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Parenting Perspectives: Tuning out and loving it

One of the things I like most about writing this column is getting ideas from other parents.

Recently, a co-worker of mine suggested I write a column about her latest parental frustration: the over abundance of flatulence in children's cartoons, video games and movies.

This co-worker, a highly respected journalist, spelled out example after example in children's entertainment of incidents and even entire characters based upon gas. I told her that I hadn't really noticed it. The only instance I could recall was on a show called "Sonny with a Chance" in which the main characters rally around a movie star dog named "Gassie" whose primary talent is well ... you know.

My girls laughed their heads off at that. I agree with my frustrated co-worker; children's television writers can do better than this.

I couldn't help but think of the bigger issue here; a reminder that as my children get older, I need to pay even more attention to the television they're watching.

It was easy when they were little. We loved watching "Sesame Street," Barney and The Wiggles. (Of course, it helped that The Wiggles were cute. Like a middle-aged Australian boy band. Down under's N'Sync for old people.)

Now that the kids are older, I'm not always directing which channels they're watching. They're doing a little more channel surfing.

"Mom, what's a Kardashian?"

Red alert.

What's next on their TV viewing schedules? "Bret Michaels: Rock of Love?"

It always helps when I can sit down and watch television with them. These days, we love "Glee," and we still love "Dancing with the Stars." A couple of years ago, the girls and I would put on princess dresses and dance along with the contestants. Now, even though no one is watching, they're horrified by my dance moves. They look at me the way Jerry and George looked at Elaine's dreaded disco moves.

In the last couple of months, my husband and the girls have started watching "Billy the Exterminator," a reality show about a zany pest removal specialist in Louisiana. I'm not sure how they stumbled upon this gem, but they seem to enjoy it. Last week, my 8-year-old came tearing upstairs and said, "Mom, you have to come and see. Billy just got a snake out of someone's toilet."

That's too much reality for me.

I think about how much tougher we have it than our parents. Growing up, we had four channels. If we watched afternoon TV, it was "Gilligan's Island" or a game show. And the raciest show on prime time was "Three's Company." Come and knock on our door.

With hundreds of channels, it's hard to constantly monitor the programs our children are watching.

So I've come up with a novel solution. Prepare yourself. Occasionally, we turn the TV off and enjoy each other's company. We play games or even read. We always love those nights.

Best of all, last time I checked, none of the Kardashians had written a book.