Pop culture, family values, and politics

Via 11d, I found this interesting debate between Amy Sullivan and Matthew Yglesias about whether it’s appropriate for politicians — especially liberal politicians — to speak out about the ways that pop culture coarsens our society and presents constant challenges to those of us trying to raise children.

The posts are worth reading in full, but the key statement of Yglesias’ position is "liberals are characterized by the belief that the state shouldn’t have substantive views about these things."  Given that, he believes that it is pure pandering for politicians who oppose censorship to use their position to criticize movies and television.  He writes:

"If Dan Gerstein wants to write op-eds decrying Friends then let’s have at it. Friends is not above criticism. But Joe Lieberman shouldn’t be doing this. If he wants to be a movie critic, or a rabbi, or whatever he should leave the Senate and let someone else write the laws."

As several of the commenters on his post point out, however, citizens look for politicians to do much more than pass laws.  We vote for candidates who seem to understand us and our problems, who invoke the aspects of America that we care about.  As much as Clinton’s "I feel your pain" has become a cliche, it worked.  And he was the master of proposing microprograms that didn’t cost a whole lot of money, didn’t do very much good, but sent the message that the government cared.

As Sullivan responds:

"I think that acknowledging the concerns of many Americans–even if you can’t fix them with a policy–is sometimes just the obvious and right thing to do, and shouldn’t always be given the perjorative label of pandering….sometimes it’s not about policies. It’s about proving that you’re not hopelessly out of touch with the real anxieties and concerns of many Americans."

I’d also like to see more people — politicians, sure, but also clergy, athletes, bloggers — helping people come together to develop ways to resist the onslaught.  Because there really is an onslaught.  I’ve written about the impact of advertising on my kids, and it’s only going to get much much worse as they get older.

NewDonkey writes:

"It’s not just about sex and violence; it’s also about consumerism, fashion-and brand-consciousness, and a generally superficial approach to life…. Matt is simply wrong to assume this is all about some "New Prudishness." As a parent of a teenager, I am not that worried that the ever-present marketers will turn him into a sex-addict or a sociopath; I’m more worried that he will turn into a total greedhead whose idea of the good life is stuff, and whose idea of citizenship is to demand a better personal cost-benefit ratio on his tax dollars."

It’s not enough to just say "turn off the TV."  It’s everywhere.  My son watches very little television at home, and we TiVo out the commercials.  But when we go to the doctor’s office, there are TVs in the waiting room, and when we go to the bookstore, the Dora books have ads for video games in the back.  And then there’s the matter of the other kids at school, as well as in the neighborhood.

As Jen commented on 11d, we’re seeing more and more parents — secular liberals as well as religous conservatives — feeling like the media is contrary to their values, and pulling the plug.   We’re also seeing more homeschooling for much the same reasons.  But the culture is pervasive and — unless we decide to become Amish — our children will eventually be exposed to it.  We can’t raise them in a bubble, even if we wanted to.

When I posted this week about D’s case of the "I wants,"  Parke commented:

"We also spend a lot of time in a church community with lots of other parents who are raising children in a similar way, so our children have many friends who also don’t get all the toys they want."

I don’t feel like I have such a community — and I think many people don’t believe that such a community is possible.  I think that there’s a power to talking about these issues in a way that makes people feel like they do have some control, rather than making them feel helpless and cynical.  The only people talking about this are the religious conservatives, and I don’t want to live in their community either.

I like what Anne wrote about this topic, although I’m not sure I entirely understand what she means:

"I became enamored with [the idea] a couple years ago, that to raise a family effectively today you must act counterculturally. That never fit quite right because I am too much a creature of our culture to turn my back on it entirely…. Instead, I can put myself and my family not against the culture, as ‘counterculture’ demands, but orthogonal (perpendicular in every dimension) to culture."

