General Question

keobooks's avatar

Why do many parents heavily censor what their kids read, but NOT what they watch in movies or television?

Asked by keobooks (14301points) August 30th, 2010

I was talking to some parents who wouldn’t let their 8 year old child read “Captain Underpants” because the book contained fart jokes. However, they had no qualms about allowing the same kid to watch “Revenge of the Sith” unedited—even though it was extremely violent.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this but it stood out. I’ve seen parents rally against a book that had a single swear word in it—but a movie with several swear words gets a pass from them. What’s up with that?

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38 Answers

jackm's avatar

I don’t know if it matters, but my parents where the opposite when I was a kid.

Randy's avatar

I would assume it’s because the television holds kids attention better than books and keeps the children out of mommy and daddy’s hair for longer but I could be wrong. Maybe they don’t want their kids to fart but they don’t mind them killing people with light sabers? Who knows? You’d have to ask the specific parents for their reasoning.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

That’s a good question – I don’t know why but it makes no sense, to me.

Seaofclouds's avatar

It doesn’t make any sense to me either. I’ve seen people that do that and do the opposite though. I restrict books and movies equally for my son.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Mine let me read almost anything except porn (which I did anyway), although they hated how much I read Babysitters Club instead of… Moby Dick, I guess. But they really limited how much TV I watched, what shows I watched, what movies I watched.

Frenchfry's avatar

This question reminds of a people who order everything off the menu and then orders a diet coke . Defeats the purpose to me really. I think it’s easier to ban a book then keep a kid away from TV. TV keeps them entertain like @Randy said. Everyone is different what they find acceptable. They may like the show but not the book. They may find the book more offensive. They just don’t want their kids to read it end of story.

janbb's avatar

I was more the opposite too – although I didn’t heavily censor anything. I always was open to talk about anything they had read or seen that raised questions for them.

CMaz's avatar

Because they are stupid.

marinelife's avatar

I don’t think the facts your are stating are widespread.

keobooks's avatar

@marinelife I work in a library. I see this ALL THE TIME. Almost daily. I am sure that I am not in some freakish location where this only happens in my library. I posted it because it JUST HAPPENED today not so long before I posted this question.

Nullo's avatar

It’s not all parents, if that helps.

There’s something to be said about messages in media: Captain Underpants fart jokes are seeding more of the same in the young mind, but ROTS teaches us about human nature, the dangers and inhumanity of wholly-mechanized combat, that excellent ideas do not make an excellent writer, that the source of your problems is sometimes right under your nose, that sometimes Good takes a while (and some effort!) to triumph over Evil, and that whiny brats get their arms and legs lopped off by Ewan McGregor.

A kid who cracks more fart jokes is seen as an embarrassingly immature, but the 10-year-old that takes away one of ROTJ’s more sober talking points is thought of as deep.
Besides that, you have to hear fart jokes in order to ‘appreciate’ them, and if you provide the kid with more, you’re going to be hearing more of them. I’d rather have my kids running around with those Force FX lightsabers, tyvm.

Arp's avatar

It doesn’t really apply to my, my parents censor EVERYTHING. My 7 year old little sister still can’t watch spongebob (because of it’s “satanic themes”), but she has seen the entirety of “The Passion of The Christ”. Multiple times.

CMaz's avatar

Lets see, in the day… There were only 7 channels.

keobooks's avatar

@Nullo : Your answer cracked me up! I never thought about the fact that the poor parents of Captain Underpants readers have to hear a wide variety of terrible fart jokes all day long already and the last thing they want to do is to give them more ammunition to drive them crazy.

I figure I’d rather hear fart jokes that were written by an acclaimed writer than the fart jokes kids make up on their own. But there’s only so much you can do to make a fart joke literary.

GladysMensch's avatar

Frenchfry : I always order Diet Coke, but it’s because I’m diabetic. Nothing raises blood-sugar quicker than a glass of high-fructose corn syrup.

