I sometimes devote my evenings to meeting friends to spend time with their families. My very good friend, Ayo, happens to be someone I spend time with once in a while. Why not? Sometimes, I stay so late, leaving for my house close to the stroke of midnight.
Two days back, I was at Ayo’s place as usual to catch up with his small family that comprises the moderately taciturn Fola, the wife, and the funnily loquacious eight-year-old daughter, Inioluwa, Ini for short. As usual, when I got there, the TV was tuned to the DSTV BBNaija station while the entire family was watching. Well, from every indication, it has become family tradition for everyone to gather in front of the TV after the days hustle to catch up on the latest on TV.
As expected, we dove into the normal BBNaija argument on which contestant is better and why. While I like Kaffy, enjoy Mike’s effortless humour and charm, and respect Seyi especially after he dropped his veto power rather than nominate any other person to replace himself; my friend Ayo is crazy about Jackie. Fola for reasons I am yet to fathom, likes ‘Simply Tacha’ while little Ini is a fan of Wakanda-like-prince Ike.
So, we were having this argument over who the next evicted contestant should be. The choice was narrowed down to Gedoni and Ike. While I was trying to explain that Gedoni may be of better use in the house rather than out of it, our dear, sweet, little Diane dropped a bomb: “Uncle, they should evict Gedoni joor. All he does is to fuck Kaffy in the house.” Okay, I may not have been able to paraphrase that accurately, but I remember the f-word dropping as effortlessly as you swallow soft semo. The silence that greeted Ini’s statement, the shock from my humble self, the mother and father, the awkwardness is a story for another day.
I won’t bore you with how that evening ended but I want to critically consider television censorship especially when it comes to our children. As kids, on weekdays, we had to play while waiting for 4pm when NTA will begin transmission. By that time, you can be sure our parents will be getting back from work. The very little time we would have for TV will have to be shared with them. It was never a pleasant experience having your parents watch TV or even home video with you for very obvious reasons. Woe betide you if there is a kissing, fondling or mock sex scene. For me and my siblings, we find excuses to go out or suddenly become very studious reading meanings into the patterns on the floor carpet or concentrating on something else asides the television.
Though this was no effective censorship, it was one nevertheless. Our parents were conscious of what we watched and we too should be over what our children consume in the name of entertainment. Unfortunately this is becoming harder as entertainment is becoming more democratic, accessible and available. You can be sure that Ini’s parents did not allow their daughter watch that part of BBNaija from home. She was exposed to that aspect by her classmate in school. Her classmate as we found out had unfettered access to television 24/7 as one is mounted in her room.
Should Ini’s parents be exonerated from the blame of negligence and complacency as it concerned their daughter’s TV consumption? Certainly. The organisers of the reality show have rated it 18-meaning it is a show of adults from the age of 18, upwards. They have also warned that the show is addictive. Whoever allows their child consume content rated in that nature should bear responsibility for that.
See, the entertainment industry is one that has become more and more inappropriate for child viewers and over the years and has incorporated an escalating use of explicit language, violence and sexual content. We are not just talking about television alone; Internet, books, etc.
Children are the most vulnerable members of the viewing public. They are naturally inquisitive and once the television is switched on and a program of inappropriate content is showing, many will continue watching out of genuine curiosity—even when a movie is scary, the child might remain glued to the screen until it has ended, by which time the damage is already done.
One of safest ways of preventing children from being influenced and polluted by what they watch on TV and movies is censorship. TV censorship can be done in two ways; firstly, by using a censorship package, (like the ones that come with DSTV), which when activated assures parents that what their children are watching is safe at all times. Trust me, Ini’s parent learnt that the hard way.
And secondly, by the parents physically monitoring what their children are watching whenever possible. Many believe, and rightly so, that it is the sole responsibility of a parent to censor what their kids watch because if they don’t, who will? What children watch ultimately shapes their character or affects their decisions in life, for example; if the child continually watches movies that have a lot of violence, aggressive images will then dominate the mind and consequently reflect in their behavioural patterns.
However, the practicability of parental censorship at all times is a big challenge especially in the case of working parents who in most cases are still at work when their children arrive home from school and switch on the television.
As a result, it has become increasingly difficult for parents to implement censorship and monitor what their children watch, however it is the best way to ensure that children are not being persuaded or seduced by a variety of unwelcome habits.
The truth is, the only place your child can be protected is within the confines of your home. Once they walk out the door, they are bound to be exposed to all aspects of society that won’t care what is filtering into their minds.
So what are your kids REALLY watching on TV? You will never know 100 percent, and the most a parent can do is to do their best to monitor this as best as they can. The sad fact is that there are some parents who neglect this aspect of raising their children and often kids are left to decide for themselves whether a program is suitable or not. As a result, they end up watching movies that may end up being potentially harmful in the long run.
I wish to ease the tip of my fingers from the constant tagging with the plastic boxes of my keyboards, however, like Frank Olize will ask every Sunday by 9pm, “Where are your children?” I ask, what are your children watching?