Good Role Models Onscreen

Lynn JataniaRecently our youngest, who is 14, decided she wanted to watch Keeping Up with The Kardashians. 

She’d seen several funny clips and memes on Instagram and TikTok that made her interested in the family and eager for more. She took it upon herself to do research into what streaming service she’d need to get to watch it, how much content was involved, and what the show was about; then, she made her pitch to us. 

We decided to let her watch it – I admit, when your kid puts more effort into a request like this than into a school project, it carries some weight! But even so, we were nervous about the role modelling she’d be seeing on screen. Although the Kardashians may have their hearts in the right place, there’s no question that they are a little too focused on money, fame and physical attractiveness for our liking. 

Since she’s been binge watching it, we’ve been trying to keep on top of her thoughts and make sure she knows where we stand when it comes to values. We wanted to make sure our daughter understands that what she is watching is funny, but also possibly representative of some opinions she’ll encounter in life, and how we want her to react. 

To make sure we keep the conversation open, we’ve: 

  • Watched a few episodes with her, to make sure we have a basic understanding of who’s who and what’s what 

  • Checked in with her daily to find out what happened on the show, how she felt about it, and give our own points of view on their behaviour 

  • Talked about gender equality and media expectations for women, and how the younger girls on the show in particular are treated 

  • Talked about how reality shows aren’t always “reality” because they need to play up or create artificial drama for the sake of entertainment 

  • Made sure she takes breaks in favour of non-screen activities, and shares her screen time with positive role models, too 

Is it enough? Time will tell, and as long as we’re keeping tabs on her (and the Kardashians), and keeping the lines of communication open, we’re feeling better about the show. Our daughter has shown that she’s definitely able to think critically about the things she sees and to doubt both the reality and the integrity behind the cast’s actions and reactions. She’s on board with thinking of the people on the show as characters, rather than real people, and understanding that becoming their fan – or worse, becoming someone like them - isn’t a life goal. 

In the end, the best counterpoint role model for her is really us, her parents. We are the people she sees on a daily basis, who can set the framework for our values, for our rules, and for internet usage guidelines. When we show her how to use media for good, in moderation, then she’ll be able to take in all information and make up her own mind – and we have full faith in her. 

And on that note, this brings my time at MediaSmarts to an end. I have loved sharing our family’s experiences and adventures with social media and the internet in this space, and it’s caused me to think critically about a lot of decisions that might have been made lightly otherwise. Writing for you here has made a big difference in how we decided to raise our kids and what we found worked for us. 

But now that our three children aren’t really kids anymore – they’re all well into their teens now, and we’ll be losing the older two to university soon – we’re not facing the same kind of issues on a regular basis. We’ve set the rules and taught them the important stuff; now it’s up to them to put it into practice as adults. I’m sure the future will bring all kinds of new and exciting technology to our lives, but their story is no longer mine to tell. Thanks so much for reading this column, and I hope to see you online! 

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