I have a teenager. Like most teens, she’s interested in whatever the latest obsession at school is. When she was younger it was Loom Bands (I’m still finding those little buggers in the vacuum cleaner/dog’s teeth/sink u-bend years later!) Then it was slime (also to be found in the u-bend, mixed with hand cream, glitter, and nail polish – god knows what she was hoping to create!) Next came crop tops, shoulder bags, and currently – Netflix. I put up with the binge-watching of Mako Mermaids, Pretty Little Liars, Riverdale, and 13 Reasons, Why, which I watched with her. I figured if the whole school was watching it, she was going to find a way, and I’d rather know what she was seeing, and discuss the implications with her. (Incidentally, if you’re considering season two, I’d read this warning first).
And now the Do-I-Don’t-I game has moved up a level – to Love Island. And I’ve said yes – with caveats. Here’s why I’ve decided to let my 13 year old watch Love Island.
Why my 13 year old is watching Love Island
1. It’s not worth the argument
I’m aware that that’s a flippant answer, but sometimes it’s the best one. There are SO many debates, and points of contention when you’re parenting a teenager that some of them just have to slide. It’s part of the deal – it’s how they grow up. I could spend the entire summer listening to how much she is missing out on, how she’s not part of the gang (I know that word will earn me an extra old badge, but I don’t know the current cool version – crew, squad, so 2017? – and I’m too tired to learn it) and how I’m causing her social exclusion that will require therapy in the future. OR I could just say yes. Believe me, there are way more things, that are way more important that I have to say no to – you need give-able concessions!
2. Social exclusion is worse than growing up fast
Okay, there are of course limits to this claim, but a teenager who can’t join in with the main topic of conversation in the lunch queue is quickly going to feel like an outsider. Whether that’s a real, or a perceived exclusion, it’s going to cause some anxiety, and trust me – you don’t need extra anxiety when you’re 13. Teenage years are hard; there’s a lot on your plate, you don’t always know where you stand with other kids, and you beat yourself up all the time! It was a long time ago, but I still remember knowing that I would never be as cool as Jayne Norton and David Bagley, because I had to go home and do music practice instead of hanging around outside the newsagent’s. (I was every bit as cool, but I was resolute in my dowdy self-image). If you can tick a box in a teenager’s self-esteem, tick it, in big black marker, and send it off straight away.
3. It’s good bonding time
Watch it with her – it’s hilarious – and you will find things in common that you never knew you had. Teenagers spend a lot of time in their rooms, and whilst that’s your payback for the years when you had an audience every time you went to the loo, you risk growing further apart than either of you intended, faster than you had hoped. Having a TV programme in common means that not only do we spend more time together, we also have something to talk – and laugh – about during the day.
4. Love Island is a life skills lesson
I’ve had some fascinating conversations with my teen this week as we’ve caught up on Love Island. We’ve felt empathy for Kendall while we discussed how difficult it is getting over a relationship break up. We’ve rooted for Alex, unlucky in love, and talked about really getting to know someone before diving in based on a stereotypical look; and we’ve agreed that getting nasty about someone behind their back is usually going to backfire on you. It’s given me some confidence that I’ve done a few things right over the last 13 years.
5. Your teenager might surprise you
If you’re worried your teenager might be swayed by all the model looks, and become obsessed with achieving the ‘perfect’ body and eyelashes (what is that eyelash blow-drying thing?!), think again. I’ll confess this was my biggest fear. Young girls are impressionable, and desperate to look like a fake Instagram Kardashian selfie, right? Well, some of them, but I do sense that this is changing, that the message is starting to seep through. When I mentioned this to my girl, she told me that just because it was fun to watch “vapid” individuals being shallow on TV, it didn’t mean she was going to turn into one of them. I took the parental control down a notch instantly, I was that impressed with her vocab!
Of course, there are caveats. If she’s watching it, I’m watching it. And I am absolutely not being a slave to the TV every night at 9pm for infinity. We record it and watch it when we have time, or we catch up on social media. This is my first season of Love Island, so I took to Twitter before making up my mind. The response was mixed, as you’d expect, and the implication was that things get more graphic as the episodes move on – as you’d expect. I’m poised to ban it as soon as it becomes less ‘graphic’ and more ‘porno’…
What’s your take on Love Island, and when are you old enough to watch?