There is a big fad going through my daughter's school called Silly Bandz. They are rubber bands shaped liked stuff (animals, princess stuff, states, fairies, dinosaurs, etc) that the kids mostly wear on their wrists. But they have other uses like when my daughter was out of school all week one of the boys delivered some flowers from his yard with the stems wrapped in a wet paper towel and held together with two Silly Bandz. All of the ones she had were given to her by her friends and she was wishing she had some of her own to trade. So after her surgery I gave her two little packets of them - one was pets and one was princesses. She was thrilled and started planning who she was going to give which one to and which ones she'd trade with whom.
Our neighbor who is a bit of a luddite refuses to get her daughter any Silly Bandz and does not want her bringing any home. One of the things I relate to a lot with this neighbor is that I'm a bit of a luddite too. Although, not so much because I have a couple blogs and like the social networking sites. And I let my daughter engage in trendy behavior that I deem appropriate. For instance, Cartoon Network is right out but Disney channel is ok. Cartoon Network is almost all advertisements and the cartoons are stupid and really annoying. Disney doesn't have any ads except for Disney shows, movies and the bands they promote which is easier to deal with. Plus, they have lots of ads for how to save the environment and how to be a good friend. So, that's another thing, I don't totally understand when parents refuse to let their kids watch the Disney Channel (because it's a huge monolith of a corporation maybe?) but let them watch Cartoon Network (which is just a monolith of advertising from smaller companies in a much more evil way because it's all advertising for toys and products ... most of which look like they're shit).
Anyway, back to Silly Bandz. I have been trying to wrap my mind around why my neighbor doesn't want her daughter to have any Silly Bandz. They're cheap, they're harmless and the kids seem to have a lot of fun trading them and giving them away to each other. And the teacher's have a good handle on it. In Ms. C's class if you are messing around with Silly Bandz (or any jewelry or accessory) it's taken away until the end of class. In Mr. P's PE class the same rule only it's taken away for good. So far my daughter has been really good about following the rules and hasn't had any of her stuff taken away for good. So, I haven't been able to come up with a reason why no Silly Bandz except that they are trendy. And that seems to be a big rule in the neighbor's house - nothing trendy.
That was a similar rule in my house growing up. And for me personally, it didn't do anything except make me feel left out and different than the other kids, which didn't feel good. I asked my friend, Nate over lunch the other day what he thought about it and he said there was a similar rule in his house growing up. I asked if it helped him be less of a consumer or to feel more immune to advertising and he said, no, it just made him feel left out and socially awkward.
So, I'm going against my parent's rules that I grew up with and letting her have some of the trendy stuff like Silly Bandz. And she gets to watch Disney channel despite what fellow parents say about Hannah Montana being a terrible influence. For me the key seems to be knowing what she's watching and talking to her about it. I have watched all those Disney shows and know all the characters and what happens with Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers and I have enough information that I approve of them for her. Nobody ever talks about drinking or doing drugs, the most the boyfriends and girlfriends do is kiss and that's a huge deal, there is never any reference to gangs, sex, drugs, drinking, disrespecting your parents, and if one does disrespect their parents they learn quickly why it was wrong. iCarly is a different story, those kids are smart ass and mean and the parents are portrayed as helpless and clueless - so that show is not ok.
I keep reading these studies that say children who watch x-amount of tv or play x-amount of video games are more prone to feeling suicidal or getting bad grades in their teens, etc. etc. But I don't think it has anything to do with the amount of time they spend on those things, I think it has to do with parental involvement. Do the parents know what their kids are playing and watching? Do they talk to them about it? I think that's the real problem is parents not knowing what their kids are doing and not being involved in their lives and really talking with them every day and setting up a relationship where the kids know they can go to their parents for support. I just think our society is looking for easy answers to everything including parenting. So, it's a lot easier to continue to ignore your kid because you're too busy or too distracted but have the quick fix of saying, "Oh, you can't play video games more than a half hour a day" and thinking that will fix things. The parents of the happiest teens I've seen are involved with their kids and talk to them about everything in their lives and have created an ally-like relationship with them and don't try to take the easy way out by just limiting their tv viewing time or keeping them away from trends.