Love Island is back on our screens with Laura Whitmore at the helm - but should children be allowed to watch it? A child psychologist shares her thoughts.
It’s likely you will already know what Love Island is. But for those less clued-up, it’s a reality TV show which sees a group of contestants couple-up in a tropical villa.
The aim of the game is to find love, win the hearts of the nation and take home the prize money.
The ITV2 show also offers frank discussions on relationships, love and sex.
For the past few years, the series has presented up a number of moments which could be deemed as highly inappropriate for children – from last year’s contestant Maura Higgins describing her ‘fanny flutters,’ to the 2018 boys and their ‘do bits’ society.
So is it appropriate for kids to watch Love Island?
During the last series, a mum sparked an online debate on whether children should be allowed to watch the popular TV show.
The woman took to online parenting forum Netmums, to ask other users what they thought would be an acceptable age for her children to watch the ITV matchmaking programme.
‘At what age would you let you child watch Love Island?’ wrote the mum.
‘Is seven acceptable or would you wait until they were a teenager to allow them to watch the show?’ she added.
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Forum users went on to express fury at the woman’s second question, insisting that seven years old is too young to even consider allowing kids to watch the somewhat scandalous programme.
‘When they’re 16! and mentally stable!’ raged one mum. ‘Those people On love island are not role Models for children lol! It’s not how I’d want my child Conducting themselves!
Someone added, ‘Have you watched the show? They have sex etc on it? Are you for real. It’s on past water shed so children of that age SHOULD BE IN BED ASLEEP!
‘You should be ashamed of yourself! I’m glad you were not my Mother!’ another said.
‘No I wouldn’t personally,’ added another forum user. ‘Children are becoming too obsessed with looks younger resulting in child body dysmorphia. Also there will probably be sexual scenes at some point.’
‘Surely this a joke?’ commented another baffled user.
Many mums shared their own rules, with many of the view that even secondary school age is too young.
‘My oldest is 11 and mature for her age, will be going into secondary school in Sept and I wouldn’t let her watch it,’ wrote one mum. ‘I personally love the show and many other reality programs. Maybe her friends at school are saying they are going to watch it so she asked you?’
‘No way in primary school!’ added another. ‘Ideally not until age 15, but I think a lot in YEAR 8 plus, will be following it on social media, even if not watching it. My daughter is nearly 7. No way is she watching Love Island.’
However, 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.
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Should children be allowed to watch Love Island?
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 per cent) 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’.
She adds, ‘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?’
A similar argument has emerged about other shows – including Married at First Sight. The new season of the UK version airs its new series in late August this year. Taking on a different format to before, many have raised questions around whether the marriages on Married at First Sight UK are legally binding this year.
Are you letting your child watch Love Island this year or is that something you’d never them watch? Head over to our Facebook page and let us know your thoughts!