Often, it surprises me how worried adults get about the idea of children reading or watching things they shouldn’t. Granted, there is cause for concern in the land of naughty programming, but from my own memories of being small, kids self-censor remarkably well. This is because, to the average six-year-old, adults are indescribably boring people interested in equally boring things. I remember sitting down to watch a movie my father had taped off air as a child and, not knowing how to fast forward, being incalculably uninterested in a volatile political debate between Kerry O’Brian and Bob Hawke (as my adult-memory suspects the participants were) which was tacked on at the start. My comprehension wasn’t that they were talking about Adult Things, and therefore I didn’t understand – rather, they were talking about Adult Things, and therefore I wasn’t interested.
Ultimately, the distinction hinges on curiosity. Kids don’t like the idea of not knowing things. Admittedly, it’s hard to conceive of an instance in which the six-year-old me might care about politics, but that’s the point of self-censorship: what kids don’t understand – or, more importantly, what kids don’t realise they don’t understand – they rationalise. Just like adults, really.
Thus, I used to think that avant gard meant the French police, and that song lyrics referencing coke meant fizzy-drink. I wasn’t quite sure why punks and urban gothics would want to ‘store’ coca-cola, but perhaps they thought they’d run out. (I was sixteen before I listened again, realised the proper word was ‘score’, and went: ohhhhhh.)