Five minutes ago, I received a push poll from Stepping Stone about children’s media. I tried to explain that I know way too much about this issue to be unbiased in my responses, but the interviewer, working from computer assisted interview software, insisted that I continue.
I was read three questions and asked for a yes or no response to each. To the best of my recollection (the questions came quickly and I admittedly blew a gasket shortly after the first question, so my recall is compromised), these are the questions I was asked and the answers I wish I could have provided.
Question 1: Do you agree that most of the movies and television today could be potentially harmful to children?
All media – movies, television, books, songs, paintings, etc. – are open for interpretation. Children, because of their lack of experience in the world, need an adult to help them interpret media. Without an adult, a preschool child may infer from an episode of Sesame Street that an urban back alley is a great place to explore on one’s own and make friends. With an adult, a preschool child may infer from an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation that science is fun.
Question 2: According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, children spend up to 10 hours a day online, with smartphones and other media. Do you agree that this should be regulated?
First all, this is a misrepresentation of Kaiser Family Foundation’s Generation M2 report. The actual finding is that children (ages 8 to 18) spend 10 hours a day across all media, 4 ½ hours watching television (which is rated for content) and 2 ½ listening to music (which also is regulated). Much of the remaining time is multitasking (e.g., texting while watching television, listening to music while browsing the Internet, etc.).
Question 3 (the question I have the poorest recollection of because I was asking questions of the interviewer as she asked it): Do you support a rating system for websites?
All of the media that children use in a day, with one exception, already can be filtered for content using tools built into the devices that access them. I can set my television’s V-chip to block mature content. I can specify which websites my browser is allowed to access. I can program my iPod to filter songs with explicit lyrics. The only media that is not explicitly rated or cannot be filter by its delivery system is…get this…the book.
Now, I knew this was a push poll, meaning that is was designed to “push” an agenda. I knew that the interviewer was less interested in my responses than in selling me something. I had gleaned that from the questions long before the interviewer revealed the treachery. That being said, this kind of fear mongering upsets me (Are fish and fear the only things that can be “mongered”? Is it an “f” thing?).
I tried to find Stepping Stone Media online to voice my concerns directly, but there are too many “Stepping Stone” companies to figure out which one is responsible. Stepping Stone, if you are reading this and have the stones (get it?), please write me back. I would love your reaction.