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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Are Parents Powerless to Self-Censor Media Content?
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One of the most common arguments in favor of government censorship of media--whether it's TV, radio, movies, or video games--is that parents are simply powerless to stop the onslaught of objectionable content that their children might be able to access. As a parent, there are times when I can sympathize with those who feel this way, but I always point out that this is never a good excuse to call in Uncle Sam to dumb down all media to that which is only fit for a child. Let us as parents make choices for our own families.

Luckily, many new tools and technologies are available to help parents make decisions about what their children see, hear and play. But until today, I had not found a single resource that collected all these self-help tools in one spot. Well, I finally found it! It's called "Pause-Parent-Play" (PauseParentPlay.org) and it formally launches today with a kick-off event on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The Pause-Parent-Play website offers a wonderful compendium of websites and services that parents can use to learn more about the media there children might want to see, hear or play. In particular, the site features numerous links answering questions about how TV ratings and screening tools work(like the V-Chip and cable / satellite set-top boxes). These TV screening and filtering tools seem to be the source of some confusion for some parents, but the links provided on the Pause-Parent-Play website help parents better understand how to use these technologies. There's also a "Get the Facts" section on the site that offers detailed explanations of how many of the current ratings systems work.

Incidentally, if you are wondering what the Pause-Parent-Play stands for, here's how the website explains it:

* PAUSE - take a minute to think about the media that is available and how their kids might react to it;

* PARENT - decide what is appropriate for their own kids, talk with them, and use the options at their disposal to help them; and

* PLAY - enjoy the media with their kids.

The effort is sponsored by an amazingly diverse coalition of companies and associations, including: WalMart, the Girl Scouts, YMCA, Microsoft, Comcast, Time Warner, News Corp., the Electronic Software Association, Viacom, NBC-Universal, and the MPAA and RIAA.

Anyway, I encourage parents to take a look at the website and use it as a resource to help figure out what is appropriate for their children. (I also encourage you all to visit the excellent "TV Watch" website, an effort started earlier this year to help educate parents and policymakers about TV and tools of parental empowerment). Again, as I always conclude by saying, self-censorship certainly represents a superior alternative to calling in Uncle Sam to act as our national nanny and a surrogate parent for our children.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 9:37 AM | Free Speech

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