10 Responses to “Pop culture, family values, and politics”

  1. amy Says:

    I don’t worry so much about these issues, possibly because I grew up watching thousands of hours of dreck, drooling over everything advertised, and rereading VC Andrews…and yet as a 30something, I mostly watch C-SPAN, am a bike-commuting crappy consumer who forgets ads exist, and can’t get enough of those crazy high modernists. (From the library, of course.) I can’t remember the last time I actually sat down to watch TV, either.
    Frankly, I think a lot of this has to do with a combination of boredom and expectations. Most of the stuff on TV is aimed at people with a mental age of about six, and if you have anything at all going on, it will eventually get boring. Besides, even if our daughter is insane for, I don’t know, some awful product or show or consumer madwomanism when she’s 20, she’ll know more is expected. Why is this stuff interesting to her? Why is it important to society? What is the aesthetic or sociological importance? Where is her manuscript, show, factory? Just eating…no, that does not constitute an admirable life. I don’t know how she’ll avoid knowing that…and if she doesn’t, she’ll have had to mount a pretty fancy defense. Which by itself will take her out of normal consumerist range.
    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a shiur to read on this week’s parsha. Not because I’m a believer (obviously), but because there’s a history and ethics I have a responsibility to transmit to my daughter, who might have some use for it. This is what happens when your mind is poisoned in youth by General Hospital and MTV.

  2. Jody Says:

    I have about six different posts dancing and and around the set of issues you raise here. My main points HERE would just be that liberal politicians need to find ways to talk about culture and cultural values. Of course they do. And what liberal thinkers (one subset of whom I sure hope are political activists and political representatives) need to bring to the discussion is an awareness of the sanctity of free expression.
    It’s a huge mistake to equate the Republican party with media criticism or a critique of coarsening culture. Because it’s the Republican party that stands at the vanguard of reducing all realms of human interaction to the realm of markets. When we reduce human exchanges to the language of markets, we lose our ability to talk about, to give value to, a whole host of important events, exchanges, and ideas. What liberals can bring to the discussion is a language that doesn’t rely on the language of markets. And let’s face it, few of them do this.
    At the crudest level, markets fail as a proxy for democratic determination because markets by their nature valorize inequalities. Markets rise and fall on the theory, one dollar = one vote. And right there, the idea that free speech operates in the market falls right on its face.
    I was a TV-addict child who turned out just fine. I watched tons of TV, and tons of ads. I survived my passage through the gimme! years, more or less intact, although let’s face it, I’m an aspirational American. It’s terribly difficult for me to define myself in ways that don’t reflect “how I consume.” So I’m reluctant to say, “well, I survived, so my kids will, too.” Because I don’t enjoy being first and foremost a consumer (and take various steps to fight against that).
    But even if I concede that all those years of exposure to TV had no influence, either mental or material, I am not going to concede that television advertising or the content of television program has remained constant. In terms only of ad minutes, kids are exposed to (I think) 2 or 3 times as many ads in an hour as they used to be. In the 1970s, the FCC ENFORCED the regulations preventing TV programs from being nothing more than marketing. Now, even something like Dora (which I enjoy watching) had an opening segue that clearly demonstrated Dora was a video game–which, surprise, surprise, kids could buy. (They’ve changed the opening sequence, although more to update the graphics than to clean up the marketing tie-ins.)
    Compare Disney movies in the 1960s/1970s to Disney movies today. There’s simply no way to argue that even the most benign children’s programming (benign in the cultural sense meant by “religious conservatives,” not in a variety of meanings liberals could bring to the table) has changed in dramatic ways. Or to see why reasonable parents might be very unhappy about this.
    I’m an historian, I understand that the idea of childhood as an age of innocence is a cultural construct, and one that ebbs and flows over time. I’m not harkening back to some glory age of the past, because I understand that such a thing has never existed. I do know that my mom reports feeling that her childhood was roughly analogous to my own. I could never, ever make that claim: I’m hyper-aware of the ways in which childhood has changed fundamentally.
    We’re a hyper-sexualized culture now. As someone who thinks sex WORKS better when it is undertaken in the late teens (not just physically but emotionally), and who wants her daughters to view themselves as more than bodies on display, I work very hard to protect my kids from sex-saturated media. We’re way past Barbie, here. I’m not even just talking about Bratz (although good Lord, there’s certainly plenty to talk about there). And I say this as someone whose children already understand sperm and eggs (well, half-understand them) and whose children understand that men can marry men, and women can marry women. You don’t have to be a prude to want your children not to see women in skimpy (and frankly crude) lingerie on billboards driving down the highway to church on Sunday.
    We have so many more cultural choices, our children’s peer groups expose them to a much wider variety of parenting styles than previously. I didn’t grow up in a homongenous neighborhood, but everyone’s choice set was smaller, so the chance of wide deviation from the norm was limited. Now? Good Lord, the chance that one single family in our neighborhood has made three key choices the same is practically nil.
    When both parents work, and families live in the exurbs so that everyone’s commuting long distances, children will spend most of their time with peers, and often (even in the very best after-school programs, as we see every week at the local YMCA) those peer groups are age-segregated. I would argue that this leaves kids more vulnerable to a variety of cultural messages, especially marketing-oriented messages. Even the most engaged parents are going to have to work very hard to fight against a peer mentality that dominates their child’s life for 10 hours a day. And that’s before advertising and marketing firms start hiring the kids as spies and recruiters among their friends.
    Obviously liberals have a hard time discussing the cultural effects of empty kitchens in the afternoons, even though there are a variety of persuasive indicators that pre-teens and teenagers do better when there are reliable adults at home with them after school.
    This is going to get really long, so I need to stop. Like I said, I’ve got a half-dozen posts floating around on this topic. But boy, do I NOT think it’s pandering for politicians to talk about these issues. The only way you could argue that it WAS pandering would be if you argued that the marketplace was genuinely an arena for free and unfettered exchange. It’s the first assumption the Republican party would like us to accept uncritically: and precisely where we need to start the fight.

