Thursday, April 17, 2014

sophisticated innocents ii | a small idea from Raising Adults

Content is transparent.
Content comes at us—young and old—all day every day across multiple channels from sources known and unknown. Not thinking about content is easier by far than thinking about it. Not thinking about content can be hazardous in a world where ideas are peddled like soft drinks. 
Thinking about content is learned. Winnowing the wheat from the ideological chaff is another mature skill learned by contact with mature thinkers.
The media themselves are by definition neutral delivery platforms. There’s nothing inherently moral about a computer or a movie projector. It’s the content that makes the difference. A lot of adults pay too much attention to the platforms and too little attention to the content they deliver. Kids tend to take adult cues on this and, since the tech is already transparent to them, they often encounter content without assessing its value.
When it comes to violent, sexual and linguistic content, most kids are sophisticated in ways that would have made their great-grandfathers turn away and their great-mothers swoon. We’d be hard-pressed to find a media culture that exposes it’s children to more, or protects them less. There’s almost nothing they won’t see or hear sooner or later. 
By the time he’s seven, the average American child has seen more shocking sexual images than his great grandparents saw in a lifetime. 
—H. Stephen Glenn, in a live presentation circa 1990 (well before the internet became a conduit for photographs and videos)
There’s no point in pretending this isn’t true. There’s also no point in blaming the media—the computers and broadband and digital video players. There is a point—and a challenge and an opportunity—to teach kids to understand the content those media transmit. Because, when it comes to choosing content most kids are as unsophisticated as a two-year-old toddling about putting things in his mouth. He doesn’t yet know that just because it fits doesn’t mean it belongs there.
Don’t blame the kids. Children don’t create much content. I’ve never known a child pornographer*—just as there are no grade school drug lords or gun runners. Kids consume what adults generate and they tend to acquire their consumption habits by observing significant adults.
Given our cultural conversation on the subject of financial gain, I expect adults will keep selling what children and other people buy. And given our bent toward self-indulgence I expect children will continue buying what’s available... This is not a virtuous circle.
Our society, at the present time, is so caught up by the admiration of success that anything people get away with is admired. We’re a sick society in that respect. 
—George Soros, Rolling Stone, 12.98-1.99, page 137

Our job as parents, youth workers, teachers and the like, includes training kids to make mature choices about content.
— from Raising Adults

I suppose it’s possible that wide access to mobile phone cameras may call this assessment into question. I imagine it’s just a matter of time till a grade school child is accused of obscenity.

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