Nullo's avatar

@Arp No, Spongebob really is evil. Your folks are doing you all a favor. XD
I’m kinda surprised that your sister bothered with TPOTC, since the whole thing is subtitled Aramaic. They’ve made a version of the story that focuses on a group of kids, and is in English.

Really, I sometimes wonder if we haven’t gone overboard with the violence censorship. We’re born knowing how to be violent; watching people apply violence towards a good end can only be beneficial. Which is why Star Wars gets a pass and GTA doesn’t.

keobooks's avatar

@GladysMensch —I have gestational diabetes , so I can kind of hear where you’re coming from. But What’s the point of getting the extra large fries, the fried chicken sandwich with the fat bun (carb city), then an ice cream (sugar and carb city) and THEN get the diet coke? I think that’s what @Frenchfry was talking about.

Nullo's avatar

@keobooks I get diet coke because it doesn’t fizz as much. Since the drink’s already competing with a cupful of ice for space, I need every edge that I can get.

GladysMensch's avatar

keobooks : I just wanted to point out that not everybody drinks diet for caloric reasons. Also, fast food may be bad, but adding regular soda on top of it makes it hella-bad; especially for diabetics.

keobooks's avatar

@nullo : I dated a guy who only drank diet coke because he actually preferred the flavor.

@GladysMensch —Ahh I see. I thought you were also defending the “everything on the menu” too! Ha. I always get water or milk (not so much the milk since the diabetes) because the only carbonated stuff I like isn’t served in most restaurants.

I feel obligated to say some book related stuff so I don’t get thrown off topic in my own thread, but ehh..

lillycoyote's avatar

@ChazMaz In my day I too, the 3 major networks, a public tv station, and 3 UHF stations, when the signal was clear enough. My parents let me read just about anything but they wouldn’t let me watch Outer Limits, the original one, that is.

GladysMensch's avatar

OK, I’ll chime in on the actual topic. My lovely and effervescent wife is an elementary school librarian. She agrees that the Captain Underpants books are mostly crap (pun possibly intended), but she also says that kids, especially boys, love them. The books may be stupid and juvenile, but so is their intended audience. The boys will eventually mature beyond the books, hopefully as proficient readers. They’re then more likely to pick up more challenging books and continue to do so throughout their lives.

keobooks's avatar

I wonder if some parents want to look like they are doing SOMETHING to raise their children right—and it’s easier to yank a book out of a kids hand than turn off a television. Kids usually read alone, but they can go out and watch anything with friends. Also, if you’re going to watch certain movies, it’s cheaper to let the kids come than get a babysitter.

Parents have all kinds of weird reasons for censoring kids’ books btw. They don’t want their kids reading books that are “too easy” or books that aren’t intellectually stimulating, or books that aren’t classic, or books that are too much of a fad. It’s not just about protecting their innocence.

Nullo's avatar

I remember that, for years, I had the impression that Mom didn’t want me to watch whatever Batman cartoon was popular during the mid- to late-nineties, which always seemed odd to me, because she had no problem with letting me watch TMNT, Power Rangers, and even Pokemon (though in retrospect, I can understand why her acquiescence for Pokemon was strained.). I asked her about it one day, and she said that she merely thought that I wouldn’t like the show.

MissAusten's avatar

Hmmm….I haven’t run into too much of this, but I also haven’t asked other parents what they do in regards to censoring books or TV. I know a lot of parents who let their kids watch movies I wouldn’t let my kids watch, but have no idea about the books.

My parents did the opposite when I was a kid. They were more careful about TV (but not that careful, since they were fine with me watching Miami Vice when I was in grade school), but they let me read anything I wanted to read. I know I read some books in grade school that I would not be comfortable letting my kids read.

As for Captain Underpants, it really isn’t that bad! My five and six year old boys love them, and even my 11 year old daughter has borrowed them from her younger brother so she could read them. The humor appeals to kids without being completely disgusting, and I haven’t noticed an increase in fart jokes or potty talk since the books found their way into our home. To a certain extent, reading is reading. I’d rather see kids with Captain Underpants than no interest in books at all.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@keobooks I prefer the flavor!!! Sometimes they give me regular instead and I just throw it away.

