The first amendment sometimes is lost in translation. Or rather found in a variety of translations. Some argue that this country was founded on the principle of free speech and that censorship should be illegal. Others argue that in some cases we may need more censorship as they do not wish to be subjected to material they find offensive or to have their children be subjected to more mature material. My question is: should this amendment apply to advertisements, and more specifically, should it apply to children in the same way it applies to adults?
I have heard valid arguments on both sides of this dilemma. A friend of mine comes from a fairly conservative family where television is more of a rare weekend treat than a daily staple. It is a family rule that if the younger kids are in the room, the television must stay on one of a few approved channels. Additionally, someone has the duty of muting commercials. It’s not handled in an overbearing fashion by any means, but her parents feel as though television, particularly television commercials, can be inappropriate and manipulative at times so they have decided to keep them out of the home to allow their kids more time and opportunity to be kids.
On the other extreme, there is a family I occasionally babysit for that feels as though the best way for children to learn about the world is through experiencing it in the home. Their children are allowed to watch whichever show they would like, commercials included, and the parents view this as an opportunity for them to discuss adult issues in the home rather than having their children learn about them outside of the home. There is little to no monitoring of what their children are viewing but the children have a solid understanding that if anything pops up that they are curious about, they have the freedom to discuss it with their parents.
Which perspective is better? Is there a happy medium? Is it better to keep close watch and censorship of what our children are watching and listening to in order to preserve their innocence or is it better to let them watch whatever they want so they will have a better understanding of the real world? Is the FCC justified in enforcing advertising guidelines?
Where is the line drawn? Is it ok to use age appropriate advertising to target children such as cereals, toys, candy, etc during Saturday morning cartoons? Is it ok to use images that appeal to children to advertise alcohol and cigarettes? Is it inappropriate to have the opportunity to explain to a nine year old what Viagra does or what Trojan Lubricant is as you’re watching a family show or is it somewhat uncomfortable but beneficial?
This leads to a different set of questions. Who is responsible for drawing this line? Is this the responsibility of the advertisers to censor how they advertise their products, or is it the responsibility of the parents to more closely monitor what their children are watching?