In the 1970s a popular poem taught us that children
"learn what they live," and in recent years, we've seen
the truth of that maxim played out in schools and on
playgrounds across the country. An entire genre of
music, popularized and pushed into the mainstream by
greedy corporations, has taught a generation of children
that the road to success is paved with drugs, violence
and disrespect of women.
The Parents Television Council, in cooperation with the
Rev. Delman Coates' Enough is Enough Campaign for
Corporate Responsibility in Entertainment, recently
released an analysis of adult content appearing on "Rap
City" and "106 & Park" on BET and MTV's "Sucker Free" on
MTV -- music video programs popular with young audiences
-- and found that offensive/adult content appeared at an
alarming rate: one instance every 38 seconds.
That means every 38 seconds, children watching these
programs are exposed to sexually charged images,
explicit language, violence, drug use or sales, or other
illegal activity. They were exposed to the "n" word,
which was used 136 times in just one week. They were
exposed to depictions of weapons, deaths, explosions,
rioting, drug use and other illegal activity.
You may ask, "What about the V-Chip? Isn't it supposed
to allow me as a parent to block offensive content?" It
could, except that almost every episode in PTC's study
carried only a TV-PG rating with no content descriptors.
MTV's "Sucker Free" carried only a TV-14 rating.
Shouldn't the government entity responsible for
assigning the ratings to the various programs be held
accountable? There is no such government entity! The
producers of these programs rate their own shows.
It doesn't take a Ph.D. to see the impact that this
level of explicit content has on the minds and
worldviews of children. How do these powerful
impressions alter the values, goals and beliefs youths
and children will formulate about the world, their
neighborhoods, their communities and most importantly,
Many a researcher has shown that listening to music with
degrading sexual lyrics is related to advances in a
range of sexual activities among adolescents, because it
communicates cultural messages about expected and
normative sexual behavior. Researchers believe that
reducing the amount of degrading sexual content in
popular music or reducing young people's exposure to
music with this type of content could help delay the
onset of sexual behavior.
Likewise, a recent analysis by Dr. Michael Rich,
director of the Center on Media and Child Health at
Children's Hospital of Boston, found attractive role
models as aggressors in more than 80 percent of music
According to Rich, music videos may be reinforcing false
stereotypes of aggressive black males and victimized
white females, giving rise to concerns about the effect
of music videos on adolescents' normative expectations
about conflict resolution, race and male/female
Experiments have demonstrated that exposure to sexual
violence in music videos and other media desensitizes
male viewers to violence against women and heightens a
sense of disempowerment among female viewers.
Other research has also demonstrated that songs
containing violent lyrical content can increase
aggressive thoughts and feelings.
Why does this matter, especially during the summer
months? Because our children are watching.
We need to be concerned about the messages our children
are exposed to in all forms of media, throughout the
day, as this data proves. Parents need to be more
involved in monitoring their children's media
consumption, establishing and sticking to household
rules about media use, and discussing media content with
Advertisers need to be held accountable for the content
their advertising dollars pay for. Those companies that
advertise on programs like "106 & Park,""Rap City" and
"Sucker Free" on MTV can and should use their unique
influence with BET and MTV to push for greater
responsibility where program content is concerned.
Consumers must demand and receive the right to pick and
choose -- and pay for -- only the channels they want
coming into their homes. It is unconscionable that
parents who wish to protect their children from this
content are nonetheless forced to subsidize it with
their cable subscription dollars.
Finally, we must demand from the networks an accurate,
transparent, and consistent ratings system that will
give parents adequate tools to protect their children
from inappropriate content.
Brian Urie is the director of the Salt Lake City chapter
for the Parents Television Council.