Should the Government Monitor Kids' Media Intake?

Most parents are concerned about their children's exposure to objectionable media content, which is too-often readily available on TV or the Internet. But would more stringent government regulation of SpongeBob or South Park really help? Well, according 58 percent of parents surveyed in a recently released study: yes. A CNS article states that the study, commissioned by the U.S.C.C.B., found that "parents are concerned about the content of the media to which their children are exposed and are eager to exert more control over that exposure." But the article also noted that parents don't seem to want to be the ones responsible for regulating the content:

Parents are right to express concern about their children's exposure to media but have not historically displayed a willingness to follow through, according to Emory Woodard, an associate professor of communication at Villanova University in Pennsylvania.

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According to the article, "more than 80 percent of those who responded said they wanted to be able to control access to media content depicting sex, violence, illegal drug use, alcohol abuse and profane language." It's hard to tell whether this response represents a kind of wishful thinking that all such content be eliminated, a feeling of helplessness or both. I understand that television shows, movies, ads and Web sites marketing sex and violence as cool are all too easy to find, but what, at least in the home, is keeping parents from regulating the level of exposure to whatever they deem objectionable? The parents were most concerned about TV shows (72 percent) and Internet sites (67 percent). Of course this concern may be for good reason, but it also seems that these forms of media are the ones over which parents actually have the most control at home.

In addition: "three-fourths of respondents say makers of media products should do more to help protect children from inappropriate media content." But this, too, seems to be passing the buck. Media companies produce products they think will sell. If sex and violence didn't sell, these companies would have little reason to produce such material. Parents can show some control with their purchasing power. Concerned parents can, instead, buy TVs that allow certain stations to be blocked and set up their home network to block certain sites on the Internet. Parents were also "concerned" or "very concerned" about TV ads (62 percent), social networking sites (59 percent), video games (57 percent), music (54 percent) and cell phones (43 percent). But aren't kids who need the most oversight on these things, also likely to be younger and therefore more likely to need a parent's permission (and/or money) to purchase these items in the first place? If parents are concerned about kids' media intake, they need to discuss their concerns with their children. They need to set an example at home and help children gain the skills necessary for discerning what's worth watching or listening to. There's a thin line between maintaining standards of decency for television shows and all-out censorship. Let the government worry about proper health care or constitutional immigration laws. Parents should handle the TV.

Kerry Weber

 

 

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David Nickol
7 years 12 months ago
There are two problems, it seems to me, and I think the one not mentioned may be the more significant. It is not just the content of the programming that is the problem, but the amount of time spent watching. I read recently that the average American spends 5 hours a day watching television. (I don't know what the breakdown is for adults and children.) I would say the easier conclusion is that children (and adults) are watching too much television, regardless of the content. It may be difficult to monitor what your children watch five hours a day. But it is a lot less difficult to monitor what they watch one hour a day. 
David Nickol
7 years 12 months ago
On the other hand, few things annoy me more than people who say, "Oh, we don't have a television." 
7 years 12 months ago
One of the best things would be to force cable to offer al la carte pricing. This would enable parents and others to only purchase the programming of their choice. This could be a way to drive out the more sordid programming out of the marketplace.

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