Our kids grew up in a time when Lucy and Ricky had to sleep in twin beds and when there were regulations that controlled the early evening hour of TV as family viewing time. Violence on TV was carefully controlled — even in commercials. For our grandchildren, it’s something else again. Much of TV has become a sump hole of lurid sensationalism, thanks to the deregulation of 1980 and an industry that has no shame.
James P. Sayer, in his book “The Other Parent” describes the media situation well. “Over the last three decades, we’ve progressively let standards and protections for children erode. First, it was in the interest of free speech and ‘artistic freedom,’ but along the way the market took over. Now it’s exclusively commercial interests that determine the content of the media, and explicit sex is a tried-and-true formula to grab audiences on television, in movies, in music and on the net. … To a troubling extent the adults — industry, government and parents — are letting the media set commercially driven sexual standards for kids who, more than anything, need responsible adult guidance, information and love.”
Not only does much of today’s entertainment media expose children to sexual innuendo and violence completely inappropriate for them, it also greatly influences society’s vision of women. Seems romance has given way to recreational sexual activity with apparently no qualms about viewing women purely as sex objects. Also, more often than not, men are either depicted as lustful airheads or lecherous predators. Miriam Meizdian, author of ‘Boys Will Be Boys,” would add: “ The picture of the adult world imparted by TV is often highly inaccurate, antisocial and devoid of any moral conceptual framework.” Is this what we want our children to emulate?
It isn’t only that the media bombards everyone with titillation and dysfunctional behavior, it’s also the idea that anything goes, that dignity, self-respect and respect for others is so often lacking, and crudeness and in-your-face brashness are so prevalent. Children who watch learn that it is cool to act arrogant, disrespectful and narcissistic and to disdain anything intellectual, thought-provoking or prudent.
“No other Western industrialized nation has so willingly allowed the educational and developmental needs of its kids to be exploited in the pursuit of profit as we have. No other democratic country has so willingly allowed its children to be seen as ‘markets’ for commercial gain and ignored their moral, intellectual and social growth as we have.” — Stayer.
Where is the religious right that seems to be so unglued about the lack of moral values in America? Why aren’t they drumming up support for government regulations that have some teeth in them? Why aren’t those Republicans who lament those liberal producers in Hollywood offering solutions? They preach abstinence while they do nothing to reign in a media running rampant. Are they too busy watching such shows as “Sex in the City” and “Desperate Housewives?”
We may be amused by those more innocent times when father knew best and we could leave it to Beaver, but we all see how without ethical and moral restraints (internal and external), in many cases, freedom becomes license and free enterprise becomes exploitation. A culture that does not value its children enough to diligently protect them from despicable corporate exploitation is a culture whose moral compass is out of whack. As Steven Howard recently wrote in a Daily Journal letter to the editor: “We have failed to recognize the impact of TV and computer game violence on vulnerable minds.” We must never forget that it takes a village to raise a child.
We are all concerned that terrorists emanating from outside and inside are out to destroy our way of life, but there is an insidious enemy that has much greater potential to do us in. It is increasing internal moral decay that is exacerbated by greedy corporate interests, the sociopathic mentality and its cavalier disregard for the welfare of others, and the failure of honest, responsible and decent people to stem the plague.
As Aldous Huxley wrote: “Technological progress has merely provided a more efficient means for going backward.”
Since 1984, Dorothy Dimitre has written more than 1,000 columns for various local newspapers. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.