STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Here's a question parents now face as we prepare for tonight's Republican debate. How much are we willing to expose children to the language of the people who want to be president? Should there be an explicit lyrics label? NPR's Jennifer Ludden spoke with adults and adolescents about how they're handling this political season.
JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: Janice Wright's sixth grader loves politics. The family lives in Crosby, Texas, and they're big supporters of Ted Cruz. Last week, they were late pulling up the GOP debate on their laptop when Janice saw a social media reference to Marco Rubio's little hands comment, a veiled reference to Donald Trump's private parts. Wright nixed the debate, telling her disappointed son that candidates weren't acting like adults.
JANICE WRIGHT: They should have ratings at the front of the debates. I don't know. You know, contains language and violence and, you know, sexual content. That might be helpful for parents.
LUDDEN: For tonight's debate she says she might prescreen so she can fast-forward through any inappropriate parts. When she does let her kids watch, Wright tries to find lessons where she can.
WRIGHT: So we say, hey, look how he's really kind of bullying or mean to this person. That's not how you talk to someone. Or see how he doesn't really answer the person's question. He just picks on them instead. That's not really how you debate.
LUDDEN: I ask her 10-year-old son, Houston, if he's surprised by the language in these debates.
HOUSTON: It's hard to say. I mean, I knew there would be a lot of yelling and shouting. I guess I'm kind of used to it now.
LUDDEN: In Louisville, Ky., Laura Hall's 13-year-old son takes part in mock government at school and is also paying close attention.
LAURA HALL: I mean, in a way it makes me sad that at this pivotal point in his development that this is what he's seeing.
LUDDEN: Hall's a Democrat but wants to teach her son respect for all parties. She felt the need for a teachable moment last week, after a Trump rally in Louisville A video that went viral shows an older white man repeatedly shoving an African-American woman, who was protesting.
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HALL: It's important that the kids understand that that happens, and it's not acceptable.
LUDDEN: Her son Benjamin says he's noticed the crowds at debates too.
BENJAMIN: The people are just kind of egging them on because I've seen clips where they'll, like, say something rude to one another. And then you'll just hear everybody cheer and laugh. And that's not a good example for bystanding.
LUDDEN: At Sherwood Githens Middle School in Durham, N.C., some students are studying the campaign, writing papers on heated topics like immigration. Eighth grader Michelle Terron Azamar says her parents are from Mexico. She felt hurt when Trump compared immigrants from there to rapists and criminals.
MICHELLE TERRON: I've been really offended because that's his opinion if he wants to not like Hispanics or whenever he doesn't like. But I just think he shouldn't take it out on us.
LUDDEN: Her classmate, Samori Reed-Bandele, follows the campaign on social media. He says all the candidates' name-calling doesn't seem very presidential.
SAMORI REED-BANDELE: I just feel as though that is real childish, and I don't think that grown adults to be acting like us.
LUDDEN: Alejandra Abella teaches middle school debate in Ventura County, Calif.
ALEJANDRA ABELLA: Unfortunately, I have been able to pull more examples of what should not be done in debating than examples of what should be done.
LUDDEN: At first, when Abella showed the class video clips from Republican debates, she was horrified. She's teaching Lincoln-Douglas style in which debaters base their arguments on ethical values.
ABELLA: Honestly, these moments in the debates in which they're hearing lots of words and absolutely no substance are helping them understand why do we look for value in Lincoln-Douglas debates. And it's helping them focus on that.
LUDDEN: A silver lining, she says, in such a negative presidential campaign. Jennifer Ludden, NPR News.
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