Parenting Teens: Why I’m letting my 13 year old watch #LoveIsland

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?


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18 thoughts on “Parenting Teens: Why I’m letting my 13 year old watch #LoveIsland”

  1. A really interested read Helen. I’ve never watched Love Island do I have no idea about it but I’ve watched many things with my kids over the years as talking points and it really works. Michelle X

    • Thanks Michelle, I feel very strongly that as parents our best route to educating our children with life skills is to experience things with them, the younger the better, when they still care what we think! 😀

  2. My 13-year-old is in bed for 9 O’clock every night! In fact, Maxi will often take himself up to bed around 8.30pm. I can not say whether or not it is appropriate viewing as I have never watched it myself, but the fact it is on after 9pm would indicate to me that I would need to watch it first before letting them see it.

    I see that you watch it on catch up, but If it is about social exclusion then surely that won’t work. Maxi is int he same year at school and told me that no one in his year is discussing Love Island It just isn’t a topic of conversation and my niece who is 13 agrees. As a parent, I really worry about the body image that shows like this pit forward (where is the diversity?)

    • That’s great that your children’s peers aren’t into it Jen, it’s often about peer pressure isn’t it? So far I’ve found it to be a really good talking point that’s allowed me to broach some subjects with her in a very natural way – some I wouldn’t even have thought to consider! A follower on Instagram told me that she’d be more worried about how the girls play down their intelligence so as not to ‘scare off the boys!’ Apparently being smart is intimidating – I hadn’t even considered that so we did have a chat about it. Like you, I was concerned about the body image, but they really do come across as overly obsessed with their looks, to the point that Maddie has commented on how ridiculous they are for it. Interestingly, as it’s continued, the girls seem to be wearing a lot less make up, so it’s nice to see them relaxing a bit more. Time will tell if I continue to find it harmless as things get more involved – I’ll keep you posted!

  3. I watched it last year with my eldest son. He was 16. I wasn’t happy at first -it did simply appear to be a lot of vacuous body beautifuls prancing around in their skimpies worrying about their appearance and nothing much else. However as the series developed the friendship between 2 of the men was an eye opener. As a girl I had no idea that men could have similar friendships to the ones I’d had with my girlfriends at school. All I normally see with my 2 boys and their friends is that they are physical, rude to one another (“banter Mum”) and not a lot else. I can now see I was wrong.
    The rest of the programme was pretty much as expected – skimpy clothing, lots of preening, casual relationships, ‘coupling up’ aka sticking 2 complete strangers in a bed together, stealing some-one else’s partner and filming people doing things under covers.

    Watching the recording (and reading The Mail online so I had an idea what was coming) gave us a chance to chat about it, reflect on the ‘relationships’ we were seeing, talk about appearance being less important than personality and loyalty and more besides. It is not my favourite programme in the world but we’re watching it again together next year. I suspect we’ll get bored – the people seem less interesting this year – but it’s something to do together.

    I just wish we could go back to 2 years ago when we bonded over Peaky Blinders. I’ve tried Game of Thrones with my younger one (14) at half term but gave up when I went to bed before him and he binged watched. I was mightily relieved when he toldme “all the sex scenes were pointless and unnecessary so I skipped over them.” Good lad.

    • Oh goodness there’s no way I could stomach Game of Thrones with my kids – the sex is gratuitous and graphic in that one! At least this is censored to some extent.

  4. My 14 year old loves it, we watch it together every night. I don’t think there is anything really on it that I wouldn’t want him to see. Sure the language isn’t great at times and there is a lot of smooching but its not the worst thing he could watch, he finds it funny!

  5. To be honest I cannot stand the program but my daughter adores it. I quite like listening to the conversations about the contestants though as they seem to realise how ridiculous their behaviour is, so that is a good sign

  6. I only watched it the first night it started up again so I’m not sure my Daughter knows about it. I keep forgetting to pop it on to see what happens. Must remember later. My Daughter has not ask too watched it but if she did, I would let her watch it too 🙂

  7. I think you’ve taken a very sensible stance. Teenagers will often find a, way to watch things they’re not allowed to at home. And as you said, you can discuss things together and turn it off if things get too inappropriate.

  8. Really interesting to read this, I have a 13 year old son and my first reaction to him telling me they were all watching Love Island at school was shock! However they are growing up and yes its a perfect way to open up conversations about lots of different things.

    • Yes I was surprised that in year 8 they’re all discussing it. I’m not sure if they’ve all continued, but she said her snapchat feed was basically endless posts about Love Island for the first few days, so it’s no wonder she felt she was missing out if she didn’t watch.

  9. I think it’s great that you’ve thought about letting her watch it from all aspects and considered the pros and cons. To be honest, I don’t think it’s that racy and if you’re watching it with her then that’s fine.

  10. Thankfully I’m too young to watch it (I’m only five) however my mummy totally agrees and would hate for me to be excluded from conversations. Anything to tick off my self-esteem box is good for her!

  11. I laughed a lot when reading the first part of this post! I always used to find some remains of my collections/ hobbys in the vacuum 🙂 I have never watched Love Island myslef, but what you do is very responsible! The fact that you sit and watch it with her- awesome! It bonds you, and you always have a chance to discuss important subjects.
    Well done x


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