents as we have to surgically filter specific things, again – making parents the bearers of bad news as some of their favorite characters are suddenly inappropriate for them to see. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Marvel…)

My son was destined to love Rocket. He’s a tiny kid who loves big guns. It was inevitable that he’d relate to this character. A character who, on the whole, is totally not a character for kids.

Maybe other parents don’t deal with this the way I do because they aren’t geek moms and they don’t really care, watching shows or playing video games aren’t on their radar to begin with so it just doesn’t come up. That must be nice…

*Sigh* It’s times like this where I think, man… it would be so much easier if I just liked home decorating or gardening, or book clubs… some “normal” mom activity. But noooOOOooo… I had to be the kind of mom who prioritizes trips to Comic Con higher than trips to the library and why stay at home cleaning our rooms when we could go to Disneyland instead?

I think it’s going to be a long 18 years… for all of us.

What are some of the things you’ve let your kids watch that you realized afterward might not have been the best plan afterward? I’d love to know I’m not in this alone.