Rebecca Hagelin

So fierce is the competition for their cash that modern marketing techniques have become, in many cases, insidiously evil. Selling to tweens isn’t about finding out what they want, it’s all about figuring out how to manipulate their minds.

Of course, sex sells and always has been a staple of marketing campaigns. But today’s most highly sexualized campaigns are targeted at children -- selling empty promises of sexual power and every kind of sexual perversion, accompanied by a crude incivility that flows throughout the entertainment programming, not just in easily identifiable ads.

MTV (with its “pooh cam,” which enables one to watch others go to the bathroom, and its tawdry Spring Break specials, etc.) and others have become experts at feeding on the raging hormones, edginess and roller-coaster emotions of our youth, producing highly titillating material that ignites their adrenaline and leaves them begging for more. Instead of helping our sons and daughters positively approach and channel their sexuality and their developing understanding of decency and civility, the entertainment world pours gasoline on youthful passions and confusion.

Plainly put, our kids are being used.

Educators, religious youth leaders and parents must become familiar with this brave new world and rise up to stop the abuse. And parental action is most critical to successfully freeing our kids from those who would entrap them. After all, it’s not at school that pornographic Web sites are viewed, that dangerous MySpace or chat-room conversations take place, or that hours are spent watching the crud of MTV or playing violent video games. It’s in their homes -- often in the privacy of their own bedrooms -- that kids consume the brainwashing rot.

Mom and Dad, where are you?

A 2002 Kaiser Family Foundation Report found that 70 percent of youth ages 15 to 17 reported accidentally coming across pornography online, and 23 percent of those youth said this happens “very” or “somewhat” often. A more recent study by the London School of Economics reveals the problem is worsening, with a full 90 percent of teens who go online reporting they have stumbled across hard-core pornography. The marketing tricks to create kiddie porn addicts are endless: E-mail inboxes are spammed by perverted pornographers, unsuspecting youth are frequently tricked onto pornographic sites by simply mistyping a word or using a common phrase, and “innocent” chatter in chat rooms and on the Web pages of sites such as MySpace lure kids to tawdry places and even personal encounters with pedophiles.

Mom and Dad, where are you?

A recent Nielson study reveals that 77 percent of kids say they have a TV in their bedroom. As the Kaiser Family Foundation reported last year, most kids say their parents haven’t a clue what they’re watching. The average youth now spends 6 1/2 hours on media per day.

Mom and Dad, where are you?

It used to be that a parent’s worst nightmare was the guy in a trench coat lurking in the shadows at the playground. Today, that guy is often in our kids’ bedroom. Ignorant parents, or those too fearful to set standards at home, are paying for their sons and daughters to be virtually stalked in the comfort of their own homes.

The good news is that, as Kaiser has reported, kids say their parents have tremendous influence on them. When children and teens face problems or questions, they are more likely to go to Mom or Dad first for advice and help if the parent has previously taken the initiative to talk to and teach their children about difficult issues.

The question is, what kind of influence are you having on your children?

When you ignore or pretend you don’t see unhealthy, immoral or just plain tacky/cheap messages, your child interprets your silence as an endorsement of the material. When you mindlessly plunk down 60 bucks for the latest video game, or give your 10-year-old the cash to buy clothes that make her look like a street-walker, you’re part of the problem.

Listen to that fret. Respond to that inner voice that tells you something is amiss in our culture. It’s time to rise up like a mother bear and protect your cubs. It’s time to be the protective, involved father of your kids’ dreams. It’s time to be the parent your kids were born for you to be.

Rebecca Hagelin

Rebecca Hagelin is a public speaker on the family and culture and the author of the new best seller, 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family.
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Rebecca Hagelin's column. Sign up today and receive daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.