Can We Put the Adults Back in Charge?

When I do reviews of products parents might be considering for their children, I usually point out anything that might be of concern. This helps parents make sound decisions.

But there are places where I never would have thought to look for “family unfriendly” content. One expects the adults in charge of some products and publications to show some rudimentary common sense, but that’s becoming less likely. For example, just recently, the largely family friend show Once Upon a Time has been adding sexual innuendo from the character of Captain Hook. It strikes a jarring note in a show that, although dark, often has a good moral message and manages to avoid mature content. It’s minor and fleeting, but still, it doesn’t belong there.

A more serious example is Songza: a music streaming app somewhat like Pandora, but with set playlists for certain times and moods: waking up, going to sleep, making dinner, dancing, and so on. I was setting up Songza to stream some relaxing music for my son at bedtime when I came across this:

“Getting High” and “Getting Lucky”? To hell with you, Songza. I’m sure they thought they were being cool and hip and edgy. What they were actually being was childish, irresponsible jerks.

Next up we have this story from England about a children’s magazine using images from hyper-violent M-rated games to create puzzles for kids under age 12. Here’s an example:

The pictures, from Cool Kidz Magazine, show the main character of Hitman brandishing guns and challenges the kiddies to spot the difference. Charming, no?

Cool Kidz is published by LCD Publishing and distributed by Hearst and Conde Naste, and had images from not one, but five different M-rated (an “18″ in the UK) games: Hitman: Absolution, Call of Duty Black Ops II, Assassins Creed III, Far Cry 3 and Dishonored.

Screenshots appeared as double-page spreads, for use as posters, and were reproduced in spot-the-difference and other puzzles. Earlier issues also had images from 18- and 16-rated games.

LCD Publishing, which is based in Exeter, southwest England, said it took its responsibilities to young readers seriously. “We censor the images we use to ensure that there is no blood or apparent body damage,” owner Allen Trump said in an emailed statement.

He said the images used were suitable for children 12 or older, although he added the magazine was targeted at children up to 12 years.

The pictures printed depicted life-like computer generated images of men carrying weapons including assault rifles, Bowie knives, an axe, an anti-tank weapon and pistols.

Games firms contacted by Reuters said they were unaware Cool Kidz, which has been published for seven years, had been using their images.

Representatives for Japan’s Square Enix, publisher of the Hitman series, privately-owned Bethesda Softworks, publisher of Dishonored, and Ubisoft Entertainment, publisher of Assassins Creed III and Farcry 3, said they opposed the use but declined to say whether they would take any legal action against LCD.

Call of Duty publisher Activision declined to comment.

Read more. 

Isn’t it nice that they eliminated the blood and “body damage” from the images? Yet they still manage to ingrain these iconic images in the minds of the very young, where they take root and create a demand for games kids should not be playing. This continues to be a problem with the game industry in general, which has gotten slightly better about promoting M-rated games to kids, but still has a ways to go.

It used to be that adults had some common sense about what they put out there where children might encounter it. Adults used to watch out for kids. I remember being routinely disciplined by adults other than my parents, and even strangers, when I stepped out of line in public. Can you imagine if an adult today acted like an adult when he saw a kid doing something really wrong in public, and called him out on it? Nine times out of ten, the parents would raise hell at the adult who dared criticize little junior rather than junior for being bad.

Want proof? I heard a story recently about an anti-drinking/drug campaign that was making the rounds of a local high school system. Parents and kids were watching a Powerpoint presentation that started flashing Facebook pictures underage kids partying with alcohol in local homes, including photos of kids in that audience. The parents were indeed outraged, but not at junior for betraying their trust. They were angry at the presenters for embarrassing them in public.

Were the presenters out of line? Perhaps. Certainly there may have been some privacy violations going on, and I’m not sure if faces were blurred out or not. I only heard the story second hand, and with minors, you need to be careful about that kind of thing.

But they also delivered a powerful dose of public shaming, which is something society is sorely missing. We’ve been trained on generations of films and TV shows and novels to belief that all social pressure is bad, but in a civilization social pressure can have a healthy role in repressing our tendency to sin, or to just act stupid. The sexual revolution, the permanent counterculture, and now reality TV have all turned the lack of any shame into a windfall for the media, with the result that too many people really do “have no shame.” It seems like the entire culture is being run by people who never advanced past the stage of toddlers fascinated with their own genitals and excrement.

That’s actually the opposite of progress. It’s immaturity. The world–business, commerce, labor, politics–is an adult space that has to carve out safe places for kids. And that’s the job of an adult. Every adult.