  3. amy Says:

    Jody, two questions:
    1. How do you square the assertion that Republicans are looking to reduce human interaction to market analysis with religious revivalism on the right? It seems to me that that is a distinctly non-market approach.
    2. Just curious — why do you have trouble defining yourself in non-consumer terms? I mean unless you believe there’s some sort of plan that’s responsible for you, personally, being here now, it seems to me our being here in the heart of the empire in the 21st c. is largely accidental. Which means that the ability to go out and buy, buy, buy is also largely accidental. Looks to me like these things change very quickly, too.
    About sex…I have a sneaking feeling people said the same thing in the ’70s, too. I’m sure the culture is more openly sexualized now, but in the swingin’ culture of the time, I was completely oblivious. Despite wearing the trampiest clothes and makeup I could get out of the house with and reading whatever I could about sex, and hearing about (shockingly young!) jr. hi friends doin’ it. God, I remember my father asking me one day if the very chic outfit I’d just put together was my Parisian streetwalker outfit. I had no idea what a streetwalker was; heard Parisian and took it as a compliment.
    My main plan is to scare the hell out of my daughter with talk about STIs and teen pregnancy, throw in some “you’ll disappoint me deeply if you have sex now, but if you do, you need birth control” talk, and hope she has some sense of self-preservation. If she’s open to more talk than that, fine. Either way, after a certain point, there’s not a hell of a lot I can do. I’m not going to RFID the kid, and short of keeping her under 24h guard, there’s always the chance she’ll get out & get groovy. Even Juliet managed.
    Maybe what we’re really talking about here is susceptibility to pop culture. If there’s nothing else to a kid, if there’s no there there, as they used to say, I can see that really being a time to worry, and not just about sex too soon. But that’s a different kind of paying attention than being home in the kitchen at 3:30. It means continuously listening to and evaluating your kid to hear who this person is, how she’s growing as a person, what kinds of questions and ideas she finds interesting — expecting that she _does_ find something non-consumer/non-passive interesting, and interceding/interfering if she doesn’t until she does. But I don’t see that as any guarantee of teen chastity. Not at all.