YARNLADY's avatar

Many parents are inconsistent in training their children. There is nothing odd or unusual about this, because there is little incentive for parents to undergo any classes on how to raise children.

boffin's avatar

. . .but NOT what they watch in movies or television?

Don’t forget Video Games

keobooks's avatar

@boffin—thanks for mentioning the video games. Because you’re right about that.

I have a new theory. I think people think reading all has to be “good for you” and “educational” rather than just entertainment. Most of the parents who are strict about books, but not the other stuff seem to focus on the quality of the book, rather than the naughtiness of it. The more I watch these parents, the more I see that they complain that their kids are not reading the right kinds of books.

I think when you snatch books your kids like out of their hands and try to put “quality” books in their place, you’re discouraging reading. I read TONS of trash when I was a kid. I ended up becoming a librarian and I probably read more books in a month than most adults read in a year. Reading poor quality trashy books* didn’t make me a slow reader and it didn’t lesson my appreciateion for “quality” literature.

*VC Andrews, Those teen First Kiss romance novels, Clan of the Cave Bear—all great 1980s teen reads.

MissAusten's avatar

@keobooks I read all those books as a kid. Sweet Valley High was my first book addiction, followed by VC Andrews. I even borrowed my mom’s romance novels as early as middle school. And WOW were they educational. I went through the Stephen King phase in high school, but sprinkled throughout all those less-than-stellar books I read Gone With the Wind and everything by Jack London I could get my hands on. Also, Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, and many others. Now I’m an avid reader of a variety of books. Except the romance novels, which I haven’t even looked at since those early, informative years.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@keobooks My parents didn’t discourage my reading “trash” at the time, but I found out later that they hated it. They said that it was “all I read” – you know, except for all the required reading for school, and the required reading that gave you a choice (ie pick a classic, write a report, get credit), and the books they read to me at night like Winnie the Pooh and the Little House on the Prairie series, and the American Girl books. The way I see it, you can read Jane Austen and Charles Dickens later in life, but you almost definitely won’t learn to love reading later in life.

I think my parents were just whiny. I mean, the horror of having a child who loves reading so much that she sneaks books into classes that bore her and actual punishments include taking away her books? Man, the difference between me and Dylan Klebold is thismuch.

Ah, Sweet Valley High. Aka, My First Erotica.

zophu's avatar

I think most parents lack the natural self-determination that is required for actively shaping a child’s life. Most people in general seem to lack it. Decisions for how to raise children are usually arbitrary. While this can be effective in ways, it’s not a replacement for constant active involvement. I’m only 21 with no prospects, but I’ve been keeping lists of books and movies I remember being good in my childhood to offer to my potential children. There’s no way I’m going to let them to watch raw TV if it’s anything like it is today. Right now though, all I’m worrying about is fostering a real sense of self-determination so that I can build a life good enough to share with a family.

mamalis's avatar

I can answer this from the perspective of a parent of a 7 year old boy who DOES let him read the Captain Underpants books! There have always been books in the arsenal since the beginning of time, that ‘elder society’ thought would pollute its children. For the most part, I believe in capturing a child’s interest and thus drawing them into reading. Reading opens up a plethora of avenues and opportunities in life and if Captain Underpants gets the kid immersed in reading, then I’m all for it. They naturally will expand their interests as time goes on. As for the parent in your example, that’s plain silly. As long as there’s not swearing and blooding killing – get the kid reading!!

Nullo's avatar

@mamalis If you want to draw them into reading, there are far less annoying avenues. Take Space Cat, for example. It’s about at that reading level, and it opens up the wide, wonderful world of science fiction. It’s a nice, juicy homemade hamburger to the popcorn that is Captain Underpants.

keobooks's avatar

@Nullo I’ve found that if your kid really wants to read Captain Underpants, anything else you suggest will rarely cut it. I mean you’re comparing popcorn to hamburger. If you had a craving or popcorn, would you want someone to try to give you a hamburger instead of popcorn? When I am in a popcorn mood, that’s what I want—not a hamburger.

