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February 21, 2022 12:34 pm
This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes back Melissa Henson from the Parents Television and Media Council to discuss how the pandemic has negatively affected our media habits and screen time, especially for children and teens.
Family policy matters and engaging and informative weekly radio show and podcast produced by the North Carolina family policy Council hi this is John Ralston, presidency, family, and were grateful to have you with us for this week's program is our prayer that you will be informed, encouraged and inspired by what you hear on family policy matters and that you will flow better equipped to be a voice of persuasion for family values in your community, state and nation, and now here's our house to family policy matters. Tracy David Griggs, thanks for joining us this week for family policy matters. As technology becomes more and more a part of our everyday lives. Younger generations are facing new challenges as a result, especially since they are growing up with a declining culture of decency in entertainment media.
This can affect mental health, social interactions, the safety and values of younger and older generations. Melissa Henson of the parents television and media counsel is here to talk to us about this. Melissa Henson, welcome back to family policy matters. Thank you for having me on. Let's start by talking about our media habits and how they have changed, especially in the last two years as we move through this pandemic because so many kids were kicked out of school they were forced online.
In many cases, in order to continue their education. You know a lot of the school district moved to virtual learning so can send that really an unprecedented amount of time with green for last two years and what is even more alarming is the fact that even though many school districts and reopen kids are back in the classroom. Those numbers, you know that the screen time hours have not yet returned to the pre-pandemic levels, and so it looks like this shipped this change in how kids consume media and how much time their spending and printing screen. It looks like this is a trend that's here to stay for the long run something addicting about being online isn't there. How absolutely and that by design the constantly changing images that the constant stimulus innovates are activating the parts of your brain that are taking pleasure in knowing so. If it is highly addictive, and especially for young kids to have less ability to control.
In particular, what we are saying and this is not something that is specifically cited in some of the public health advisory that have been issued recently but I think it's something that certainly needs to be looked at much more come closely.
So, for example, the US Surgeon General recently issued a public health advisory about mental health crisis with America's young people. There is been a significant increase in anxiety and depression.
Mental health disorders, suicide attempt, and I think there is a direct linkage.
The Surgeon General doesn't point to it.
But if you look at the tonic kids are spending on social media. The amount of bullying matters social pressure that there feeling on social media and then we also have recent research report from the thorn foundation that found that nearly one in seven children between ages of nine and 12 are sharing naked pictures of themselves that they'll almost tripled the number yet from just a year earlier.
You cannot tell me that there isn't a link between these two things. The fact that kids feel pressured into exhibiting themselves feel pressured into sharing naked pictures of themselves feel pressured into sexualizing themselves, and the fact that so many kids are experiencing depression, anxiety and suicide. You can't tell me that there is an there is no link there.
There's not a lot of research on that yet.
Perhaps that some progress as far as I'm aware there is not been a lot of research connecting those two things, but hopefully we'll see some social science getting behind that soon and and looking into it. So, are there different threats then for children versus teens versus young adults absolutely look even even as an adult.
We are susceptible to pressures from the media that we consume right.
I mean you're watching TV and TV show and experiencing a little bit envy about you know how nicely somebody else's home is decorate decorated, or that the stylish clothes that character wears a nice haircut or none of us are immune to that of the pressures on teens and children. In particular I think are are are much much higher intact. When research one called television effectual super peer because children look at what they see on screen and they accepted as reality. Hopefully if you get older you develop a little bit more discernment you can say okay well this is exaggerated or this is fictionalized this is it really representative but as a team, you know there very easily convinced that what there's being on screen is reality and its true for most teams, so it safety high levels of sexual activity among teenage characters on television. They are going. Assume that that's realistic and that that's what's expected of them and so they do feel tremendous pressure to engage in sexual behavior at a younger age and more advanced sexual behaviors that he younger age who also for other kinds of behavior that that you no longer think looking depicted on TV anymore right because somebody recognized that if kids are seeing people smoke on screen likely to start smoking if kids see teenagers drinking alcohol or using drugs. I think there's a very good possibility and probability that they're going to think that this kind of recreational drug and alcohol use, as is normal and acceptable. You mentioned older people and how we should have more discernment and and sometimes I wonder, but especially people that have children and young people in their homes right mean they really need to understand that what they're laughing at what they're allowing to be shown in their home could be having more of an impact. Even then, they they might realize. Yeah, I think there is that a tendency for a lot of parents to thank all my kids tooth our to be fooled by that or my kids too smart to engage in this kind of stupid behavior or reckless or dangerous behavior is a problem for the kid down the street but it's not a problem for my child because I'm a good parent and my kids too smart for that. And I think a lot about for the fool ourselves that respect because what what teens are looking for primarily is acceptance and they feel like TV is giving them an insight into how to be accepted because the kids on TV are attractive their popular there good looking, and this is the model I need to follow in order to be like them weekly radio show and podcast host.
