A bomb exploded on MTV, and your teens may have become part of the fallout. The fuse was lit years ago, however. Why didn't we do anything to disarm this bomb or snip the fuse? All of the signs were there since they were infants, on television, newspapers, magazines in the media, then on the internet, My Space, Facebook, Twitter, their cell phones… This fuse burned across all of these media, through your household and your neighbors', on the school bus and in the schools… We never looked to see where the fuse was leading, and now look what happened.
The television show, Skins, debuted on Viacom's MTV with a viewership of 3.3 million viewers, its highest ratings in the 12-34 year-old range. Viacom, by the way, is the same company that brings you Dora the Explorer on Nickelodeon. You don't have to look too far to see the concerns with the show Skins, just watch the trailer; however, I don't want the focus of this to be the show itself, which is concerning enough; the focus should be on our culture, itself, after all, we may not have lit the fuse, but we allowed it to burn all the way to the bomb itself.
Skins Didn't Start The Fire
Back in the 80's, the heavy metal bands Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne were implicated in the suicide of teenagers for the lyrics in their music and this was taken to court. What I believed then and believe now is that while these teens and young adults listen to the genre of music, their musical interests were only an indicator of their beliefs, emotions and attitudes. As it pertains to Skins, this show is no more responsible for the sexual attitudes of our kids than heavy metal is for suicide. However, these are further influences that impact our culture and our kids.
Kids from infancy on are exposed to sexual content, whether we realize or not, and as I have discussed before in previous blogs (Elmo Says, Gleeful Discretion, and Your Body Is Not A Disneyland) this exposure contributes to the vernacular of their unspoken language and ours. We all have to see that we have become numb to many of the influences in our culture that became the fuse that led to this bomb. Skin is everywhere and what they have seen on TV and in the media is that sex is power and drugs are an escape. These are very powerful messages indeed, and aren't we all seeking power in some form?
Money, It's A Hit
The almighty dollar is also a huge source of power. How much money do we spend on sex, drugs, and rock and roll? The bottom line is people pay for these and watch the shows and the advertising dollars will follow. I have a few questions for Taco Bell, who recently announced that they were pulling out of their sponsorship. When did they decide to pull their sponsorship of the show, and if they saw the trailers for the show why did they think it was okay to sponsor this show in the first place?
Money makes our media world go around, and with the ferocity of the competition and limited ad dollars being spread around to that many more outlets, realize that you, as a consumer and viewer, have more power than you think. When the money hungry monster isn't fed, he dies faster and faster these days. If you don't watch the show, it will not survive. When we allow shows that endorse unhealthy and reckless lifestyles to remain in our media-driven culture, we make it okay and send a message that this behavior is okay to our kids and others.
Freedom, I Won't Let You Down
Over the past decade, the internet has become more and more of a vehicle for our belief systems and information is shared at an eye-popping speed, and many of our kids have had unprecedented and unsupervised access to it. In addition, cell phones have contributed to another avenue of exposure to life that is also often unsupervised. Like kids in a candy store without supervision, and even sometimes with supervision, many of them ate too much candy that made them sick, and they still have not learned to eat healthy.
We live in a country that values freedom, and some powers of the internet and media work to protect these freedoms that sometimes protect their interests more than ours. As a parent, it is your job to monitor and manage your child's freedom. I would prefer it not be control. Freedom comes with a price and a responsibility. Use it wisely, and teach your kids to do the same. At this time, we have a lot of work to do.