Sex, Drugs, The Media & Our Kids

I originally write this for my regular Generation Next column

In the weeks since that Miley Cyrus performance at the VMAs, more fuel has been poured onto the fiery debate around the overtly sexual messages our kids are receiving thanks to the media.

Add this to the heady mix of alcohol, violence and drug use with the apparent rise of such related anti-social behaviour of our teenagers – once again commentators are calling on the media to pull its collective head in.

Just this Sunday, I was watching a movie with my five year-old son that featured, amongst other things:

• Every second character, including the two lead characters smoking.
• Every second character, including the two lead characters drinking alcohol.
• Drink spiking.
• A drunken bar room brawl that involved guns, knives and king hits.

The brawl only subsided when a stripper appeared on stage, dressed all in blue (the relevance of this will be apparent shortly) and began to sing,

Hey fellas
The time is right
Get ready
Tonight’s the night
Boys, what you’re hopin’ for will come true
Let me be good to you

You tough guys
You’re feelin’ all alone
You rough guys
The best o’ you sailors and bums
All o’ my chums

So dream on
And drink your beer
Get cosy
Your baby’s here
You won’t be misunderstood
Let me be good to you

Hey fellas
I’ll take off all my blues
Hey fellas
There’s nothin’ I won’t do
Just for you

So dream on
And drink your beer
Get cosy
Your baby’s here
Hey boys, I’m talkin’ to you
Your baby’y gonna come through
Let me be good to you

I reckon Miley herself would be pretty happy with those lyrics.

I know what you’re thinking…

“Haesler! What are you playing at letting your five year old boy watch an episode of Underbelly?”

But it wasn’t Underbelly.

It was Walt Disney’s 1986 animated classic, The Great Mouse DetectiveGreat Mouse Detective

Making $40 million – in the 80s – the film is widely acknowledged as being the saviour of Disney, after some less-than-stellar releases. It appears that even back then sex, violence, alcohol and drugs sold, and sold well.

Kids have always been subjected to these kind of messages, but I think we underestimate our youth – and the adults in their lives – when we believe whatever they see they’ll do.

Melinda Tankard-Reist wrote in her Fairfax column this week that the young girls she’d spoken to since the Miley performance were in no way influenced to act the same way. Some of the comments from the girls aged 12 and 13 were:

”She thinks it’s cool, she’ll attract more people, but she hasn’t.”
”She used to be inspirational, we used to look up to her, now she’s ruined herself.”
”The performance portrayed a negative image of women.”

I would guess that these girls have strong role models in their lives, be they male or female, parents or otherwise. And I think that’s the point.

Of course the proliferation of the media has meant kids are getting these messages more often, but we can’t underestimate the power of a good adult role model and their ability to dilute, deflect or redefine these messages so kids can watch The Great Mouse Detective without becoming drunken gun-slinging strip club regulars.

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