I'm going to start this article with a statement some may find controversial - I let my two and a half year old son watch WWE. The first question this may pose to many is "Is that a good idea?", and the other question is probably "Is that responsible parenting?". This comes down to a matter of opinion for me, and is something I am going to look at more in this article.
Now it won't have escaped most peoples attention that just this last week, a 5 year old girl tragically died as a result of the actions of her 13 year old brother. Now, the way this is reported by the media was with the headline "Terrytown 5-year-old allegedly killed by brother's wrestling moves". Straightaway the headline pinpoints wrestling as being involved. Now admittedly my first reaction when I saw the headline was one of fear for my son possibly doing these things, and wondering "What will people think of me letting my son watch this?". As a result I didn't read the article until Friday as I was worried about what I would read. When I read what had actually happened it made me suddenly realise the kid knew exactly what he was doing to his sister and it seemed to me he was looking for something to cover his own stupidity and clear disregard for his sisters safety.
WWE, and wrestling in general, will always have some kind of stigma attached to it. Steroids will always be an issue WWE is tagged with, and when a kid dies in a situation where WWE or wrestling is even mentioned they will always get a negative mention. What really riles me up about WWE in the media is it's always the negative things that get mentioned, never anything positive. When did you last see the media actively praise WWE for the running of Don't Try This At Home, School or Anywhere in all it's programming unlike any other entertainment show, the Be A Star campaign to promote putting an end to bullying, the Wrestlemania Reading Challenge to help kids read, and the countless hours superstars like John Cena spend granting the requests of seriously ill kids via Make A Wish.
You have to applaud WWE for taking the time to actively promote to kids not to try this at home, school or anywhere. Whenever I watch WWE I see at least two of these video's per hour. When did you last see a show like Power Rangers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have some kind of warning not to try any of the things shown at home or school? I certainly don't EVER remember seeing this when I grew up as a child. I remember watching wresting as a kid as I remember Wrestlemania 8, but I never once felt the urge to go and DDT someone, or attack them in any way from the moves I saw on TV. WWE's Be A Star as a campaign is a controversial and touchy subject as it can be seen as WWE being a bit hypocritical as they want to cut out bullying, which is great, but then some of their storylines involve bullying (The Mickie James angle where she was referred to by Lay-Cool as Piggy James springs to mind). However, it isn't something WWE has to do, and it's good to see WWE at least take the issue of bullying seriously. I don't really need to say much on Make A Wish - John Cena simply is the most requested celebrity wish for this for a reason - Like the guy or not, he is a fantastic role model for kids, and makes more time than anyone to give these seriously ill kids some of his own personal time. I wish a lot of other so called 'celebrities' would spare even 5 minutes of their time to do the same, instead of touch up their tan or waiting to be photographed walking down the street.
WWE have even gone out of their way to develop a section on their corporate website for parents thinking of letting their kids watch their product. Again, how many other companies would do this? WWE is a different product to the majority of programs on TV Kids should watch I agree, so they have to have something, but you don't see this with organisations like TNA. WWE clearly state they are committed to creating family-friendly, TV-PG broadcast programming. I seriously recommend having a look at this if you never have as I found it really useful and interesting.
As with anything nowadays, WWE comes with the letters PG - Parental Guidance. This simply means it is down to the parents what they want their child to see. Which leads me back to my son being two and a half and watching WWE. There are only two things that can get his attention - Mickey Mouse and WWE. Two completely different types of programmes, but if it grabs his attention and gets him interaction out of him then that's not a bad thing. His favourite toy is a plastic replica WWE Championship, which you will see him either doing John Cena's salute and run ring entrance with, or mimicking Daniel Bryan with Yes! Yes! Yes! in his entrance. His favourite wrestlers seem to be John Cena, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and The Shield (Or they are at least who he reacts to most). Just because he likes WWE does this mean he's going to intentionally start wrestling and hurting other children? No, and if I found out he had done anything of the sort, he would no longer be watching WWE until he understood what he was doing was wrong and he should not be doing the things WWE superstars do.
Admittedly he does pin his stuffed Micky Mouse and count the three, and has been seen trying to do the same to his nine month old sister, but he is stopped immediately, and once told off, will not do it again. I always go out of my way to explain to him not to try the things he is seeing. Bearing all of this article in mind, is it responsible of me to allow him to watch WWE? Well, I grew up watching WWE and aside from play fighting with my son now at age 28, have never felt the urge or need to try a wrestling move on anyone. Would I let him watch the Attitude Era? Hell no, I have always maintained to my wife that is out of bounds as it is not something I feel personally comfortable him seeing. I think I handle his watching of the current product responsibly and I would turn something off I felt was not appropriate for him to see. To sum up my article I look at it this way, if I didn't let him watch WWE he would be watching something else. And what's not to say that when he sees another TV show containing staged violence that he isn't going to copy that? It all comes down to parental choice and responsibility. WWE has it's place in your child's life, it's how you as the parent choose to introduce and manage it.