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Friday April 16, 2010


Survey: Concerned Parents Want Media, Gov’t to Fight TV Smut

By Peter J. Smith

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 16, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) — Parents have deep concerns about the impact depictions of violence, sex, drugs, and profanity have on their children, and want the media industry and government to help them do something about it, according to a new national survey.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) commissioned the survey, saying they had special concern as more than 68 million people in the U.S. belong to the Church, with many families needing help “navigating the digital landscape.”

The survey’s findings were included in a study called “Parents’ Hopes & Concerns About the Impact of Media on their Children,” which was a response to an inquiry by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

“Our nation’s transition to digital television offers an excellent opportunity to provide children with additional protection,” said Bishop Gabino Zavala, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Communications. “We encourage the Commission to act on parents’ concerns revealed in this USCCB study.”

The survey of 500 parents with children ages 2-14 revealed that over 80 percent of parents said they want to have more control over the accessibility of media content that depicts violence, sex, illegal drug use, alcohol abuse and profane language.

“Sexual content” rated high on the list of parents’ concerns, with 84 percent saying they were “very concerned” or “concerned.” Seventy-eight percent of parents expressed the same concern over the portrayal of “illegal drug use” in media, followed by 76 percent concerned about violence, 74 percent concerned about profane language, and 70 percent concerned over alcohol.

Most parents (75 percent) wanted media makers, more than the government, to give them more assistance in protecting their children from inappropriate media material. Fifty-eight percent of parents said the government should also do more, and 67 percent of parents said they wanted a standard ratings system.

Advertisement content was also a big issue for 61 percent parents, who were concerned about what images their children were viewing. Seventy-five percent of parents said they would use parental controls more if they could block the inappropriate content that comes from ads.

Dr. Patrick DiVietri, a psychological counselor with over thirty years of experience and executive director of the Family Life Institute, told LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) that media imagery has enormous power to shape the imagination, which in turn “causes mental health or mental illness.” The Family Life Institute is a Manassas, Virginia-based educational agency dedicated to the pastoral care of the family.

Parents have every right to be concerned about the effect of television and advertisements in particular, he said, because even a brief exposure to the television can rapidly place many damaging images in a child’s brain – and can cost them their innocence.

“The ads are real, real fast,” said DiVietri. “[Advertisers] don’t allow them to stay there long because they figured out psychologically they don’t have to. They can run hundreds of images within just thirty seconds and they know that it is going to penetrate and cause an effect on the recipient.”

DiVietri said that the imagination, which “was meant to hold what is true, what is natural,” is thereby harmed by content that goes against the natural law.

“What ends up taking place is that if one imagines wrong things, or things contrary to human nature, it can easily lead to psychological defects,” he said. The bad images “distort the perception of the truth” and can lead to psychological “trauma,” said DiVietri, as they damage the individual’s ability to perceive reality through healthy associations.

The expert pointed to the example of pornography, where the images lead to the mind associating persons as sexual objects. He also said that depictions of violence can desensitize a person to real violence.

Teenagers, Divietri said, are particularly vulnerable to images of sex, drugs, violence, and profanity because at their stage of psychological development, “they don’t tend to think things through.”

“They are associating pleasure with something that might be evil,” said the counselor.

The USCCB recommended that both policymakers and broadcasters take the findings into consideration and develop resources to give parents and television viewers the power to block objectionable television ads, as well as support initiatives that would expand the scope and reach of parental controls for the benefit of parents and their children.

Full results of the survey can be viewed on line here.

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