Here's how I know that the TV ratings system is a sham.
Like most parents, I do my due diligence to try to protect my children from harmful things in life. When they were little, my wife I held their tiny hands when crossing a busy street, and reminded them to look both ways before running into traffic. We've buckled thousands of seat belts to keep my kids safe from an accident that I prayed would never happen. We put those silly covers on all our electrical outlets and cupboards. I have sprinted across the kitchen to catch a boiling pot from burning their scalp, and dove into a small river when one of them toppled in while reaching for a tadpole. The list goes on, and everything we do is intended to guide them so they can grow to be independent, responsible decision-makers.
But then they become tweens and teens, and the dangers in the world become more difficult to explain -- and to manage.
- How do we tell our 9-year old that he can't have a smartphone with full access to the Wild West of the internet, when "everybody else" has the latest and greatest I-phone?
- How do we explain responsibility to my 12-year old as we put limits on her texting, when "everybody else" has no limits on their texting, or for that matter, on anything else?
- How do we explain to my 15-year old that we don't want her watching a TV-14 show that could have graphic violence or intimate sex scenes, when "everybody else" gets to watch those shows?
Our family uses DISH satellite. I am "that dad" who puts ratings restrictions on the family TV hoping my kids are blocked from "accidentally" seeing the latest cutting-edge sex and violence on the current hot new show. I have added a password for any show rated TV-PG or higher. This is very inconvenient to my wife and I, but working at the Parents Television Council has only confirmed what I already knew - that there are a lot of really graphic shows on TV that children should not be watching. However, what I've also learned at this job -- and what most parents don't know, or choose to ignore -- is that many shows are completely misrated. So even if you do program your V-Chip, and monitor what your children can watch, it is still possible for some over-the-top sex scene, graphic violence, or profanity, to get through...because it's been rated perfectly OK for a 14-year old.
Now, many like to say this kind of programming is providing me with an "opportunity" that can lead to a "conversation" with my child about "real life." Well, each to their own; but as a responsible parent I feel my job is to talk to my kids about sex, drugs and violence on MY terms and when THEY are ready
, not when some network executive decides they should.
Like most responsible parents, I want my children to enjoy childhood as long as possible before being they are manipulated to believe that violent murders and torture, casual and irresponsible sex, adultery and prostitution, and constant teen drug use, are all everyday occurrences in our world. And no matter how I remind my children about the "make-believe" of TV shows, it would be naive AND irresponsible for me to think that TV has no influence on a young child's mind
. Science agrees with me on this.
But even as a loving parent, who is deeply concerned about what my children watch, it is impossible for me to watch every program or see everything they might be exposed to in advance. The entertainment industry claims they have set up tools to inform parents, and help parents can block the shows they do not want their children to see.
However, the blocks comes crumbling down as the content rating system only works if the ratings are correct, which often they are not.
THE "UNRATED" INCIDENT THE OTHER NIGHT.
So...let's pretend that the networks are extremely responsible, not financially self-serving <cough cough>, and all their ratings are consistently accurate.
How do they explain this "malfunction" in the rating system that happened recently in my very own living room?
After eating dinner, hearing about school and the competitive soccer battles on the playground, and then putting my kids to sleep, I sat back to watch some TV. I rolled my eyes at my wife as I saw that she had recorded ABC's Scandal
, which is normally rated TV-14. She said she did not record it, and said maybe our 15-year old had. I know our daughter does not know our password, so I was a bit confused. I looked at the information for Scandal
, and lo and behold, it was rated "Not Rated
." This means it does not get blocked...ever! And THAT means that my 9 year old and 12 year old might see Scandal
scenes about the President's daughter making sex tapes, violent shootings, or a vicious torture. The network got around my parenting, by rating a program as "Not Rated." So, even a TV-MA show that is "Not Rated" could be accidentally viewed by children. What a sham! Parents are told they have tools to blocks shows they do not want their kids to see...but clearly, it does not work.
Now, IF the networks had no motive to leave off the rating, I would think it may be an error. The networks, however, are highly motivated to NOT include a rating. They want as few obstacles as possible to block a show so they can bring in as many viewers as possible. I recall that I have also seen "Not Rated" on Castle
and even the MTV Video Music Awards
! This gives me little reason to believe the networks made an honest mistake.
Most parents don't know that these types of "oversights" occur. Some know, but feel helpless. Others say "So what?" But whatever your parenting style, the entertainment industry cannot have it both ways. They cannot say that they have created tools so parents can protect their children from indecent content, and then blame parents when a child accidentally sees a show that was rated incorrectly, or not rated at all. This is why I strongly agree with the PTC that the Content Ratings System is a fraud and needs to be completely overhauled.
I demand a change in the the content ratings system, not as a PTC employee, but as a parent.
If you are a concerned parent, don't just turn a blind eye.
Join me and thousands of other parents.
Click here and sign the petition for TV Content Ratings Reform.