Too much censorship

By Terry Sweetman

Sometimes I wonder how our kids survived until preschool, let alone to the age when they can treat me with fond disdain. They lived with an unfenced swimming pools, were surrounded by toxic household chemicals and were pretty much encouraged to read whatever they liked. The only restrictions in their TV viewing were the clock and their mothers view that indoors was an unnatural place for children while the sun was still up.

Their survival owed more to the occasional rap across the knuckles than the sort of safety devices that make houses and pill bottles no-go zones for the ageing and arthritic. Why do so many people think that life comes with inbuilt guarantees and that everyone else should share their parental burdens? Just how far can we push the care factor? We must have just about reached the limit with the proposal to make parental locks mandatory on digital TVs and set-top boxes. Let the kids watch moronic and oxymoronic reality shows but cover their little ears when it comes to street talk.

Seriously, do I have a problem with parents controlling what their kids watch? Not at all; I think it is their right and their responsibility. However, a little part of me worries that mandatory censorship devices should be imposed by the out-of-control Australian Communications and Media Authority. It, you might recall, is the body that has drawn up a secretive black list of what you can’t see or read on the internet and is immune from objection or appeal.

When it comes to TV, parents might control the set-top box, but they won't control the classifications it recognises. That’s the job of the Classification Board, which is undergoing a review in the light of what the Goverment calls changes in technology, media convergence and the global availability of media content.

It seems a short step from classifications being a guide to being a censorship gate. And the authority has called for submissions from the public on whether there should be any exemptions to the child-lock plan.

We’re not debating whether there should be compulsory locks. We’re reversing the onus of responsibility and asking who and what should be exempt. The authority has spoken.

If parents want childlocks on their idiot boxes, they should be available to them and they should pay for them. Yet why should they be compulsory for the rest of us even if we don’t want them and don't use them? I already have to put up with a nuisance child lock on the washing machine, so what next? Mandatory kiddie blockers on my detergent cupboard?

TV locks are probably not a big deal in themselves. The problem is that they represent a mindset that it builds a false sense of security, the idea that you can turn your back thinking your kids can’t get into the cleaning cupboard or the adult time slots.

The problem with Nanny State is that too many parents want to hand over their kids to her. And they want to blame her for what happens when their backs are turned. Teenagers running amok? Give the cops more power to kick them in the bum. Out of control? Blame it on the schools and teachers. Scoring zero in exams? Get a doctor to diagnose an alphabetical condition and pill them to the eyeballs. Kids watching nudity and listening to four-letter words on TV? Get the govemment to help regulate their viewing.

Never mind parental guidance in developing critical viewing habits. Just push a button. I have to wonder whether TV child locks are a comfort or a cop-out.

The above article appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on 13 March

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