Who is Bringing Up the Children of America?

Parents are on a collision course with corporations over what can be described as the “sensuality ladder.” The underlying question is: who is bringing up the children of America?

Ask Lynda Beams who launched a drive in Dallas to have shows like “Geraldo” played in time slots when children’s TV viewing is more likely to receive supervision from parents. There are 60,000 latchkey children in the Dallas-Fort Worth are and they have whoopee access to the television in the after-school slot.

“I’m merely a mother concerned about children” says Ns. Beams, and this is what moved her to action:

— a show on bestiality where Geraldo scanned his studio audience for anyone who had had sex with a lower animal;

— Geraldo shows on incest, sex enhancers, guests talking about eating human flesh, babies sacrificed in cults.

She started a petition drive among PTA and church groups and began contacting local and national advertisers, many of who withdrew their ads from the show. The objective, she says, was not to remove the show from the air, but to move the show to an earlier time slot when the children are in school. The groundswell she started is now national in scope and the offending television shows are feeling the heat all the way, from the local PTA to the national advertising agencies.

Far less publicized are the daily reactions of parents who see their children from K-12 barraged with ads and promotions over television, radio, in print and through samples of products and entertainment with addicts, injuries or blows their minds. Tobacco, alcoholic beverages, junk food filled with sugar, salt, fat contents, sonic boom music via Walkman, children’s television programs filled with violence, teenage video and cable fare loaded with sex and violence, war toys with supersonic zapping, dubious medications to calm them down after other merchandise has revved them up and the list goes on and on.

The multibillion dollar K-12 market has taken over control on how and with what and with whom children spend their time and take their cues from. Their peer group become a selling unit that reinforces the companies ads. What to wear and what to drink and smoke and chew and listen and watch are subject to the most intensive manipulations by Madison Avenue hucksters.

Kids are big business and big business needs their youngsters compliant, vulnerable and hooked on their fads, fashions and addictions. They need them to obey and buy, discard and replace. For these profiteering objectives, they need to occupy more and more of the youngsters’ time on the lower rungs of the sensuality ladder.

On the other side of the upbringing aisle are those parents seeking for their children a higher form of life — health, attention to their studies, a more wholesome group of friends, respect for their parent’s guidance and more of their offsprings’ time. In short, they want their children to move up the sensuality ladder away from addictions, sex, violence and mind-blowing” fads and fashions that turn them and their friends into roving packs of Pavlovian subjects.

The trouble is that too often both parents are away from home working in some of the very companies that are bringing up their children commercially. The ethos of commercialism is penetrating and overwhelming other norms which once were off limits to the marketeers — such as hands off our children and their vulnerable minds.

Clearly, a more focused debate on the need for corporate accountability here arid parental organization will raise these private displays of anguish by Mom and Dad to the level of civic action.

This is part of what Dr. Michael Jacobson, a Washington consumer advocate, has in mind. He is trying to start a Center for the Study of Commercialism and invites your comments to be sent to 1501 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036.

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