When Your Kids 'Check it Out!'
The Washington Post -- which I was reading as I test-drove Ongo.com (which needs some work before it will be worth $7 a month) -- reports that Marriott International said it will phase out adult-content video services from its 600,000 hotel rooms worldwide. There was lots of speculation about the move being a reflection of Marriott "family values" -- which I guess weren't in the ON position until online porn probably cut the heart out of the rent-some-overpriced-and-still-not-explicit-enough-porn-on-your-hotel-TV business.
Meanwhile, there is lots of hand-wringing about MTV's new "Skins" series because it shows teens being, well, teens. That is if your teens are trash-talking, drug-taking, oversexed and rude to teachers, parents and each other. The audience from week one to week two nosedived by a nearly unprecedented 50% -- probably reflecting a surge in protective parents declaring "Not on our TV!" Now all they have to worry about are the explicit, misogynistic, and violent lyrics of the songs populating iPods across the country. It is one thing to hear the thump, thump bleed out of earbuds, and something altogether different to go online and read the words that your little Sally and Billy are shaking their booties to. And ya know what? It won't hurt them any more than Rolling Stones or Eminem lyrics hurt you.
Who in this media-saturated world decides what is inappropriate for kids -- or for that matter, adults? Tell your teenager not to play APB (All Points Bulletin) or Dead Rising 2 and he goes down the street and plays it with his friends. Try telling your kids that many PG-13 movies are a little over the top, and get the eye-roll and head-shake. No matter what kind of controls you put on their laptops or your home Wi-Fi system, online porn can be examined and replaced with the middle school homework assignment screen before you turn the doorknob even a 100th of an inch. Yeah, I know -- put the PC in a public place so anyone walking by can see who is where, and sure enough it is back to the gamer friend's house where his parent couldn't care less what happens online.
Homemade porn is a growing hobby for many who happily upload pix of their privates to Web sites or send them via MMS to their boyfriends and girlfriends -- or, in Brett Favre's case, to a co-worker. Did you read about the guy in California (where else?) who tapped into a boatload of female email accounts and found lots of nude pictures they had taken of themselves to send over the Web to that special someone? He then sent the salacious pix to every person in each victim's contact list -- giving a whole new meaning to "Lucy, you have some 'splaining to do!"
With an unprecedented amount of nudity and crude language on prime-time cable TV (thank you HBO, Showtime, and Starz -- and I really mean that) the networks have responded with increasingly edgier material, most of it making your gray-haired parents blush and ask one another, "Can they say that on TV now? I didn't know they could say THAT!"
It used to be that "local standards" determined what was lewd or indecent -- meaning the strip clubs had to be on the edge of town, and books like "Tropic of Cancer" were hidden from view in the local library. Now, in the connected global world it doesn't matter what the city fathers decide. It is all a keystroke or remote button away -- for you and your kids.
If, in the spirit of open communications, you choose not to condemn the consumption of what passes as popular culture these days, you are accused of "lending tacit approval" and somehow "encouraging" your kids to drink from the trough. But it seems to me better to at least understand what your kids think about all of this, rather than drive their behavior underground by declaring everything off-limits. If you have raised them right, they see it and hear it for what it is just like you did when you snuck looks at your Uncle Bob's Playboys.
I think the best you can do is to keep them from "sharing" on the Internet or on their cell phones. Or am I being just too realistic? Tell me.