  4. Jody Says:

    We-ll, I’m not sure how I feel about teen chastity. The word actually sort of creeps me out: chastity. Ick. I had sex at 19, my sister had sex at 16, we both don’t regret it but also ended up feeling like it was too soon. I plan to share that with my kids: that having sex, even with the absolute right guy* can be incredibly hard to process when you’re young. Your brain’s still forming, you’re still figuring out who you are, and any birth-control failure could leave you facing a radically altered future.
    Of course I’ll make sure my kids know exactly how to get birth control. I plan to talk with them about oral sex, and not blush while I’m doing it. I’m going to praise masturbation to the heavens. I’m not kidding, I’m not a prude, quite the contrary.
    Figuring out who you are is such a privileged, blessed period, and yes, sexuality is part of that, but intercourse, oral sex, they take the process right up there to the ultimate level very quickly. I’m very glad I waited as long as I did. It took the pressure off in high school, for one thing.
    Look, teenage sex would bother me less if I believed it happened on an even playing field, with no coercion on anyone’s part. But “even” in this day and age, there’s a lot of evidence that girls are still having sex to please their boyfriends, and not to meet their own needs. (I actually blame the abstinence-only folks for some of this: WHEN are we going to talk honestly and enjoyably about female sexual desires? When, I ask you?) I have cousins who are teenagers, raised in liberal and thoughtful homes, and I’m continually shocked by the pervasiveness of the “boys just NEEEEEED sex at this age, so a good girlfriend meeeeets that need” attitude.
    Consider how many teenage boys report getting oral sex. Consider how many teenage girls do.
    I’d be happier about teen sex if those two numbers were equal. If the media and my anecdotal exposure are both wrong on the imbalance between those numbers, I’m resting a little easier already.
    But when I talk about sexualized, I’m not talking just about having sex. I’m talking about Bratz dolls. I’m talking about thongs being sold in size 7–that’s CHILD’S six 7. I’m talking about T-shirts in 4T that read “sexy kitty.” Did sex get more open in the 1970s? Yes. Did people commonly sexualize their toddler girls? No, I don’t think they did. Go back and look in your yearbooks. Something has changed: we know it when we see it.
    And I think the change comes from the market, from advertisers who can sell more stuff if they can sell stuff for smaller and smaller age segments. If you daughter thinks it’s cool to play with dolls only until she’s six, she’s going to start demanding new toys that much sooner. (For example Barbie is labeled babyish and childish by girls ages 8-12, even though in private they still play with Barbie a LOT. So they keep their old Barbies but get “cool” toys to take to school or play with in groups.)
    Every single salesperson in a department store in the last three years has bemoaned the expansion of the “slut dress” look in the 7-12 year old age category. Why are those clothes offered? Because marketers want little girls to aspire to teenage lifestyles and then BUY teenage-appropriate stuff. “Well, people buy that stuff.” Yes, but. It’s a heck of a lot more complicated than that. I can afford to buy age-appropriate clothes for my girls, but the only way I have that choice — to buy something stylish and age-appropriate for my daughters — is because my husband makes a LOT of money.
    I highly recommend “Born to Buy” if only for the chapter on how and when the “age of toys” was steadily eroded, with the explicit goal of creating jaded consumers (i.e., tweens) as soon as possible.
    I think the Republicans are barefaced hypocrites, that’s how I square the market wing of the party with the religious wing of the party. When you listen to evangelical thinkers, they’re highly skeptical of markets, too. They’ve just decided, for reasons that baffle me, to equate the market solely with Hollywood and New York, instead of the corporations and lobbyists who influence their party so deeply. I can take George Bush at his word about his personal relationship to Jesus Christ (or rather, think it’s none of my business to doubt him) and still think he mobilizes religious concerns about key political issues for his own ends, without ever intending to act in ways that would actually promote his constituency’s particular Christian agenda. I frankly don’t understand how evangelical Christians who espouse non-market valuations of life continue to vote for men like George W. Bush. Or rather, I do understand, the Democrats are hopeless failures talking about these issues, but I ALSO don’t understand how evangelical Christians have been taken in by Bush words, when his actions say something so radically different.
    He signs a bill giving Theresa Schindler Schiavo access to the federal courts at the same time he proposes massive cuts to the medical programs that would enable people like her to continue receiving adequate medical care.
    The realms in which I have to fight my fears and anxieties about buying “the right stuff” are too legion to discuss in this already infinitely long comment. But here in the south, I’ve noticed that 90% of the women’s get-togethers are buying parties: Southern Living at Home, Tupperware, Avon, BodyShop, you name it, this is the place to go to combine friendship with shopping. I admit it, when I’m missing my old home, I go to Target because it feels familiar and homey. And then I am strongly tempted to buy something cheap and seasonal and made in China.
    I’m actually reasonably encouraged by the community my husband and I are building up around our kids. The more thoughtful, caring adults in their lives, the better: there’s our pastor, who knows their names; our youth minister, who leads so enthusiastically and has already accepted my four-year old’s offer to collect the Sunday school offering at the end of devotions (causing her to just about burst with pride); their Sunday school teacher, whom they adore; their swimming and Kindermusik teachers; the other parents in the neighborhood, whose children all trick-or-treat together and who gather every Friday afternoon for neighborhood playdates on our lawns. I’m blessed with parents and in-laws who also actively participate in our kids’ lives, even though none of them live close by. Our kids understand themselves to belong to communities, they understand themselves already to have responsibilities to those communities.
    But we’re not taking anything for granted, and we radically restrict our kids’ exposure to popular culture. We live in a neighborhood where it’s safe and possible for everyone to gather on their back decks for playdates. And our kids are also only four years old. And we’re incredibly privileged parents: privileged in our wealth and education and race and sexual orientation, to be able to make so many choices for our kids, to have so many unconstrained choices. To have the time and the energy and the resources to create these communities around them.
    A lot of people in the USA report that they don’t feel so lucky. I have to take them at their word.
    * I married my first and only sexual partner–albeit after eight years and one break-up–so it’s entirely possible that I’m radically unqualified to discuss the issue of sex at all.

