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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Parents canít keep kids in a bubble but can offer support

By Angie Wagner
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS ó My daughter does not know that "Hannah Montana" is a TV show. Or that she could actually go see Miley Cyrus in concert.

She thinks "idiot" and "stupid" are bad words and has no idea what a Wii is.

I like it this way, but I realize my almost-6-year-old can't live in a bubble forever. She will go to school and pick up phrases I don't like and make friends I won't approve of. She will see and hear the exact things I have been trying to keep her from.

Soon, my daughter will head to a new, big school where she stays all day, and I will lose some control of her world. I am slowly coming to peace with this, but how do I make sure she navigates this new territory without trading in her childhood on the playground?

Dr. Perri Klass, a pediatrician and professor of journalism and pediatrics at New York University, assured me that no matter how much I try to keep certain shows or movies away from my daughter, she will pick up all the little details about them at school.

"What children find most interesting is what they hear and learn from other children," she said. "All little girls will learn to roll their eyes and shake their heads."

But Klass says not to panic. Just because children are exposed to something like a violent movie doesn't mean they will change their behavior. Besides, keeping them away from things you deem inappropriate can be tough.

Jennifer Morley, a Henderson, Nev., mom of two, said her 6-year-old son asks why he can't watch a certain movie or play a video game that all his friends play.

"I just try and tell him every family has different rules," she said.

Morley is a bit nervous about her son going to first grade in a school with more than 900 students. Previously, he went to a small, private kindergarten where she could handpick his friends. She is even leery about her son going on play dates without her.

"I think it's just a lack of control that I'm afraid of," she said.

Life happens, and you can't always control what happens. But what you can control is letting your children know they are cared for and protected, Klass said. Make sure they are not watching too much television, rule out inappropriate shows and set parameters.

But a little indulgence at another kid's house, whether it be a glimpse of a forbidden television show or dessert before dinner, probably won't do too much harm.

A parent's role, Klass said, is not so much controlling the kind of input that your children receive, but helping them understand and deal with the things they see and experience.

For us right now, that is the pink Barbie car that buzzes up and down the sidewalk with the neighbor girls inside. My daughter believes she may be deprived of happiness if she doesn't get one of those cars. She had never seen one like this until now.

Can't they just lock that Barbie car in the garage?