When my kids were little I set up some rules: no television except the ABC kids' channel once or twice a week, a science show for kids on Saturday morning, and a couple of DVDs on Fridays after school and some weekends. They are encouraged to play outside, read books or drawings. They don't have PlayStations or Wii , but they do listen to CDs or tapes.
I cringe when I hear about parents allowing their kids to watch TV shows like 'Home and Away'. I don't think programs like that are suitable for young kids under 13. I think girls in our society are overexposed to information about beauty, sex and weight, and they grow up too quickly. I want to protect my 5-year-old daughter from 'sexy' talk, advertising and unsuitable television.
Radio is new for me
In the past, Bernhard would ask me if he could turn on the radio. Usually I said no. I would explain, perhaps naïvely, that radio programs sometimes have rude words. Bernhard would just leave it at that.
However, he is now more inclined to leave the radio on. I look at him fondly; at 11 he is now a growing young man. But radio is new for me. So I started to ask him: What are the songs? What is the radio program talking about?
I did not want to drill him with too many questions, yet at the same time I did not want to be a Deaf mother who was oblivious to her children's hearing world. It was a question of trust: not only that my children would choose suitable songs, but also that they would not take advantage of their Deaf parents.
Moreover, Bernhard used to have a teacher who was also a disc jockey. He was Bernhard's favourite, and the only male teacher in all of his primary schooling. Bernhard is now in Grade 6 with a female teacher. When I expressed my concern about radio, she said he needed to be responsible when turning on radio.
It was hard to decide what radio was suitable for Bernhard when I didn't know anything about it. I decided to find out.
A hearing friend on Facebook helped by posting a list of radio stations. I was astonished - there are about 500 radio stations all over Australia! There are stations for people who speak different languages; there are local stations; and there are stations for Christians – but only one for Buddhists. There are radio stations for gays, indigenous people, older people, children, and for blind people.
I asked other parents what they do. One hearing friend only listens to community radio. She admitted she would ask her hearing children's young friends what they were listening to on other stations. One of my Auslan interpreters, who has children, said there is one station suitable for families, because the news was often not clear for young children.
One deaf father explained,
we don't put radio on for the kids, [aged 5 to 9 years], only CDs or digital music players, so that we know what they are listening to.
A mother of four teenagers, two of whom are deaf, also explained,
I believe that kids in primary school listen to their parents' radio, but when they get to secondary school, they find their own radio station to match the kind of music they like.
Bernhard now enjoys one particular station, 100.3, because it mostly has pop and DJ music. He does not like other stations because of classical music, opera, or too much talking.
I now feel I am more informed. It was helpful to ask around about certain stations, and then we can decide if it is appropriate for our kids. My husband and I bought him a digital music player for Christmas, with ear plugs, so he could download his favourite pop and hip hop rap from the internet. Bernhard now wears the player often. I also decided that he can turn on the radio when he is doing the kitchen chores in the evening.
Fortunately, radio is only one of many important growing-up rules on which we parents need to decide for our children.