For generations parents have complained that the media has been improperly influencing our children. From rock and roll in the 1950s to gangsta rap in the 90s and the tv shows and movies of today, parents the nation over, have been urging the United States Government to step in and protect our children from all the exposure to things like sex, drug use, drinking and violence, claiming that all the attention recently circulating about all of it is desensitizing our children and condoning this once undesirable behavior as a normal part of an open lifestyle.
For many Americans, this reality is a normal part of life. We use drugs, we drink, we enjoy sex, we live in impoverished communities and we raise our children in lower income neighborhoods, but many parents argue that our children are being exposed to these images and lifestyles through the media way too early in life and in an attempt to emulate their favorite stars, they are in fact putting themselves in an increased amount of unnecessary danger and a rapid ascension into adulthood.
It is estimated that by the time the average child reaches the sixth grade, they will have seen about 100,000 acts of violence, which will include up to 8,000 simulated murders. The music they listen to, the shows they watch, the movies and video games we put out and the increasingly easy access to porn has overloaded young children and made them old before their time. This much exposure could cause children to be less concerned about the pain and suffering of others, become more aggressive towards others and/or become more afraid of the outside world, a problem that has increased dramatically over the years.
A History Of Desensitization
In the 1950s when the Rock and Roll genre hit its peak of popularity, parents complained that the racy lyrics and sexually suggestive dance moves of huge artists like Elvis Presley and James Dean were a bad influence on their teens and would lead to a rise deviant behavior. In the 70s it was artists like Jimmy Hendricks and Janis Joplan that parents were in an uproar about, because their lyrics suggested a lifestyle that promoted regular open drug use and sexual activity without commitment. In the 90s it was Gangsta Rap. Artists like Ice T, and Snoop Dog sang about violence, murder, drug use, rape, and placed women in such a bad light that parents took their complaints all the way to Congress in an attempt to contain the monster and ban rap from store shelves forever.
Along with the new genres of music the 1990s had to offer, questionable influences started invading American’s homes through their television sets. The rise of ‘reality tv’ brought the cheap antics of Johnny nobody to the boob tube and put it on display for all to see. Anybody could now be a star for doing nothing more than being themselves. But as shows evolved and television networks dug deeper and deeper to find fresh ideas for the next big show executives turned to young adults and teens to fill that void.
Nowadays all a girl has to do is be a pregnant teen to make it big and get on television. Shows like MTV’s Teen Mom, portray what kids say is the hardship of being a teenage parent, but so many parents argue that the show glorifies teenage pregnancy and actually encourages teens to get pregnant for a chance to be on the show and earn their fifteen minutes of fame.
The popular MTV show, Skins brings to mind a controversial 1995 movie titled Kids, that was shot as a sort of documentary into the everyday life of urban teens. It took the viewer on a journey with a group of friends that skipped school, used drugs, had unprotected sex, raped, raved and even got tested for HIV. Now while it had a point to it, and it was released during a time in America when promoting HIV testing was in the forefront of everyone’s daily life this show, Skins, portrays urban teens lives for entertainment purposes only.
The teens portrayed on this show have multiple sex partners per episode, engage in unprotected sex, homosexual relationships, violence, drug and alcohol use, stealing, lying, dealing drugs and cheating with no real consequences whatsoever. MTV claims that it is an accurate portrayal of the modern teen but others say its simply glorifying these acts and desensitizing our children to them and making this lifestyle seem normal and cool.
Shows like The Bad Girls Club are teaching our young women that in order to be famous in today’s society all you have to do is fight on camera, have a foul mouth and sleep around. Music is teaching our young men that to be a success in this life means you have to drive a Bentley, smoke weed, sell drugs, carry guns, shot people to solve your disputes, wear Johnny Dang ‘bling’ and keep a gaggle of “hoes” on your arm at all times. Education, talent, self-worth and merit no longer matter, as long as you can hustle. Everyone takes the easy road and its so much fun.
Where Do We Draw The Line?
We reward the same people exposing our children to these images, these lifestyles, these habits by making them rich. We allow our children to watch these shows, listen to this music and play these video games and we buy their endorsed products. We don’t teach our children that there is in fact a difference between fantasy and reality. The makers of these shows, videos and lyrics don’t take the time to state that it is just that, fantasy. They claim its a portrayal of reality. They are just calling it like they see it. But they offer no alternative. It’s all one sided.
They don’t show you the single mother who works three jobs to support her children. They don’t show you the dad who spent years in medical school, going broke for the sake of an education as true success. The police are the enemy, education is a waste of time and mediation to solve one’s problems is a sign of weakness and doing the right thing is a one way ticket to being a loser. So what is a parent left to do?
With some many single parent homes and others with two working parents and little to no adult supervision where can parents step in and draw those lines the media has failed to? Things like parent block and family monitoring on your home computer can only do so much. Our kids will find a way to look at and listen to this stuff. As parents we need to sit our children down young and explain to them the difference between the real world and television/music glamor.
We need to explain to them that the rappers in the videos don’t live the oh so easy life they portray in their lyrics and videos. We need to teach our children that an education is still necessary to succeed in this world and that no one gets a free ride, and we need to make the media take some responsibility for the messages they put out. Learn how to program you cable box, put blocks on your computer, monitor your children’s music and video game usage and write to your senators.
As trends have shown and time has allowed it pass, the media is only going to continue to put out racier and more questionable images, songs, games and video. They will continue to push the envelope and teach the children of America that living the pretend lifestyles of tv land is super cool and our future generations will have a very tough time making the assimilation into the real world if they think its all cakes and cookies.
Future generations will have no remorse for others, commitments will be a thing of the past and society as a whole will crumble when no one wants to work and everyone wants to make a quick buck and large portions of our youth continue to end up in prison from disregarding the law as something only losers follow. The media has made violence, unprotected sex, drug use, and horror a daily reality for children and no one stops to think, who will eventually be paying the price for all this?`