Perhaps I should give Miley Cyrus all the credit for my column this month. Besides, she is the proverbial straw I’ve been waiting for. Suffice it to say I believe Miss Cyrus’ repugnant performance on the recent VMA’s acted as a wake-up call of sorts for many parents including myself. If you missed the show, don’t spend the time viewing it on YouTube or some other social media. It will only add to the number of hits she’s received and help prove her notion she was “making history.” It’s truly worthy of nothing. More, I’m not going to tag my comments here as some sporadic parental rant but will use this as a stage to start others thinking. From the disconcerted looks on faces in the audience, it was obvious this Miley-infested twerk-a-thon was unsettling to more than just parents. Nonetheless, this display comes from a long line of episodes in the ongoing drama of “shock media.” Television continues to stun me over and over. As I have no doubt television is saturated with plenty of effectual programs, this shock factor has compelled me to watch little if any at all.
This present display of jolt follows behind a long line of offenders. This is not the first time television has left us with mouths wide open and it won’t be the last. Hollywood continues to push the envelope with loose boundaries in what is “allowed” and “acceptable.” Unfortunately, the acceptance and threshold for the explicit and violent nature of television has risen. And it’s not just cable. Prime time network television reveals more violence and obscenities than ever before with shows depicting crime and the graphic results of violence that come with it as well as ones causing us to question our moral frame. Cable television introduced the idea that ultra-violent TV shows could also be critically acclaimed. The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates broadcast networks, has indecency regulations but no specific prohibitions on media violence. Networks will rely on their viewers to tell them where to set the boundaries. The only way to measure the level of violence is by the conscience of broadcasting standards and what they will allow. Cable networks, not regulated by the FCC, tend to be much more permissive. But surely there’s some limit, some point at which the public, parents, will say, “Really?” I’ve thrown my hands up at what I’ve seen run in heavy rotation during prime time. Over the holidays last year, trailers for “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D” ran during commercials of the college bowl games my family was watching including my two 9-year-olds. I was absolutely stunned at the graphic nature on the screen in front of us. The days when football programmers considered football games and evening sitcoms a safe zone are over.
We can peruse for hours over the countless studies done on the affects of media violence on our kids. I will not even come close in trying to dissect all of the research. What I can examine is how to handle the question my nine year olds placed before me after the bowl game, “Mom, is that man with the chainsaw real?” As parents, we can never completely eradicate violence and obscenities from our lives and that of our children. Kids today are going to be exposed to things we have little or no control over them seeing; it remains one of the uncertainties of parenting. But we can mitigate the amount and the impact of media violence and explicitness our children are exposed to. It’s a start.