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So what kind of policing are we seeing any of that anymore these days on the entertainment industry. I mean, obviously parent cells immediate counsel sell their wares were trying to hold this industry accountable but much is changed very rapidly know over the two years of the pandemic. We saw the rate of court cutting, that is people cutting their cable subscription switching either largely or exclusively to streaming services that tolerated tremendously during the pandemic. So we now have more people consuming media over streaming platforms where there really is no regulatory authority, even on cable which was not under SEC jurisdiction you had at least advertisers sort of drawing the line in the sand. Thank you network were just uncomfortable paying for content that is this explicit or that violent but that's not true on streaming platforms and like I said, there's really no regular regulatory authority.
And so you will find content on Netflix today that rivals that you know used to be exclusively available. You know after midnight on HBO and Showtime in Cinemax. I mean really what were talking about pornographic content that is very very easy for kids to access on the streaming platforms you talked about the sharing of nude pictures, what sexual abuse do you think this could be having an effect on that. Yeah, absolutely. And I don't have the statistics in front of me at the moment, but I know that there have been studies because kids who were already at risk or in dangerous environments locked down for some in many cases to be stuck at home with their abusers and so that there are statistics that indicate sexual abuse rape among children and teens is also on the rise so what can we do course, the North Carolina family policy Council is a statewide public policy advocacy organization. So is this mostly something that needs to happen on a several level are there things that the state legislature or parents policy wise can do well. I would invite your listers to visit our website parents TV.org for the parent cells immediate counsel to get links to petitions, resources, things that we are doing to try to hold these industries accountable. The main thing that we are actively pursuing at the moment is the way fictionalized depictions of children and teens has been normalized especially on streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu and HBO. There are a lot of programs that feature high school age characters where there is sexually graphic or explicit content, and that should not be permissible especially when you're talking about underage characters, even if the actors or actresses portraying them are over 18 to normalized this with characters were supposed to be high school age.
The middle school age I think is hugely problematic and so we are reaching out to the Department of Justice, the FBI, state attorneys general to see if there is either any existing laws that that could be used to prosecute those that are specializing kids in this troubling way, or if there's any other legal recourse that we might pursue so you guys doing what other thing is on your agenda these days. Another thing that we have been trying to push for is more consistent uniform ratings so that parents are better informed about the content. I think it's a significant problem with specially in the streaming universe that there is no universal standard, and especially with the parental controls every streaming platforms has its own rating system and its own approach parental controls and so a lot of parents are sort of left high and dry without really knowing what's out there. I mean we're talking about it at the push of a button. You have access to literally thousands of titles and no parent can possibly be expected to be an expert on everything that's available on all the streaming platforms at all times so they really need to have help in the form of better parental controls more standard inconsistent ratings so that they can block and filter content. They don't want coming into their homes, so that's on the public policy level. What can we as parents, grandparents, what can we do to help along these lines, I would say that the most important thing is to lock down the devices and especially the internet-enabled devices you know get them out of the kid's room. Do not let them have their laptop computers in the rooms. Do not let them bring their cell phones another room and you need to really also stay on top of which mobile apps there putting on their mobile phones and delay as long as possible. I would say allowing your children have a smartphone.
I recognized you know when I was in high school my mom would send me to school with 1/4 so I can make a call in case of an emergency you can find payphones in schools these days though I recognize the need to be able to get with your child in an and reach your child in emergency or your child be able to reach you but there are still split phones available. You don't have to have a smart phone. You don't have to have Wi-Fi enabled devices. You don't need to have a phone that will allow your kids to download Netflix zapper and HBO apps that they can stream this content outside of your home really keep keep the Internet connected devices.
The TV centralized location so that your consuming media with your kids, you know what they're consuming. And don't just give them sort of pre-unfettered access to all the stuff out there because once available to kids what's readily available to kids today is pretty atrocious. So we are just about out of time for this week. But before we go. How can our listeners go. You mentioned your your website and what are some other ways that we can keep up with the good work that you're doing. You can sign up on a website.
Parents TV.org to receive our free weekly emails where we have a way for you to take action or news updates but were working on. You can also find us on social media just for the parent cells immediate counsel official page Melissa Henson of the parents television and media counsel. Thank you so much for being with us today on family policy matters. You been listening to family policy matters. We hope you enjoyed the program employment to to begin next week to listen to the show all lawn insulin more about NC families want to inform, encourage and inspire families across the water or website it NC family.award that's NC family.org. Thanks again for listening and may God bless you and your family