  5. amy Says:

    Wow. Just on the age-at-first-sex thing…I’m beginning to wonder how much geography has to do with attitudes. I had my first at 18, and by then I felt just plain retarded. I’d been wanting to lose my virginity for ages, but alas, I’d picked a gay boyfriend. (Ain’t that always the way.) My longtime (one year, I was 16) boyfriend before that was an extremely considerate fellow, so possibly I was one of the lucky few when it came to oral sex. Though frankly I have trouble believing it. I’ve yet to be involved with a man who doesn’t ask if he can go down. I always look at them like they’re insane, I mean it’s like they’ve just asked “can I bring you some more chocolate” or “I’ve just found this tub of money, would you like some”, but from what they’ve told me, there are a lot of women out there who don’t want to be on the receiving end.
    I didn’t have the same fears about pregnancy as a teen, though. Yes, we used bc, but abortion was also much more acceptable at the time. The idea that any college student in her right mind would keep a baby just wasn’t on the table, at least not where I was. The real fear was about AIDS, which made us all fairly hysterical about condom use. At the time there were no effective AIDS drugs, either.
    Baby slutwear…I remember grownups getting pretty upset about that when I was a kid, too. Provocative bikinis for 7-year-olds. Jelly sandals with high heels for toddlers. Tube tops and hot pants for little girls with nothing to put in ‘em. Movies about kid sex, too. (Jeez. Remember “Little Darlings”? That’d be early ’80s.) In my jr. hi yearbook…I remember a lot of mighty ripe-lookin’ girls in the tightest jeans possible and the most feathery, most airbrushed-looking hair. Lots o’ lip gloss. 1981. (I went to a religious school for a good chunk of elem, and we weren’t allowed to wear that kind of thing.)Boys pushing girls up against the wall in the halls. If I’d been sexually awake, I think I’d have found it awfully steamy.
    I don’t expect my teen/tween daughter to understand tween/teen-boy sex drives. I don’t know how she physically could. I fully expect we’ll go through the age-old drama wherein the ol’ whiskery mama warns the nubile young thing that boys are after sex, even if they’re nice bright boys who don’t want to be that way, and NYT is shocked and offended, and insists they’re not, then goes around making it impossible for the boys to remember their own names. I’m not sure this is all bad. If I’d had any idea of what 6th-10th grade was like for the boys, I don’t think I’d ever have gone to school.
    Shopping parties…God, I’d forgotten about those. I think I was permanently scarred by the one my neighbor invited me to a couple years ago. She handed me this catalogue and I thought, “Oh my God, she’s lost her job, and she’s trying to make the mortgage. I guess I have to go.” I couldn’t think of any other reason you’d invite someone to a party and then hand them a thing saying “Now buy some shockingly expensive and mostly useless things from me.” And I was appalled when I saw the commission scale. Talk about taking advantage of women. I went, did poorly at talking about husbands and golf, bought, begged off early, she chased me down the sidewalk with raspberry iced tea and little cakes and cookies, then practically raped me with a set of Junior-League looking cookbookettes for making teeny sandwiches and cakes. I believe the words “Chocolate Fantasia” were involved somewhere. But I know this is not the shopping-party experience of women who really enjoy these things.
