Gimme shelter?

Parents monitor kids' exposure to media with varying approaches and restrictions

Parents monitor kids' exposure to media with varying approaches and restrictions

June 01, 2007|by JULIE E. GREENE

Hagerstown resident Pat Kay said her 16-year-old son hadn't yet seen an R-rated movie - that she was aware of.

She called her son on his cell phone and handed the phone to a reporter, with Dad telling him to be honest.

So, had he seen an R-rated movie?

"Oh, yeah. I've seen them before," said Brennen Przywieczerski. Not in a movie theater, but he's seen R-rated movies at friends' homes, though he couldn't recall any specific titles.

The phone call confirmed for Kay and her husband, Bob Przywieczerski, a problem that faces many Tri-State-area parents: It's difficult to shelter children from TV shows, movies and music that parents find inappropriate.


Still many Tri-State-area parents said they try to shelter their children, in varying degrees, when it comes to movies, TV, music and the Internet.

Many of the adults interviewed, representing 15 families, said they are concerned about foul language, violence and sexual subject matters when it comes to what their kids listen to and watch.

Studies have provided evidence that exposure to violence in the media can lead to more aggressive behavior in children, according to information from the Federal Communications Commission at

In April, the FCC issued a report on violent TV programming and its impact on children, making recommendations on some things Congress and the industry could do to reduce violence on TV and help parents limit such exposure. This includes developing an appropriate definition of excessively violent programming, establishing a family hour at the beginning of prime time and allowing consumers to purchase channels a la carte or in smaller bundles so they can avoid violent programming.

The FCC report states the V-chip, required to be in new TV sets as of January 2000, and voluntary TV ratings system are of limited effectiveness.

The Parents Television Council, a nonprofit group dedicated to promoting responsibility in the entertainment industry, found some TV shows "don't" have rating warnings like V for violence when the shows do contain such content, said Melissa Henson, the council's senior director of programs.

Media barometers

Some parents said they use parental controls to block certain TV shows, channels and Web sites. Others, like Betsy Barr, 42, of Halfway, said they screen movies before letting their kids watch them or ask friends and co-workers about the movie first.

Barr, who has four children, said her 13-year-old son begged her to allow him to see "Jackass Number Two," but that was not going to happen because the movie was too crude and "a lot of other things," she said.

She said she doesn't censor their music as much, but if she hears them singing lyrics with foul language, she will tell them either to not listen to it or to not repeat it.

They say, "Oh, it's in the song," but that's not an acceptable excuse for using profanity, Barr said.

Lee Ann and Ed Tardino of Halfway said they screen rented movies for their boys, ages 13 and 7. They object to nudity and violence, though they're more lenient with violent content with their 13-year-old son.

Neither boy is allowed to watch "The Simpsons" because of the show's adult innuendo, Lee Ann Tardino said.

And if they want to visit a Web site that is blocked by parental-control software, they have to get permission from their parents. But Lee Ann Tardino said she found it a bit excessive when the program blocked the Marvel Comics site while it was set to block sites inappropriate for children 17 and younger.

"We have a very open relationship with our kids," she said. "We trust them."

Besides, her husband added, they'd tattle on each other if one of them broke the rules.

Christine McClanahan, 49, of Warfordsburg, Pa., said she believes the boundary for what's acceptable in an R-rated movie has expanded in the last 10 years.

Even now, with her youngest two children ages 17 and 20 and living at home, she doesn't want them to see R-rated movies because the material can be "pretty rough." She's more OK with them seeing violence if it's in the context of a war movie than seeing sex in a movie.

Parental responsibility

Unlike many of the parents of young children interviewed, Mike Farrar, 29, of Hagerstown, said he lets his 4-year-old daughter, Serendipity, watch movies such as George A. Romero's "Land of the Dead," a zombie movie with plenty of violence with blood and guts.

Her favorite movie is "Killer Klowns From Outer Space," a 1980s B-movie in which alien clowns kill people by turning them into cotton candy.

"It's not what your kids watch. It's what they associate it with," said Farrar. "If they know it's make-believe, it's not an issue."

If you watch movies with your kids and explain what's going on, then it's not an issue, Farrar said. If you sit the kid in front of a TV and leave, then it's bad, he said.

Farrar said he watches TV and movies with his daughter, explaining, for example, that zombies aren't real.

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