Jonathon Van Maren

From the front lines of the culture wars


Pandemic boredom: Many parents watch increasingly sexualized content with their kids

Instead of parking our kids in front of screens, we should find better things to do.
Mon Jan 18, 2021 - 11:15 am EST
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January 18, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — As the entertainment industry consistently ups the ante on explicit content, the New York Times has a message for parents: “It’s Okay to Watch Schitt’s Creek With Your Kids.” Due to pandemic boredom, it turns out, many parents have begun to watch increasingly sexualized content (I’d call it “adult,” but that would infer that it is appropriate for anyone) with their younger children. According to Carrie Goodman, parents shouldn’t worry about this. In fact, Goodman even notes that crude TV could be a good opportunity to talk about sex with your kids.

Melissa Henson, program director for the Parents Television Council, strongly disagrees. Henson says that Hollywood is ignoring the huge demographic of families — with its potential for profits — because they simply aren’t interested in programming for families.

“The traditional view is that the 18-34 demographic has more disposable income and less brand loyalty, and therefore they are a more desirable demographic for advertising,” she told me. “Even if that was once the case, it’s surely no longer true — and even if it is still true, it’s surely no longer relevant in the age of streaming media.”

“From a purely economic point of view, it makes good sense for streamers to target family audiences because they are more likely to stick with their streaming subscriptions in the long run than millennials who tend to pick up a streaming subscription for a time, binge-watch their favorite series, then drop the subscription until the next season of their favorite show comes online again.”

I suspect the truth is that many entertainment moguls are no longer primarily motivated by money. In his 2018 Oscars stand-up routine, Jimmy Kimmel observed that the film Call Me By Your Name, a homosexual seduction story about a 24-year-old adult and a 17-year-old kid, hadn’t made much money. However, Kimmel noted, that didn’t mean the film wasn’t a success.

“That’s not the point,” he said to gales of laughter. “We don’t make films like Call Me By Your Name for money. We make them to upset Mike Pence.” The entertainment industry realizes that powerful storytelling can shift the Overton Window on social issues — and capture the minds of generations of kids.

It’s disturbing that parents are now watching hyper-sexualized entertainment with their kids, although I suspect this trend has been accelerating for a long time. Most kids these days have TVs in their room and are exposed to porn before they hit the age of 12, so I’m not going to pretend that this is a new and shocking phenomenon. It is true, however, that the pandemic appears to be accelerating all previous trends — and that there has been a noted rise of overtly pornographic content in entertainment over the past decade.

“It has been facilitated by the rise of streaming video, which is not subject to broadcast decency laws, nor even (for the most part) by pressure from the advertising community,” Henson told me. “You can see content on Netflix today that is on par with the graphic content that was once the exclusive domain of channels like HBO, Showtime, or Cinemax.”

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It is important to note that we aren’t helpless in the face of these trends. Goodman is a particular type of parent — she was thrilled to watch Schitt’s Creek with her kids because it has a pansexual character, and her thirteen-year-old “is transgender, nonbinary and pansexual,” whatever that means. Most parents are allowing their children more screen-time simply because lockdowns and stay-at-home orders and canceled school are driving them crazy.

But instead of parking our kids in front of screens, we should find better things to do. Read to them. Do activities. Go outside if possible. Our children are too important to turn over to Hollywood because we’re exasperated or tired.

After all, we know what Hollywood wants to tell them.

  carrie goodman, melissa henson, pornograpy, television industry

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