    My daughter can demand toys all she wants. The answer is and will almost always be “No.” If she wants to be a ravening consumerist wingnut when she’s grown, that’s her prerogative, but it ain’t happening while she lives here. And no, she may not work more than about 10h/wk while she’s still in school so she can go buy things, and not even that if she’s not really working at the academics, regardless of grades. I’m afraid that car will have to wait, too.
    I don’t love the Bratz dolls, but I can see the appeal. I think they’re pretty asexual, really, despite being dressed up all hoochie. They’re not exactly Eva Marie Saint dolls. I don’t mind if my daughter plays with them, but no, she’s not allowed to dress like that. I’ll have a lot of respect for her if she doesn’t start sneaking around dressed like that at age whatever, but I won’t be surprised if she does. She’ll have quite a job really hiding it around here, though.
    I dunno. While our girl’s not likely to get much pop culture through us, largely because we’re not very interested anymore, I kind of hope she explores it. Some of it’s pretty accomplished stuff. I used to really love the craft and occasional art of advertising, used to study it in an amateur way when I was a kid. Then I worked in it, and saw what repugnant work it does once it gets out the door, preying on people who are so lost that they’re happy to let advertisers tell them who they are, and what they need to buy to realize themselves. I’m still impressed, though, when I see a good ad. The music, the film…it’s a funny thing about pop music. The older I get, the more the raw, dangerous music I heard growing up sounds sweet. Not because pop music has changed so drastically, but because I can hear multiple layers now, and I’m not as easily shocked or frightened as I was when I was a girl. It’s a few young men singing a tune, in the end, usually about some girl. Filthy lyrics don’t really bother me either if they’re done well. My daughter might repeat them, but until she’s actually grown and sexual, she won’t understand. As for the TV…I’m more concerned about those grotesque reality shows in which people treat each other horribly for some money or attention, but a) they won’t reflect her real, local world; b) she’ll hear our assessment of them and we’ll probably have some very focused questions for her about them. Enough to ruin her enjoyment sometimes; c) they’re probably not bad lessons in human nature, in the end.
    I think there’s value in being awake to one’s time. Pop culture is part of that. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in trying it on and playing the part for a while unless it’s more potent, interesting, etc. than whatever you’ve got for character. And as I’ve said before, if that’s a kid’s problem, that’s a serious problem that has to be dealt with right away.
    I guess my main concern is about exposure to fake violence before she understands that the world really is violent. But she’ll begin to see it soon enough, the real violence, I mean. We’ll talk and she’ll read. If you grow up understanding violence is actual and real, I think you’re probably less likely to watch an airplane fly into a building and think it’s a movie, that it can’t possibly be real. You’ll understand it as a human reality instead. One of the things about 9/11 that disturbed me most, btw. The breadth of that “looks like a movie” reaction.
    ps. I’m not sure I like the news-bit repetition about how “teens’ brains are not done growing yet.” I suspect nobody’s brain is done growing until they stop doing any heavy lifting and settle into a routine. My brain and ability to make sensible, ethical decisions are still forming now. With luck that’ll go on till I’m dead. This is what makes it so hard to decide at what point people are actually people….

