Ratings don’t take place of parents

If a little boy sat in his room and read a Playboy, most people would say it’s the parents’ responsibility to monitor the child.

Why is it that when a child watches a violent or sexual television show, many people feel that it’s the TV industry’s responsibility to do something about it?

The current rating system, called TV Parental Guidelines, was implemented in 1996 by the television industry to label the content and age-appropriateness of television programs for parents. Rating indications usually run during the first 15 seconds of a program in the upper left hand corner of the TV screen. The content-based rating lets the viewer know if the program contains sex, violence or crude language. The system is headed by the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board, which consists of experts in the industry.

In addition, since January 2000, new televisions that are 13 inches or larger come with a device called a V-Chip, which electronically screens TV program ratings and blocks programs that parents deem inappropriate.

If a late night show contains violence and crude language, it shouldn’t be edited or censored for people who shouldn’t be watching it anyway. Children shouldn’t be up late unsupervised. These shows are designed for adult viewing — a notion supported by numerous Supreme Court decisions. When shows are chopped up for content, it ruins the show and inhibits freedom of expression.

The television industry has done its job in labeling the content and appropriateness of programs. An electronic device shouldn’t be the primary barricade — good parental observation is better. Media corporations shouldn’t be responsible for policing someone’s living room. They have already set up a rating system that informs children and parents of the content. When parents can’t be around, the V-Chip can easily block programs they feel are inappropriate.

Last year, when Congress considered new, higher fines for indecency on television, it indicated lawmakers think more needs to be done to protect children from “bad” programming. Ratings do have the potential to be slightly inaccurate, depending on the maturity of the child. But overall, they give a starting point for parents. It’s not the TV industry’s job to exactly predict how each child will handle the content of a program.

Keep Kids Healthy gives a list of options that pediatricians recommend parents consider when controlling television viewing for their children. The group recommends that parents watch programs with their children and discuss what is going on with the characters. They can talk about more acceptable ways the characters could have behaved. It also recommends that children watch no more than two hours of television a day, and that children do not have a television set in their bedrooms.

Parents can’t blame the television industry. Television isn’t designed solely for children, and parents know that. It’s their responsibility to monitor their children’s behavior. The television industry has done more than its part when it comes to helping parents restrict certain shows.

Ultimately, the parents need to be responsible for their children instead of relying solely on the TV Parental Guidelines to do their job for them.

Allison Pritchard is a senior electronic media production major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].