A friend of mine recently hosted a summer barbeque with two close friends and their families. The kids all matched up in age—teens and preteens—and soon enough were talking music, movies and TV. Although they hung out on their own, the kids’ voices (unknown to them) were audible at times to the adults.
A voice broke through the rest as an older teen turned the conversation to a recent music video she’d seen. The video of the popular Lady Gaga song, “Telephone,” (an innocuous sounding title, right?) featured images of prison sex, lesbianism, and more. Shocked and embarrassed, her parents stepped in to halt the conversation, but not before it became obvious that several of the other kids also had seen the video, unbeknownst to their parents.
These are good kids, from concerned families who try to protect them from exposure to explicit content. But media content is moving with lightning speed towards the hard-core extremes.
And our job, as parents, just got harder.
Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) controversial “decency policy.” The policy has been under fire from broadcasters for years, especially since 2004, when the FCC warned broadcast TV stations that they would face fines for airing spontaneous expletives or unscripted “indecent” incidents on live TV (remember Janet Jackson?). The Second Circuit Court sided with the broadcasters: it held that the policy was so “vague” it was unenforceable and violated the broadcasters’ right to free speech.
What’s galling about the decision is that the policy itself only aimed to regulate indecent content during the hours when children might be watching. The rest of the time, broadcast TV stations already push the envelope. They increasingly show all sorts of degrading and explicit content in order to compete with the subscription cable channels. Cable content, unlike free, over-the-air content, faces no FCC restrictions at any time.
The real impact of the decision is symbolic. It signals to media content producers that they face little risk in pushing past existing boundaries.
And it signals to families that we cannot depend on the government to help us protect our children’s innocence.
How to save your family by becoming a media-wise parent.