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About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • victor

    I couldn’t agree more. As a father of three kids, I spend probably as much time vetting media and entertainment as we do consuming it. That’s why sources such as Steven Greydanus’ Decent Films Guide is so useful. I was warned off Paranorman (a movie we otherwise could have enjoyed) by his review and am eternally grateful. It’s also the reason we have Nintendo consoles instead of Sony or Microsoft. Though the Big N has tried to position itself as a bit more hardcore gamer-friendly, I can at least trust (for now) that their first-party titles will be relatively free of anything truly objectionable (“Eternal Darkness” aside, though that was pretty awesome) — while still delivering the hardcore gaming thrills we crave (so stoked about the new Fire Emblem on 3DS).

    But I agree, the most objectionable sucker punches come from where you least expect it, and it’s not just all about content — it’s about the marketing. “National Geographic Kids!” magazine is almost all ads. Even the Scholastic Math Magazine our fifth-grader gets (though I guess it’s aimed more at middle-school kids) is filled with full-page photo spreads (with story problems) about Glee and Twilight. I don’t know if they think that helps, but there’s no better way off turning off a classroom of math nerds than by featuring One Direction in their algebra problems.

    And I agree: I don’t know who Songza is but they can go straight to heck. Trying to regain their youth by forcing everyone else to grow up too soon. Hmm. This was a long comment. Maybe I should get my own blog for these.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    >This was a long comment. Maybe I should get my own blog for these.

    Some wise man once suggested that.

  • victor

    He did at that. Might be time to dust off the ol’ blog — that Amazon referral bonus thing has me intrigued…

  • Mike

    Hate to disagree, but Once Upon a Time has never been kid-friendly. There was Regina’s fling with the hunstman in flashbacks, and scenes of her in bed with the sheriff in Storybrooke. Not to mention Mary Margaret’s affairs.

  • victor

    Vaguely hint in the direction of, and ye shall receive!

    If anyone asks, though, I’m saying you’re the one responsible. ;-)

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    Hey ho!

    Just blame Shea. Everyone blames him for everything anyway already.

  • victor

    This is true. Say, maybe my second post could be the Shea Disillusionment post! And yipee ki yay, Mr. Falcon! (Sorry, I only ever saw the edited-for-broadcast Channel 20 version of Die Hard).

  • KML

    Ever read a good social science book and then start seeing everything through its lens? My recent one is “The Disappearance of Childhood.” I feel like I’m constantly thinking this, but it’s hard to not wonder what Postman would make of us now.

  • Mark

    ABC Family movie tonight is “Burlesque”–need I say more?

  • Korou

    Not that I disagree with this post, but when I saw the headline and the description for it I had a moment’s hope that it was about how it was time for the Catholic Church to stop obsessing over people’s sex lives and start tackling the real problems facing society.

  • victor

    We were talking about the exposure of children to media in this country, which is a real problem. No one brought up anyone’s sex lives until just now – so who’s obsessed?

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    You remind me of that ancient joke:

    A man goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Help me, doc! I can’t stop thinking about sex!”

    The doctor puts him on the couch and begins to show him ink blots. “What does this one look like?” the doctor asks.

    “A penis,” the man says.

    “And this one?”

    “A vagina,” the man says.

    “And this one?”

    “That’s two people doing it in bed.”

    The shrink puts down the pictures and says, “You’re right: you seem obsessed with sex.”

    “Me?!” the outraged man replies. “You’re the one showing me filthy pictures!”

  • BeckyC

    Vast quantities of the real problems facing society are brought on by adults (not Catholics) who are obsessed about their sex lives and see personal sexual fulfillment as the purpose of life. Which is not conducive to commitment to children.

  • Korou

    Thomas and Victor, maybe you should reread my comment. It explained that I agreed with the substance of the post and that my initial reaction (on seeing its title and description but before I read the post itself) was a hope that it might represent progress in Catholic attitudes.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    Catholic views of human sexuality don’t need to “progress.” We have a very healthy understanding of the beauty and proper purposes of human sexuality. We talk about it very rarely, in fact. It’s the world that is “obsessed” with sex, to use your word.

  • victor

    An oldie but a goodie!

  • Linebyline

    Well, he is a Dark Lord, so what does he expect?

  • Kristen inDallas

    Yeah I think I’d be more comfortable leaving on TNT in the other room than ABC family….

  • Sam

    How refreshing to read something by an adult with some common sense. I was beginning to think they didn’t exist anymore
    So far we have resisted giving our teenagers mobile phones because of not only the content they can be exposed to but also because the radiation they constantly emit has been classified by the WHO as a possible carcinogen
    I know this is an unpopular view but as adults why give them something that can cause a brain tumor when they are only children?
    People seem only concerned with instant gratification and to keep up with the Jones’s and have left all vestiges of responsibility and common sense behind as it is not ‘cool’
    See for starters