  6. Jody Says:

    I’m pausing for a moment to smile fondly in remembrance of those midriff baring cotton tops that had the wide flouncy collars in checkerboard patterns and the elastic that always rode up, so you were exposing your non-existent boobs whenever you raised your arms.
    I’m not sure what, if anything, we’re debating. Just because people complained about “slutty clothes” back in 1979 doesn’t automatically negate that critique today. We could, for example, be on an ever-faster race toward the blatant sexualization of all public life for the explicit purpose of selling things. Would I prefer to live in the stereotype of the repressed 1950s? No, that’s not my ideal. I don’t object whatsoever or in any way to the idea that my children will be (and indeed, by the amount of masturbation that goes on around here lately, already are) sexual beings with sexual desires they act upon, sometimes to deliterious effect. It would be like objecting to the tides, or the passage of time. I do object to the market commodification of my children’s bodies. I do worry about the role of pop culture in shaping how my children learn to love their selves. To go off on a tangent, I’m still reeling, a decade on, from the realization that I was the only one of my six closest college and grad-school friends who hadn’t battled an eating disorder.
    But ultimately, I’m not at all sure that we’re going to raise our kids that differently. There’s nothing you’ve said as you describe your own life that I find that much different from mine. Feel free to drop on over at my blog to continue the debate, since I suspect Elizabeth might be tiring of me hijacking her own!
    P.S. As for teen brains, there’s just simple science about ganglions and grey matter and nerve connections to talk about. A 13-year old brain looks different under a microscope to a 25-year old brain. The 25-year old brain doesn’t look nearly as different to a 37-year old brain: things have settled down. But then at the end of your life, everything starts to shrink, and calcify, and there’s a biological/material reason for why your old brain just won’t work as well as it once did.

  7. Elizabeth Says:

    I love the hijacking of the blog — but I think your comments deserve posts of their own.
    I think the culture is more sexualized than it was when I was growing up — which isn’t the same as saying teens are having more sex.
    The internet really has increased the degree to which porn is intrusive into our lives. Yeah, it was never hard to find for people who went looking for it, but now it’s constantly landing in our inboxes, including some pretty hardcore stuff. When the boys are old enough for for their own email accounts, I’m definitely going to put them on the settings where only email from known friends can get through. And still, someday they’re going to make a typo when going to a site they know, and wind up with thirty pop up windows exploding across their screens faster than they can close them.

  8. chip Says:

    excellent discussion! And I think you’re totally on target here: I think the culture is more sexualized than it was when I was growing up — which isn’t the same as saying teens are having more sex.
    Elizabeth: you should download Firefox. It’s free and it is really easy and great to block all the popup windows. Plus it’s easy to block cookies, etc. etc. And much more stable. And I don’t even work for them!

  9. Danskix Says:

    what ever . . . just let it be the way it is. . . kids grow… so what if they see stuff like porn ? nothing happens they will just grow faster thats all… they only thing we have to worry about is to worn them about pregnancy and that stuff well before they have sex… if they have sex that means they think they are old enough to have it. if u forbid something to some one ure multiplying his desire to do it .

  10. Christine Says:

    Every new generation of parents are shocked at youth culture and what is being targeted at kids. This goes all the way back to Elvis. The scary thing is that adults are now engaging children in marketing tactics (ie blogs, etc) therefore teaching children is okay to lie in order to sell.
    There are still people alive who were raised in a less marketed era and I fear the future of a mass populous all raised on materialistic and ego-centric marketing.
    We can all brush aside any argument against these issues, but we can not ignore the fact that the cultural environment creates a generation and the one today is remarkably different than two generations ago.
    As a college professor I take these issues seriously when I face a group of young adults clueless about the real world where things don’t turn out their way, and shouldn’t, all the time or dealing with people who don’t know how to interact or behave because they have lived in a materialistic fantasy most of their lives. A great read is Generation Me where a gen-x doctorate discusses gen-x to gen-y. It is a great book!

Leave a Reply

+ 2 = ten