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.


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