On the impossibility of protecting children from media violence

I'm glad the kids prefer lacrosse to the major sports teams.

I’m glad the kids prefer lacrosse to the major sports teams.

When the kids were younger and watched football and baseball on television, there was a time when they were watching a game and a promo for one of the networks’ other shows came on during the commercial break. My two little boys witnessed, during the 30 seconds of that promo, one teenager fire a gun point blank at another teenager and kill him. It was a horrifying scene, and it played out in front of a 5 year old and an 8 year old who were otherwise spending some quality time with dad.

You would have thought major sports events on television, which are watched by millions of children – obviously – would have been a safe family viewing activity. It was not, and it is not. I’m glad the boys now prefer other sports, like lacrosse, and have become too cynical about players on steroids to bother with the major sports.

Many parents are noticing just how impossible it is to protect their kids from media violence, despite supposed ratings. Often, it’s the ads that are the biggest problem. Common Sense Media has just conducted a nationwide survey of parents which found that 75 percent of parents say shielding children from violence is difficult. Seventy-seven percent of parents said media violence, such as content in TV, movies, and video games, contributes to America’s culture of violence. And a majority of parents agreed that addressing violence will require action on both violence in the media and keeping weapons away from kids.

Common Sense Media has this petition calling for a moratorium on the airing of ads promoting violent video games and movies during NBA, NFL, and NCAA games: Sports Broadcasting Companies: Stop airing ads promoting violent video games and movies to kids

The way to change this situation is to speak out and fight back against the corporations who have shown such a lack of respect for families.

I would like to gather more stories about parents blindsided by violent media. Some people have mentioned the previews on the cable on-demand screen. Please tell us about your experience in the comments section.



  1. Michele Hays says:

    My son recently got an Xbox, and we have carefully been reviewing games through Commonsense Media. Two of the E-10 rated games he chose contained characters or scenes from M-rated games. These were edited to be appropriate for E-10 viewers.

    That being said, it makes it much more difficult for a parent to set boundaries about M-rated games when your kids are familiar with them through exposure in other ways, for instance the Halo series of Mega Blox toys. It’s these insidious little ways that get media past your watchful eye and make media a battleground for concerned parents.

  2. Exactly. That’s exactly how they do it. It’s a sophisticated, multi-level marketing strategy, and it works very much by getting around even the most careful and attentive parents, and creates stress in the family. Thanks, Michele, for your comments.

  3. oh – i hate sports stations for kids (or men for that matter). i don’t consider it safe viewing at all. it’s packed with machismo, violence and sexism (i signed your petition). i’ve always tried to keep communication open about the things I can’t keep from my kids. they are teens now, so it’s even more important (and the msgs just get worse – Black Ops on xbox is awful). if we can teach them to be critical consumers, when they are young, then they will learn to look back with a critical eye and see through the messages they are bombarded with regularly.


  1. […] to recent commenter Michele Hays for bringing this to my attention.) […]

  2. […] impossible to shield children from depictions of gun violence if you live a reasonably normal life, watch sports on TV, watch any TV, or  go out into the world at […]

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