Love Island, the ITV2 show presented by Caroline Flack where contestants live together in a villa to find love, has increased in popularity over recent years. But should children be allowed to watch it?
TV presenter Susanna Reid came under fire recently after revealing she lets her 12-year-old watch the programme. When Piers Morgan asked if she’s letting her son watch ‘that programme with people just basically trying to have sex all the time’, she defended her decision by saying she finds the show ‘moralistic’.
‘They’re not trying to do that! They actually have pretty good morals compared to some of the stuff on television. It’s much more moralistic’, she replied.
With the show’s popularity skyrocketing, it can be hard for parents to keep children from watching it, especially now that access to technology is so widespread, and most youngsters have smartphones or tablets. So should you allow your children to watch it, and if so, at what age?
Some of this year’s Love Island contestants
Speaking exclusively to GoodtoKnow, child psychologist Emma Citron explains that while the show is totally inappropriate for primary school children, it could be a good way to start meaningful conversations with secondary school children, aged 11 to 16.
‘I would say there are worst things to try and stop them from seeing. We need to accept the fact that youngsters are watching inappropriate content already – it’s not ideal but it happens, and I think this is a battle that probably is not worth fighting.’
According to a 2016 study by Middlesex University, about 53 per cent of 11 to 16-year-olds have seen explicit material online, and nearly all of whom (94%) had seen it by 14.
‘It’s about getting into a conversation and communicating with our youngsters as in saying “watch this as a comedy show if you really want to but this tells us nothing actually about relationships at all”‘, Emma says.
‘Most of us chose to live meaningful purposeful lives with secure and happy relationships and this is not the breeding ground for that. There may be the odd relationship that goes on to flourish but this is comedy, it’s entertainment.’
Emma also highlights that it’s important to make it clear for children that the show is a game, where there’s a cash prize involved – which adds pressure to relationships.
‘It’s important to make younger children aware that the contestants are under this huge pressure to get a mate to win the prize and that most of us, thankfully, are not under this kind of pressure – and nor should we be, because we’re likely to make poor choices.
‘The concept of pressure is a useful one too and this is an artificial hothouse, which is actually heavily money driven. That’s a very good point to make, because in the future when friends are getting engaged or be partnering off, it often means that there’s pressure for others to follow suit. They should do what’s right for them, in their own time and not feel under any pressure.’
So what should you do as a parent if you’re allowing your child to watch Love Island?
If you’ve decided to let your child watch the programme, Emma recommends having healthy discussions about the topics brought up in the show, be it body diversity or peer pressure.
‘These are the conversations that we want to be having with our children anyway around the table and out and about in the car. It’s all about dialogue and discussion, using it as a platform for meaningful conversations around a topic and listening to your youngsters’, she says.
However, she highlights that it’s important to listen as a parent and not come in with a ‘preachy approach’.
‘As a parent, don’t come in with a preachy point of view, try to find out what they think. Have they ever thought they would want to look like these girls in the programme, if so why? What does that mean and what’s that about? How influenced we are by society when we want to look a certain way?’, Emma adds.
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