Protecting Kids from Exploitation

For Christian parents, the struggle to protect children from the culture goes far beyond junk food and celebrities pushing sneakers. Indeed, today's kids have been bombarded with more dangerous ideas than any generation in American history. It has become a daunting task for mothers and fathers to shield them from "safe-sex" instruction in school, from New Age gurus, from profane and filthy language in the neighborhood, and from enticements of every stripe. Dogging the young like hungry wolves are predators who would exploit them for financial gain, including drug pushers, unprincipled movie and television producers, sex abusers, abortion providers, heavy-metal freaks, and now, those who inhabit the Internet. As a case in point, Planned Parenthood has distributed thousands of tiny boxes to teens in the Minneapolis area, called "Prom Survival Kits." Each contains three condoms, two breath mints, a confetti party favor, and a discount coupon for a first visit to a Planned Parenthood clinic. These not-so-subtle enticements to sexual activity are characteristic of messages given to teens by adults who ought to know better. How sad that parents have to fight continually to preserve common sense and decency at home.

At times it feels as though there is nothing wholesome left for our children and teens to enjoy. For example, the most popular programs on cable television today feature the violent antics of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). They are kid favorites, with their blood-and-guts brand of entertainment. Watching grown-ups behave in such violent and outrageous ways has to be deleterious to children. Remember the twelve-year-old boy in Florida, Lionel Tate, who body-slammed and beat a six-year-old girl to death, crushing her skull and lacerating her liver? He said he had been watching wrestlers on television and wanted to try their moves. The young killer was given a life sentence. I have not heard a single commentator say that the WWF and their commercial sponsors bear major responsibility for this tragedy, but they do.

Over-the-top comedy shows on cable television also have an enormous impact on young minds. Executives of MTV, with their emphasis on sex and violence, admit attempting to shape each generation of adolescents. One of their corporate ads pictures the back of a teenager's head with "MTV" shaved in his hair. The copy reads, "MTV is not a channel. It's a cultural force. People don't watch it, they love it. MTV has affected the way an entire generation thinks, talks, dresses, and buys." The amazing thing about this ad is that MTV not only admits they are trying to manipulate the young and immature; they spend big bucks bragging about it.

If you still have any doubt that MTV is exploiting your kids, I suggest that you watch some of its popular broadcasts. They should chill your soul. Although producers are constantly changing to attract more viewers, they tend to get worse all the time. A current program called Jackass is downright awful. It "stars" an adolescent nut named Johnny Knoxville, who depicts himself in various disgusting settings. He was videotaped while being turned upside down and sloshed around in a portable toilet. He called it a "poo cocktail." He ate a live goldfish and then vomited it into the bowl. He dressed like a disabled person in a wheelchair and then crashed into a wall. On one occasion, he put on a bulletproof vest and shot himself in the chest with a 38-caliber pistol, a scene that MTV, uncharacteristically, refused to air.The name of the game with these and other shows is to do absolutely anything to garner ratings—most of it sensational, reckless, and immoral. As we speak, more than 2 million young viewers watch Jackass every week.How many boys are immature and unstable enough to imitate the behavior they are watching? The majority of kids, at one time or another, I suspect.

By the time you read this, something new will have been concocted for your impressionable children—something even worse. Author James Poniewozik says the result of these grossed-out offerings is what he calls the "Rude Boy" phenomenon. Today's males, he said, have had to figure out how to alienate their parents, many of whom have "been there and done that." To outdo the rebellion of the past, their behavior has become even more extreme and audacious. But have you thought about this? Someday the children yet to be born to the Rude Boys and their kooky girlfriends will have to figure out how to shock their parents. It will not be easy. There aren't many crazy things left for them to do.

Book: Bringing Up Boys

By Dr. James Dobson

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