You’ve probably heard Jim Rohn’s quote, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

And you know what? I’m going to go a step further. I believe it applies to whatever “entertainment” you allow into your realm of influence.

Into our children’s influence.

It matters.

I don’t tend to write opinion pieces. I’m firmly an “I know we all have differences and believe we can love and be kind to each other anyway” kind of gal.

But this morning I got an email from our school district in response to a post shared widely on Snapchat about “shooting up schools.”

And you could say I’m a little exhausted with being mentally exhausted over the health and safety of our children a year and a half into all that Covid has brought to parenting, just to go right back to our “normal” worries over our kids at school—shootings.

It reminded me of an article I saw last week on a parenting website addressing children watching Netflix’s intensely violent Squid Game. It reminded me of a separate article, in The Washington Post, about children playing Squid Game at recess.

And it reminded me of comment after comment from parents hopping on to say they let their children watch this. Often, the reasoning being, “We can’t shield them from what’s out there. They may as well see it with us. All their friends have already seen it anyway.”

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So here it is . . . my opinion:  What goes into their stream of influence matters.

So much.

And instead of throwing our hands up in the air as if we can’t do anything about it, let’s do the hard work.

I want to raise kids who understand their minds and hearts are theirs. They don’t owe Snapchat, or Netflix, or the latest trend, or anyone/anything else unfiltered access to their soul.

It’s OK to say no. And to say it confidently!

I want us as parents to have the tough conversations. Let’s teach our kids that everything they choose to let in will influence them in some way.

That doesn’t mean we can or should shield them from everything. It means teaching them to be the gatekeeper, the decision-maker, about what they allow access to their influence.

Helping them to understand that while there are all sorts of dark and disturbing options on the buffet of entertainment, they don’t have to put it all on their plate and internalize it. Whatever goes in is going to impact them in some way as it’s digested.

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And, they absolutely don’t have to choose whatever their friends are choosing. That it’s pretty awesome to confidently say, “No man, I’m not putting that in my head.”

(Side note—Yes, I’m talking about older kids there. Older kids who we’re trying to train to become more independent with their decision-making. If we’re talking little kids, you’re the undisputed gatekeeper.)

Are we looking at our kids and wondering why they’re so anxious? Why they’re not sleeping? Why they’re struggling with behavior? Why they’re withdrawn? Why they’re mimicking violent shows during “play” at recess? Why we’re getting emails from the school about social media-driven shooting concerns?

Why?

Yes, I’m wondering why.

Why are we doing this to our kids?

I know there’s no shortage of everything out there. I know we can’t shield and protect them from it all. I know not every issue we run into with our kids is because of media influences. I know we need to raise kids that know and are prepared for the “real world.”

But also, we don’t have to hand over our kids to whatever the world decides to serve up.

We can teach our kids that what goes into their soul matters.

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And that all their lives, they have power in that choice.

That if they’re going to become what they consume, then CHOOSE wisely.

I want them to understand that what they surround themselves with impacts how they feel, how they act, how they engage in relationships, how they live, and how they love.

I want them to understand it matters.

I want us to understand it matters.

Because it matters.

Emily Roussell

Emily Roussell is author of the tender children's book for new babies and moms, ‘Rock You Tonight.’ It reads like a lullaby, while telling the story of a tired and distracted mom who slows to fully embrace the wonder of and love for her baby. This book was penned when her first children, twins, were just months old. Life was exhausting, upside down, and …blissful. Find it in hard copy or kindle edition on Amazon! Emily and her husband gratefully enjoy a happy circus of life with four children. You can find her at Facebook.com/youarelovedemilyroussell