Guest column:

Children live what they learn. You know the old “garbage in, garbage out” principle. An entire genre of music is teaching the youth of our community the wrong message! That message is clear: The road to success is paved with drugs, violence and misogyny. Like I said, “Garbage!” Don’t think so?

The Parents Television Council, in cooperation with Reverend Delman Coates’ Enough is Enough Campaign for Corporate Responsibility in Entertainment, recently released an analysis of adult content appearing on ‘Rap City’ and ‘106 & Park’ on BET and ‘Sucker Free on MTV’ — music video programs popular with young audiences — and found that offensive/adult content appeared at an alarming rate of one instance every 38 seconds. That means every 38 seconds, children watching these programs are exposed to sexually charged images, explicit language, violence, drug use or sales or other illegal activity.

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to see the impact this level of explicit content has on the minds and worldview of children. How do these powerful impressions alter the values, goals and beliefs youth will formulate about the world, their neighborhoods, their communities and most importantly, themselves? That’s where the “garbage out” element is seen in our community.

Many a researcher has shown that listening to music with degrading sexual lyrics is related to advances in a range of sexual activities among adolescents because it communicates cultural messages about expected and normative sexual behavior. Researchers believe that reducing the amount of degrading sexual content in popular music or reducing young people’s exposure to music with this type of content could help delay the onset of sexual behavior.

Likewise, a recent analysis by Dr. Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital of Boston, found attractive role models as aggressors in more than 80% of music video violence. According to Dr. Rich, music videos may be reinforcing false stereotypes of aggressive black males and victimized white females, giving rise to concerns about the effect of music videos on adolescents’ normative expectations about conflict resolution, race, and male/female relationships. Experiments have demonstrated that exposure to sexual violence in music videos and other media desensitizes male viewers to violence against women and heightens a sense of disempowerment among female viewers.

Research has also demonstrated that songs containing violent lyrical content can increase aggressive thoughts and feelings. Have you ever sat down on a bench in the mall and just “‘people watched”? If you have, you know that every kid is plugged into an iPod or an MP3 player or whatever; our kids are listening to this stuff every waking moment.

We need to be concerned about the messages our children are exposed to in all forms of media. Parents need to be more involved in monitoring their children’s media consumption, establishing and sticking to household rules about media use, and discussing media content with their children. Yes, parents! We really need to be more informed as to what is going into our kid’s heads and ears these days!

Advertisers also need to be held accountable for the content their advertising dollars pay for. Those companies that advertise on programs like “106 & Park,” “Rap City” and “Sucker Free on MTV” can and should use their unique influence with BET and MTV to push for greater responsibility where program content is concerned. By their monetary support of such programs, these companies are saying in essence that they are fine with the entertainment our children are watching.

Consumers must demand and receive the right to pick and choose — and pay for — only the channels they want coming into their homes. It is unconscionable that parents who wish to protect their children from this content are nonetheless forced to subsidize it with their cable subscription dollars. When will consumers have the option of “cable choice”?

Finally, we must demand from the networks an accurate, transparent, and consistent ratings system that will give parents adequate tools to protect their children from inappropriate content. Of all the episodes studied by the PTC during their analysis of this issue, most shows had a TV-PG rating. Is this really the wholesome programming we think of when we contemplate the content found in a TV-PG program? I think not!

Parents, it is time to sit down and watch these programs on BET and MTV with your children. Because children are watching and listening. Garbage in, garbage out.

MICHELE MAC NEAL is the director of the L.A./Foothill Chapter of the Parents Television Council. Contact her at (800) 853-5074 or via e-mail at

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