Last week in my Media Studies class we had a discussion contemplating the possibility of banning everything that could possibly be harmful to children.

As thoughts of censoring Jackass and Viva La Bam, crude rap music and violent video games danced through my head it hit me – it isn’t the harmful programming that we need to ban, it is bad parenting. When parents get home from work, instead of allowing their child to plop down in front of the television, parents might be better off to ask the kids about their day. It only takes a few, consistent meaningful conversations to make children realize that media is just fantasy and that guns and fire really can kill people.

A study conducted in 2001 at Iowa State University reported that children who play violent video games, even for short periods, are more likely to behave aggressively in the real world. Parents need to be aware of this and monitor their child as they see fit, not cry to a bureaucracy. It is only after there is a problem – a school shooting, a gun accident or someone gets hurt playing with fire – that the question is raised of where were the parents?

Another issue that came up in our class discussion was that of sexuality. As each generation pushes the envelope and wears their shorts a little higher, their shirts a little tighter and dances a little more provocatively, critics become more and more disapproving. First it was Britney Spears’ fault that little girls wanted to wear sparkling make-up and booty shorts with tube tops, but then it became “the norm.” Now, young children are trying again to see what they can get away with. Dressing provocatively isn’t the goal anymore, acting provocatively is what gets attention. College used to be the start of sexual exploration. Now the average age that children are beginning to have sex is dropping to the point that twelve year olds are engaging in sexual activity. Once again, where are the parents?

It is not Shakira’s latest music video that is compelling children to go out and have sex, and although there are a plethora of reasons why the child is making the decision to have sex, it is the parent’s job to be aware that this is going on and to handle it. MTV is not to blame for airing “sexy” music videos featuring alcohol and drug use – parents are to blame for allowing their children to get away with using these substances.

Children are a reflection of their parents, not a reflection of the media they enjoy. Media applies to all facets of information that children are exposed to and as long as parents supervise their children in making sure they are being responsible in their viewing and mimicking, it would never be necessary to even consider banning these outlets.

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