Last week a blog post by Rebeca Seitz caught fire online. If I had to guess why this particular blog post took off the way it did, I’d say it was because she described a scenario that is all too familiar to parents these days.
In it she relayed her shock and horror that over breakfast, ABC’s Good Morning America aired a soft-porn ad for the network’s program Betrayal. The ad depicted a man and woman fully nude and having sex. Not exactly what you’d expect to see over your Cheerios. And it’s especially unwelcome when you’re just trying to get caught up on the day’s news and weather while you are getting your kids fed and out the door in the morning.
How often have we heard the hoary cliché, “If you don’t like it, change the channel.” But Rebeca’s story perfectly illustrates why “just change the channel” is wholly inadequate.
Rebeca, just like thousands (millions?) of parents before her, probably did change the channel. But by that time it was too late. Her eight-year-old son had already seen the image, and a little piece of his innocence died that day. He had already been exposed to something she wanted to protect him from.
It’s not as if she was watching a TV-14 primetime soap, or Showtime mini-series. She was watching Good Morning America. She had no reason to expect such content with the morning news, but it is symptomatic of the general corrosion of the culture that this kind of content is no longer confined to the post-10 p.m. time slot when kids are safely tucked away in bed. It is everywhere at all times, and darn near impossible to avoid.
But this is what the “just change the channel” mentality has wrought. It has placed the entire burden not on the networks to be responsible, but on the parents to be constantly on guard, even during times of day and on programs once assumed to be appropriate for viewers of all ages. It has given networks the green light to air whatever they want, whenever they want.
It has entirely ceded the culture to the most corrupting influences out there. And no matter how vigilantly you try to guard against those influences, they creep in like toxic fumes through the cracks and crevices. I’ve never watched Keeping Up With the Kardashians, but I know the names of every member of that family — because popular culture has a way of permeating the general culture, to the point that it is impossible to avoid.
The “just change the channel” crowd might as well be saying “throw out your television sets,” because that’s a more realistic solution than the one they’re suggesting. They want the networks to have all the say, and parents to have no say at all, even though the networks are using a resource that is owned by the very parents who are being forced into retreat. They’re saying “like it or lump it,” with no middle ground allowed.
Maybe if more of us had taken Rebeca’s approach, if more of us had pushed back on the networks, if more of us had taken the broadcasters to task instead of merely “changing the channel,” we wouldn’t have to worry about our kids getting soft-porn with their breakfast.