Parental Control or Governmental Control?

November 1, 2011


Over the past couple of decades, television has become an integral part to all of our daily lives. As explained by Kids’ Health, children ages 8-18 spend at least four hours in front of the television daily. Currently, there are hundreds of channels that children have access to which can easily influence their beliefs and actions. As television’s scope and content has expanded, a lot of controversy has ensued with parents and media corporations as to what material should be  allowed and not allowed to be portrayed on popular shows that most children watch each week. Parents have become more concerned with how much and what their children are watching –especially when parents may not be looking.

What most parents are concerned about is whether their children being exposed to certain subject material too early? As many psychological experiments have demonstrated, when children watch violence on television the short-term effects lead to a priming of violence which serves as a child’s first exposure to violence. Once a child has been primed towards a certain subject, they can become emotionally desensitized which leads to their believing  that participation in some of these violent actions are normal. If a child thinks that stealing, fighting, or other negative behaviors  are acceptable just because a character continuously does it on a television show, it can translate to more violent behaviors as they grow up. This is the reason why there are classification ratings such as Y (youth) and MA (mature audience) in order to let parents know who the target audience is for a particular show.

Parents have also become aware of more controversial material that parents may not believe is right for their children to be exposed to. An example of this is the  show “Glee”. Glee is about misfit teenagers who form a show-choir in Ohio, and together along with their teachers and families tackle a multitude of issues from gay and lesbian relationships to teen pregnancy. Creator Ryan Murphy views the show as a way to display “the importance of arts education” and others who support the show see it as way to start a dialogue with their children about certain issues that are prominent in today’s culture. On the other side of the spectrum, the Parents Television Council, a non-profit organization which keeps an updated database on the content of movies and television shows, disagrees. On their website they rate shows based on a stoplight ranking. Glee received a red light meaning the “show may include gratuitous sex, explicit dialogue, violent content, or obscene language, and is unsuitable for children”. I believe that these ratings are harsh because I believe along with Ryan Murphy that Glee is only trying to represent the issues that today’s teenagers are facing while trying to keep it as lighthearted as possible with the inclusion of song and dance.

While television material may not seem like a political issue, it actually can be viewed in that way in some respects. For example, by its very nature, the classification that is used to identify what type of viewer can watch a certain program needs to be uniform across all networks, which is why it is determined by the Federal Communications Committee. This committee was established by Congress in order to address this particular issue. For material specific issues, families are able to take a more private approach because certain cable companies offer parental controls that put locks on certain channels that parents do not want their kids watching

Due to the various ways that television ratings can be addressed publicly or privately, it can be hard to establish its place on the public/ private spectrum that was discussed in class. I believe that there should be a more liberal, or private, approach to this issue. My reasoning is taken from the overall belief of liberalism that was discussed in lecture. As part of this approach, Locke describes that ” anything on which we strongly disagree depoliticize it”. As described, this ideology was first applied to religion and then reached to other realms which could include the media in a modern world. To me, this can be interpreted to mean that when there is an issue of personal preference that does not affect the overall society, then it should be dealt with on a person to person basis. In other words, it should not be the television networks‘ responsibility to look out for something that could potentially be deemed as controversial to one family and not to another. The networks’ only job should be to abide by the overall rule of the content ratings. It should be completely up to the parents as to what their child can or cannot watch. Parents should be able to a have the freedom to choose which channels their children watch “from a meaningful set of options”. I think this approach outweighs the approach of having the networks interfere broadly with content. However, I recognize that there are risks with this approach, and it is by no means perfect. As I noted above, prolonged viewing of violence on television may actually change behaviors in youths, and those behaviors could negatively impact society. One’s parent irresponsibility in letting their child watch constant violent television may lead to that child’s violent actions against a child whose parents were responsible in controlling their own child’s television viewing.

There is a fine line between what parents can do to prevent or not prevent what their kids watch, and what government agencies or public organizations need to do to protect children (and society). Which way do you believe that it should take? Should television shows be able to say whatever they want and parents should address it as it comes, or should there be precautions taken earlier to protect children? Where does television lie on the public/ private spectrum?



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One Comment on “Parental Control or Governmental Control?”

  1. Connor Baharozian Says:

    I believe that parents need to be the figures to step in and prevent children from viewing certain television shows if need be. I grew up with my parents being very strict on amount of TV I watched per day and what specific shows I was allowed to watch. There wasn’t a parental lock on TV, but I knew not to watch certain shows. Though at the time I wished I could watch shows that many of my friends watched, I look back now and am glad I wasn’t exposed to lots of violence for example on TV. A great example of media that I was not allowed to go near were the Grand Theft Auto video games. Almost all of my friends had these games, yet I did not. I think nowadays, though I am still a video game player, I hate the violence games. Halo, Assassin’s Creed, and other games similar do not appeal to me and I believe that this is due to my parents influence against violence while growing up. I can’t say that I am less violent than any of my peers, but much research notes that increased exposure to violence in media leads to increased violence in individuals.

    I know that when I become a parent, I will try to prevent my children from watching certain shows or be overexposed to certain things such as violence. I do not think that it is up to TV companies to be in charge of regulating what people can watch. We do live in a free country, and although there are certain restrictions to what we can do, watching TV shows should not be restricted. If a parent deems that a show is inappropriate for their children, they are in charge.

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