National Post (Latest Edition)

The birds and the bees on TV

- Bonnie Miller rubin

As the pandemic grinds on, we are all watching more TV than ever before — and that includes sharing a couch with tweens and teens.

but how do you respond when adult subjects — such as drug use, domestic violence or graphic sex — pop onto the screen? Is it an opportunit­y to start a conversati­on or tacit approval?

All families are different — and that includes their tolerance for edgy content. On one hand, the shutdown, with less rushing around, has provided ideal circumstan­ces for serious chats.

On the other, there’s a point when even the most progressiv­e parent squirms when confronted with a moaning, breathless roll in the sheets on a giant screen.

“It’s not even about age,” said Joshua Colean, a San Francisco-based psychologi­st. “I have 28-year-old twin boys. One is very comfortabl­e watching sex with me, while the other will immediatel­y walk out of the room.”

Talking about awkward subjects is a responsibi­lity of any parent, but sometimes it’s hard to know what’s not appropriat­e, said Sarah Schoppe-sullivan, a professor of psychology at Ohio State university.

A couple of years ago, her 15-year-old daughter bailed after a few episodes of breaking bad but is fine with watching bridgerton with her mom. The soapy serial, which streams on Netflix, does not shy away from intimate scenes.

“I offered to fast-forward through the sex part,” Schoppe-sullivan said, “but mostly we just laughed.”

To be sure, this is tricky parenting territory, experts said. Too self-conscious? you risk them learning from friends. Too much exposure at too young an age? Kids can become desensitiz­ed.

but on one point everyone agreed: The pandemic has spurred a surge in viewership. A report from emarketer suggests Tv-watching skyrockete­d in 2020, reversing a nine-year slide.

Many parents — including Schoppe-sullivan — consult Common Sense Media, an advocacy group that promotes safe media use. but even on this site, where parents and kids separately rate shows for appropriat­e content, the two generation­s rarely concur.

Peggy Orenstein interviewe­d 170 adolescent­s for her two books, Girls & Sex and boys & Sex, researchin­g everything from rape jokes to hookup culture.

The truth is, she said, that parents probably don’t know everything their kids are watching.

“you can think they’re not ready for bridgerton or euphoria, but they may be watching them on their own or their friends’ devices — along with 365 days, which has been all over Tiktok” and glorifies forced sex and bondage.

“As parents, so much of our current job is about managing media and part of that job is to take a deep breath ... and start having conversati­ons that our parents never had with us,” Orenstein says.

“because if we don’t educate our children about sexual ethics, healthy relationsh­ips, substance use ... the media will do it for us. And I guarantee you won’t like the results.”

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