“Children model the behavior of adults, on whatever scale is available to them. Ours are growing up in a nation where most important influential men — from presidents to the coolest film characters — solve problems by killing people. Killing is quick and sure and altogether manly.” — Barbara Kingsolver, “Small Wonder.”
I don’t watch much TV but, when I do, I’m almost always appalled by something I see. Whether it’s the regular programming or particular commercials, the message that often emanates from the box is one that is not only repulsive to any adult who cares about morals and ethics, but has to leave a very negative impression on our youth. In preparation for this column, I was going to watch the tube for a while and list some of the repulsive things I saw, but it didn’t take long before I turned it off in disgust. The few I saw included a commercial for a movie titled something like “Derangement” which showed a young, scantily-clad woman taking aim and shooting a man and one for a daredevil event titled, “Nuclear Cowboyz.” Both were outrageous!
As broadcast standards continue to descend downhill, it brings to mind about how 10 or 15 years ago we were told by four prestigious medical groups — The American Medical Association, The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Psychological Association and The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry — that came together to emphasize the deleterious effects of media violence on our young people “that the effects of media violence are measurable and long-lasting.” They recommended that parents control the media that their children are so attracted to. Nothing like passing the buck!
In 2000, after a lengthy study by the Federal Trade Commission, the producers of violent music, movies, video games and television shows were condemned for promoting their wares to children. So what happened? The responsibility for reason was left up to the industry and parents were cautioned to monitor their children’s viewing. Did a lot of good, didn’t it?
In her new book, “The Big Disconnect,” Catherine Steiner Adair, Ed.D. writes: “Boys and girls alike are easily traumatized by premature exposure to the media-based adult culture that that cultivates cynicism and cynical values, treats sex and violence as entertainment, routinely sexualizes perceptions of girls and women, and encourages aggression in boys.”
When the problems were with car seats and flammable fabrics in children’s nightwear, regulations were promptly forthcoming but poisoning the minds and psyches of our most precious national resource in the name of the bottom line is obviously up for debate. It seems that those who should be protecting the interests of our children are afraid of treading on the right of free creative expression, no matter how demented the purveyor may be.
If anyone, including the physician’s group, thinks that enough parents are willing or able to carefully monitor their children’s media usage to make any difference, they are living in a fantasy world. Many responsible parents dislike violent media fare but are too overwhelmed by their hectic lives to pay much attention to what their children are viewing. Some do not care and a few demented souls relish the mayhem with their young children sitting beside them.
It is very difficult for even very dedicated parents to protect their children from such inappropriate influences because they are so pervasive in our culture. Parents are up against an industry that is deliberately and knowingly undermining the culture and values that responsible parents want for their children. Before the deregulation of television and the proliferation of electronic media devices, parents were generally supported by the community and society in their efforts to impart decent values to their children. But most of today’s children see a very perverse view of the culture in living color on big and small screens, promoted by corporate interests whose only goal is profit and who are willing to sacrifice our children in the process.
Are we going to sit mesmerized in front of our electronic devices ignoring how our weakening morals and values continue to deteriorate and imprint the future? Or will we take to heart what Dr. David Walsh wrote about media violence in “Selling Out America’s Children”? “While we must do whatever we can to curb the epidemic of violence, we must also recognize that we won’t be successful until we re-prioritize our values as a society and once again take responsibility for our children seriously.” This requires a demand for government regulation. Today, more than ever, it truly does take a village to raise a child.
Since 1984, Dorothy Dimitre has written more than 750 columns for various local newspapers. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.