This is exactly what I’ve been talking about from the beginning. Parents are always trying to pull the old bait and switch with their kids—trying to replace something “more wholesome” or “more challenging” or just “better” than whatever they actually want. If you want a kid to love reading, you have to let them pick out what they want—so long as it’s age appropriate, they have to own their reading.

And as good as “Space Cat” may be. It looks dated on the cover. This is a big turn-off for reluctant readers. I’m sure it’s a great book. But if a kid is picky or isn’t too keen on reading, a cover can make or break it for kids (for many adults too!) That’s why kids books change their covers every few years, if you’ve noticed that.

Also, Captain Underpants is a series. If you can get your kid hooked onto one book in a series, you are set for a good long while. Kids will read the whole series, then go for anything else by that author or anything else you can promise will be just as gross or just as funny.

When you’ve got a picky reader, they aren’t too keen on exploring outside of that ONE book they find interesting. So a series really lends itself to several weeks or months of “safe” reading. The kid knows he’s going to like the other books as much as he liked the first one. It’s not a whole new world every time he opens the book. That’s well and good for adventurous readers, but when 9 out of 10 books you’ve picked up in your life bore you, you don’t want to “waste” your time on books you won’t like—and you may not want to risk the great unknown shelves very often.

I’ve worked in the book retail industry for almost two decades and I’ve spent several years in libraries in schools and in the public sector. In all my jobs, kids were my main focus. I’ve also gone to school and taken several classes in library science. And I’m sorry, but Space Cat would need a whole lot of TLC and handselling before I could get it off my hands. Captain Underpants—well, no matter how many copies you buy for the shelf, there will always a few missing titles in the series and kids will be dying to read more.

MissAusten's avatar

Have any of you read “How to Eat Fried Worms” or “Freckle Juice?” Also quite gross, but they were favorites of mine when I was a kid. Gross books for kids have been around for a while, and Captain Underpants is a more recent example. Aren’t there also books for kids called “Everyone Poops” and “Everyone Farts?” If they lead a child to other books, they are fine.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I loved “How to Eat Fried Worms” when I was a kid. I don’t mind my son reading gross books. They’re his fluff books for when he doesn’t want to read something else, nothing wrong with that. I wouldn’t want to stop him from reading them just because I didn’t like them anymore than I would want someone else to stop me from my fluff books just because they don’t like them.

keobooks's avatar

@MissAusten—Yep, I’ve read both. They are both good “after reads”. And lots of kids have liked those. But I’d still never substitute them. I try to never take a book out of a kid’s hands if its appropriate.

@Seaofclouds we are on the same page!

The poop books would probably be a little young for the age if kids I’m talking about, but they could still check those out, but I’d probably bargain a supplemental read for them—and make it more about “You’re going to finish that book in 5 minutes and have nothing else to read” rather than “That book is too easy for you.” When a kid picks a “too easy” book, it’s a great time to sneak in a few old favorites of yours, while still letting them snag the “baby” book. You could even balance it out by getting one way over their reading level and offer reading it with them.

I think it’s better to supplement rather than switch under almost all circumstances. Even if a kid picks out a book that’s not appropriate for their age or interest (within reason) If your child manages to snag a copy of Dante’s Inferno at age 7, it may be tempting to be really proud, but the reality is that they will get discouraged after a few stanzas and toss the book aside. But you can let them get it and then pick out a few more books that they may actually be able to read more easily.

The only times I’ve actually discouraged a book from a kid is when I strongly suspected that they thought the book was one thing, but it was totally different. When an 11 year old picked up Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, I made sure he knew that was a totally different book than H. G. Wells’ Invisible Man. I strongly suspected he’d rather read about an actual invisible guy than someone making a commentary about the 20th century African American man. And yes, he picked up the book by Wells instead.

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