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Protecting Our Children

Look Carefully at What Your Children are Seeing

By JoAnn Hibbert Hamilton

A mother looked through magazines her boys had gotten at the library. In the January 2004 Mad Magazine, located in the children's section, were cartoon figures, some of which were very sexual.

A full color, real life photograph inside this same Mad Magazine showed a very young child with a plastic bag over her head. The plastic bag was duct taped securely around the neck of the child. Do children look at this picture and think, “Oh, here's something we can do when a younger brother or sister is annoying?” I wonder if they realize that without air the child will die? I don't think so. How many children will trifle in real life with this idea? In the same picture was a woman and a dog with their heads covered with plastic bags and secured with duct tape.

In the January 2004 Thrasher Magazine, which is a skateboarding magazine, someone wrote a letter to the editor and said how funny it was when they duct taped their friend to a stop sign and he couldn't even talk. What kind of ideas are these magazines putting into the heads of children? There were pictures demeaning older people and pictures implying disrespect for adults. Where is responsible ownership?

As I looked through the Thrasher Magazine, I couldn't help but notice that if you looked quickly, as often parents do, you didn't notice the subtle advertising that was taking place. The lady at my home verified that had happened to her. She pointed out that at first she hadn't noticed that the language used was language she didn't want her teens to use. As she looked carefully, she found a picture of a baby doll with a knife in its mouth. Cigarettes were advertised very indirectly. Skateboarders were depicted with alcohol. Violence was vividly pictured, and the magazine glorified letters from incarcerated inmates. Animal abuse and anti-social messages were carefully placed – all so subtle – but obviously there as you really looked at it.

The July 2003 Skateboard Annual contained similar content. The Snowboarder Magazine implied bestiality. Violence toward women and children was depicted as a common theme. What are these magazines teaching? This is not innocent entertainment.

When magazines aimed at youth and children imply and overtly teach anti-social behaviors, I can assure you that it is like planting ideas in the heads of children in our neighborhoods.

A desensitized person would say, “Oh, it's just a picture.” But let me remind you that pictures teach, and children are just building their own filter system. Regardless of what your own filter system is, your children haven't developed theirs yet.

So how did this lady handle the situation of finding undesirable things in the magazines her boys were looking at? In this case, she sat down with them and pointed out the problems, one by one. At first, the boys thought she was making a big deal over nothing, but as she continued they couldn't help but see the ever-emerging themes of cigarette use, alcohol use, pornography, cruelty, animal mutilation, etc. They, too, were amazed at the subtle advertising, and they could understand what the magazines were really portraying.

The voice of the consumer comes through purchasing or not purchasing these magazines. Children need to really understand why it is wise not to look at them. It is important to teach them in their home that these things will encourage them to violate their real values.

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