On Psychology

Jewish World Review July 29, 1999 /16 Av, 5759


Dr. Wade Horn

Time to Penalize Those Who Sell Trash to our Youth

By Dr. Wade F. Horn

Q: I am the father of two sons. Last week I found out that my oldest son, who is 15, went to see the "R" rated movie "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" at the local mall. I didn't even know he had gone to the movies as both his mom and I were at work at the time.

His friend's parents won't allow cable TV in their home and I dropped the pay channels several years ago. But I feel powerless to prevent him for viewing or hearing things in the movies or on the radio which run counter to the values I am trying to teach him. What is your advice on this issue?

A: The biggest complaint I hear from parents today is that they feel under assault. No, not by bad guys with guns, but by the popular culture. Everywhere parents look, they see a popular culture working overtime to undermine their attempts to teach their children right from wrong, appropriate behavior, and good moral values.

Econophone The movie "South Park" is just the latest example of how Hollywood and other meccas of popular culture actively seek to subvert parental authority, religion, and civil behavior. In this "cartoon," third-graders use profanity when referring to God, graphic homosexual behavior is on display, and one little boy finds his own mother featured on a pornographic site on the internet. Why would any parent let their child see such trash?

Well, almost no parent would. But check out the audience in any theater showing this filth, and you will find large numbers of adolescents (and even a good number of pre-adolescents) in the audience -- this despite an "R" rating which theoretically means persons under age 17 can not view the movie without their parents' permission. How can this be?

The explanation, of course, is that many movie theaters routinely look the other way when an obviously underage kid plunks down five bucks and asks for a ticket to "South Park." Theaters are in the business of making movies, after all. They can't to be held responsible for preventing underage kids from viewing age restricted movies. That's the parents' job, right?

Well, wrong. Using that same logic, liquor stores shouldn't be held responsible if a 16-year-old buys a six-pack of beer from them. After all, they're in the business of selling liquor. They shouldn't be held responsible if some underage kid comes into their store, buys a filth of Jack Daniels and then wraps his car and himself around a tree. Making sure underage kids don't buy alcohol is the parents' job, right?

Leiters Sukkah Obviously, we do hold liquor stores responsible if they sell liquor to underage kids. I think it's time we do the same for movie theater owners.

Here's my idea. Why not allow parents to seek a limited judgement of, say, $2500, in small claims court from any theater that allows their underage child to see a restricted film without their permission. When faced with the possibility that selling a five dollar "R" rated movie ticket to a 13-year-old might wind up costing them $2500, theaters might suddenly find ways to better police who gets in to see "R" rated movies.

The same goes for video rental stores. It is appalling how easy it is for underage kids to rent "R" rated movies. When faced with the possibility that a three buck rental of a restricted movie to a 14-year-old kid might cost them several thousand dollars, videostores may suddenly find asking for ID from a peach-fuzzed adolescent is not so difficult after all.

I would apply the same principle to music stores that sell CDs and tapes with parental advisory stickers on them. Several years ago, when my oldest daughter was all of ten years of age, she purchased a tape with a parental advisory sticker on it. At home, after noticing the tape, I listened to it. The first song, the popular one and the reason my daughter bought the tape in the first place, was fine. But every other song was filled with profane and violent, hate speech, particularly directed at women.

When I brought the tape back to the store to ask for a refund, I asked the kid behind the counter how a tape with a parental advisory sticker on it could be sold to a 10-year-old. He shrugged and said, "We just sell the stuff."

Well, it's time we start holding these folks responsible when they "just sell the stuff" to underage kids in much the same way that we hold adult movie theaters and liquor stores responsible for ensuring they don't "just sell the stuff" to underage children.

Make no mistake about it. Movie makers and recording studios that produce this trash are after the hearts and minds of our children. Parents can either sit back, throw up their hands and give up, or they can fight back.

But parents need help. Isn't it time that the government lend a hand? Passing laws that empower parents to hold accountable those who willing allow underage children to view or hear this trash without a parents' explicit permission, would seem to be a good place to start.


JWR contributor Dr. Wade F. Horn is President of the National Fatherhood Initiative and co-author of The Better Homes and Gardens New Father Book. Send your question about dads, children or fatherhood to him C/O JWR

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© 1998, Dr. Wade F. Horn