Silly parents! Are you all up in arms and legs about your little dumpling watching pornography online, like the subjects of this recent Guardian article? Well, I can't sympathize. Worse yet, I am here to destroy all hopes that you will ever have for (a) an all-wholesome web, or (b) getting your kids to practice wholesome viewing habits.
Our Parental Policy
See, around my house, we've always had a 100% liberal policy on what media content our kids can read, watch, listen to, and play. They have their own TVs and computers and phones and we don't put any parental controls on them at all. Instead, we offer proactive parenting: we coach and advise on the difference between reality and fantasy, the difference between listening to songs about anti-social behavior and acting it out, the importance of examining the morality and safety of a depicted action, and so on.
We're also all about the open-and-honest communication. What this means is that when they run across something unsavory, we can offer guidance on how to take it. Then they learn that no matter how cool an idea it might at first seem to stick some strange thing in some strange orifice, we're right here to mention that that's how funny stories told by hospital emergency-room staff are born. Any time our kids run across something weird and dirty, they can feel perfectly comfortable asking us about it, whereupon we can assure them that no, while some people online have a thing about dressing up as Tigger(*) for a night of fun adult romping, that doesn't mean that the average bride and groom will be expecting it on their wedding night.
(* sorry, furries, but you're used to being easy targets by now!)
Hey, by the time kids are seeking this out on their own, they're fourteen and passing puberty. They've already had sex-ed in school. They will have just four short years until they become legal adults as far as sex is concerned, and then they have to deal with the full brunt of the weird world and all of its myriad disgusting fetishes and depraved debauchery anyway. Would I rather they have their first introduction to the Wide World of Whackos as naive, sheltered, innocent lambs after they've moved out and are on their own, or would I rather they discover it at a safe distance first over the Internet where they have the advantage of my sober judgment and council? Why is this even a difficult question for anybody?
"Wise like a serpent, harmless like a dove." That's my attitude.
And before anybody takes this to mean that I let my kids cavort with child predators or send inappropriate photos to strangers, let me caution you wet thumbs that I'm only talking about consuming online media - interacting with it is an entirely different matter, and we're still gradually lifting our controls on participation until they understand how to avoid being victimized by creeps, and that their 35-year-old selves would regret imprudent photos snapped and posted of their 16-year-old selves. "For now you can look and explore, but you have much to learn before you can get out there and swim with the sharks."
Why Any Other Parental Policy Is Doomed
It is thanks to this open-and-honest communication policy that I get to find out about things like the current "practical jokes" fad on YouTube.
Imagine a perfect world as the repressive nannies would have it: There is either no porn online, or no way for their own kids to consume it. So their apple-cheeked little munchkin skips up and asks "Mommy, can I watch practical joke videos on YouTube?" Well, of course little moppet (pinches cheek), you run right along and have fun now!
Now, what are you thinking when you hear "practical jokes"? Glue a quarter to the sidewalk, watch people struggle to pry it up, yuk yuk? Perhaps the ever-popular "kick me" sign taped to the back?
How about putting bleach in shampoo?
There's dozens more examples where this came from. But now, imagine your kid telling the gist of six or seven of these to you rapid-fire in a row, like my kid just did to me. Listen to your faith in humanity deflate like a sad balloon.
Now, granted, I know most of these are faked. (Did you hear that, wet thumbs in the back row? I knooooow they're faaaaaake!) But still, they suggest seriously messed-up things to do, and certainly we read about kids who get hurt in nasty ways imitating the Internet all the time, such as with the recent real panic about the swallow-a-spoonful-of-cinnamon challenge. In no uncertain terms, bleach in the shower can get into your eyes and blind you for life while burning your eyes right out of their sockets, superglue requires a trip to the hospital to remove with chemical solvents that might work, and coins shooting out of an AC unit can hit you in the face, possibly knocking a tooth out. Also, cinnamon by the scoop can choke you to death, and furthermore hurt the entire time you're dying.
This shit ain't funny. It's cruel, sick, sadistic, barbaric, and several other things to get into a huff about.
Now, how would we have known to censor this beforehand?
It's not X-rated. It's not even R-rated. You can keep your clothes on, not swear, not worship the devil, not abuse any illicit substances, not even pirate any music, and still depict something that's wrong on all kinds of levels.
I Would Rather My Kids Watch Porn Than Pranks
At least sex is usually a consensual act engaged in by people who enjoy it. At least in your standard sexual activity, there isn't an immediate risk of permanent debilitating injury. And at least the enjoyment-factor from most forms of sex does not come from sadistic cruelty, barbaric ignorance, and ruining someone's day and possibly life. Truly, I watch six prank videos in a row and Debbie Does Dallas starts looking as wholesome as white picket fences and apple pie by comparison. So does a Freddy Kruger flick, because at least it's clearly understood that it's a work of fiction.
The enjoyment of pranks is an act of sadism. It is all about getting amusement at the expense of another human being's dignity and safety. It is far, far crueler than half the degrading things I've seen porn stars do. The fact that these prank videos are so popular says scary things about what kind of dark undercurrent to our society we might be creating.
Furthermore, I will step forward to make the bold claim that the popularity of dangerous pranks among young people is a symptom of exactly the kind of sick society we create when we let the repressive nannies have their say. We can ban all kinds of less-dangerous ideas for teens to be exposed to, only to provoke them to invent new ideas on their own that are even worse.
And if you thought I was over-reacting to practical jokes, be aware that the next logical step is the "dare", where people voluntarily play pranks on themselves just for the attention value. Here again, you might think "but we all played truth of dare in junior high", but then you haven't been to another popular teen hangout online, Get Dare. Go ahead and browse around there - you'll find the horror stories soon enough. I'm the most liberal left-wing pinko in the world, and getdare.com makes me want to get an angry mob with torches and pitchforks together and go burn it down.
We can show people doing sick, sad, twisted things to each other all day long, and nobody raises an eyebrow. Yet we can't show two people loving each other. For that matter, we can't show a woman breastfeeding her baby.
We're a sick species.
And trying to fix it with censorship, whether individually or collectively, just makes us sicker.
blog comments powered by Disqus