Opinion

When Miley Cyrus blurs the lines, what should smart parents do? | Johnson

Among the thousands of posts about Miley Cyrus’ actions at the MTV Video Music Awards, there are judgments of her, kudos for her, wonderings about her mental health, people weeping for her and still others praying for her.

There are also a much smaller number of posts about Robin Thicke (who was singing part of “Blurred Lines,” already mired in controversy over its misogynistic lyrics and video).

So what are smart parents to do?

Parents have been concerned about musical performances since Elvis and the Beatles, right on up through Madonna, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga.

We haven’t succeeded in changing the behavior (no matter how sensational and inappropriate) of rich, famous, media-driven, entertainers in the last century. What makes us think that venting on social media will change anything now? It won’t.

What we can do is talk about it, in person, with our kids. Here are some tips.

1. Use your parental power. Check www.commonsensemedia.org for the scoop on movies, games, TV shows, websites and more. What ages are they appropriate for? What will your child see if he or she watches it/plays it? What questions might you ask? Remember: MTV is not a network, and not subject to the same restrictions network channels are.

2. Monitor computers, phones and social media. Even if you don’t allow your child to watch the music awards on TV, it’s very likely many of them have at least seen pictures or part of Miley’s act on someone’s smartphone, tablet, or computer. Find out if they’ve heard about it and keep talking.

3. Watch with them. Refrain from judging and lecturing during a performance. Instead…

4. Engage their brains. Having a conversation with questions that require more than yes or no answers engages the part of the brain that needs the most practice — the thinking and decision-making part. News flash: this part doesn’t fully develop until age 25. If you want it to be strong in your child, it needs to work out on a regular basis, which means it needs the kind of exercise that comes from thinking and deciding how to answer questions and deciding how to behave — not the kind that comes from blowing off your parents because (eye roll) here they go again with their judging.

5. Ask questions. (Hint: choose a few from below and be curious, not judgmental, while asking)

• Do you see any differences in the behavior of the male and female performers?

• Are there different rules for guys and girls? If so, what are they? Why do you think they are different? Is it fair?

• Do you think this is cool? If so, why?

• Re: the public’s reaction to this year’s Video Music Awards — why are some people criticizing the 20-year-old woman and celebrating the older man (Robin Thicke, in this case)?

• Do you think drugs or alcohol had a part in shaping Miley’s or Robin’s judgment or behavior?

• If you were friends with either of them, what would you have told them before or after this?

• What values do you use to help you decide if something is right or wrong?

Even the best parents can’t protect their children from ever seeing a shocking media performance. Children and teens need to practice skills to help them think through situations and decide what they will do, despite the inappropriate behavior of others around them. Rather than disparaging celebrities, engage their brains and talk about it. It’s the right thing to do.

Special thanks to Alex Mackenzie, friend and therapist in the San Francisco area, for sharing some question suggestions.

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