Super Bowl controversies to talk about with your kids


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The game promises to bring up serious issues around protesting, concussions, arrests

Take advantage of the topics as jumping-off points for conversation with your kids

For a fun family-and-friends event, the Super Bowl sure generates a lot of controversy: the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” of 2004, Tom Brady’s deflate-gate, and that scary, depressing Nationwide Insurance “dead kid” ad that had parents all over the country covering their kids’ eyes.

This year, with brewing disputes about protesting the national anthem, football and concussions, player arrests, and accusations of sexual harassment, the Big Game promises to bring up serious issues that aren’t necessarily age-appropriate for the show’s youngest viewers.

Of course, there will be plenty of good stuff, too. In fact, over the past few years, the Super Bowl has gotten a lot friendlier to families, with entertaining commercials that don’t use sex to sell, a cancer-awareness campaign, and more women in the National Football League (NFL), which gives you an opportunity to balance some of the negativity with positive, thoughtful messages of your own.

And even if the issues that come up at your Super Bowl gathering are what the refs would call out of bounds, the best defense is always a good offense. In other words, take advantage of the topics as jumping-off points for conversation with your kids. Here’s a roundup of some of the biggest issues surrounding the Super Bowl and ideas for how to engage your kids in conversation:

Taking a knee

Even though the NFL, President Trump, and veterans’ groups have condemned players for kneeling during the national anthem, the issue is far from settled. In fact, “taking a knee” during “The Star-Spangled Banner” has evolved from a protest against police brutality to an issue of free speech.

  • With younger kids, keep your explanation very simple by saying, “The national anthem is an important song to America. But some players don’t feel that the song stands for all Americans. When the song plays, they kneel down so people will pay attention to those Americans who may be treated unfairly.” If you want to add your feelings about the issue, just keep it to the point.
  • Older kids will grasp the idea of protest – and may have experimented with some of their own. You can engage them by asking their opinions about taking a knee. Is it disrespectful not to stand during the national anthem? Is it worth the backlash they’re getting if sitting helps draw attention to their cause? If players – who earn millions of dollars – don’t mind getting fined for sitting, is their protest still meaningful? What issues do you think are worth protesting for?

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Junk food

From M&Ms to Skittles to this year’s two-ads-in-one commercial for Doritos and Mountain Dew, the Super Bowl is one of the biggest junk food pushers on the planet.

Sure, the ads are entertaining, and enjoying the special Super Bowl promotions that advertisers go all out on is part of the fun of watching the game. But advertising has a huge influence on kids’ eating habits – especially when it uses humor and other tricks that grab kids’ attention.

  • Kids under 8 don’t really understand that ads are trying to sell something – and they’