I’m just gonna come out and say it . . . I LOVE SPONGEBOB! In fact, when my 19th-month-old sees Spongebob on TV she points, her eyes light up, and she tries her best to say, “SPONGEBOB”! Am I a bad parent? Some would say yes . . . but me watching Spongebob with my little girl is an intentional activity. As Emma gets older we’ll continue to watch Spongebob TOGETHER, along with my favorite movie Nacho Libre (yes, it has “FARTING” in it) and many other Nickelodeon and Disney movies that might carry with it some crude jokes along the way . . . and guess what . . . I WELCOME THE CRUDENESS!
I had to decide before Emma was born how I would handle sheltering her from all the “NEGATIVE” influences on TV, the internet, and on the radio. Would I block everything that I thought was “bad”? Would I just let her watch and listen to everything she wants? Or would I find a balance? Is there a balance?
As a kids pastor I have seen many parents make “that face” when I mention that I’m a fan of Spongebob . . . the face is followed by, “I don’t let my child watch Spongebob”. There are many FANCY words used today to describe the degree of parenting involved with what we allow our kids to learn from the media today . . . BUT since Spongebob seems to be such a divisive & popular cartoon why don’t we just use it to create a simple scale . . . THE SPONGEBOB/PARENTAL SCALE . . . LOL!! Here we go:
100% Spongebob: OK, at 100% parents turn on the TV and walk away . . . no matter what is on I believe that my child can process and decide correctly what is “good” and what is “bad”.
50% Spongebob: This parent says yes, my child will partake in certain media that I have deemed appropriate, knowing that it carries with it some “negative” habits that if not discussed could possibly be adopted by my child.
0% Spongebob: This parent says NO! No media in my house will EVER come close to teaching my child “bad things”. All media will be previewed by me . . . and if not perfectly clean . . . then it’s a NO GO.
Obviously, 100% Spongebob is a mistake. Bottom line, if you, the parent, give up the responsibility to help your child maneuver through the waters of morality learned through the media . . . your kid will likely take on more bad habits then you will be able to deal with. Also, once you see these bad habits really causing damage in upper Elementary ages . . . you will find it almost impossible to then “pick up” your child’s moral compass. Because no one else came alongside him to share the responsibility, he owns his compass by then . . . not you. Change can come, but it will be an uphill battle.
0% Spongebob can be problematic as well. Let’s face it . . . at some point you child will see behaviors that you would deem as HIGHLY inappropriate. If little Suzy has never heard the word “fart” or heard the word “stupid” they will be just as confused as “100% Spongebob” in dealing with whether to adopt these behaviors because parents in this category have completely taken away a child’s compass. When they hit upper Elementary . . . well, they don’t even know how to use their compass.
Alright, by this point you have guessed it . . . I’m a 50% Spongebob parent. Yep, my child throughout the years will hear a “fart” joke, she’ll hear a cuss word in a movie, and she’ll see a Sponge in nothing but his underwear. I’m OK with that . . . because I am going to allow Emma and I to both hold on to her compass by first previewing whatever media might be exposed to her, AND THEN, my wife and I will decide if it goes too far.
Here’s the difference . . . just because a Disney movie might say the “D” word doesn’t mean that we will not watch it as a family . . . it simply means that I will pause the movie at that point and have a quick heart to heart about why that was not a cool thing to say. When Spongebob tells Patrick that he’s being “stupid” and kicks him I will turn to my girl and we’ll have a quick talk about why that wasn’t the best thing to say and do.
The question is why even expose our kids to media that might have tiny moments of “bad things”? Because the rest of it might be priceless . . . Spongebob has a tremendous amount of positive qualities: he’s hard working, loving, and unique to name just a few. Plus, why would I not want to walk down those alley’s of occasional “bad” choices with characters in a movie or a show . . . that way I can give Emma teachable moments so that when she is in her upper Elementary ages I can BEGIN the long process of slowly but surely loosening my hold on Emma’s moral compass and allowing her to take ownership of her actions.