Butch and Sundance ruined my life. I was, before that magical film, an obedient child and an upstanding sixth-grader. But somehow, men who wouldn’t even fight fair in a knife fight, blew up trains, stole money for a living, and then slept with Katherine Ross, who I watched undress between my fingers while my hand covered my eyes, were the kind of men I wanted to be. I turned 12 that day. It was my birthday, literally. I mentally set a path to abandon my goody two-shoes image and channel the personae of Butch and Sundance.
For the next two days, I did my best to emulate my heroes. But my jokes fell flat; my disrespect for authority blew up in my face; and my ventures into larceny dogged me in family lore for decades. I tried to be Butch and Sundance at school, but everyone ganged up on me. As I sat emotionally wounded and bleeding in the boy’s bathroom, I tried to reload and think about how I could still be cool like Butch and Sundance. Nothing came to mind. So, I walked out of the bathroom and faded back into my sepia-toned existence.
Effects of Media on Children and Teens
How is media, as in movies, music, video games, magazines, and television, affecting your child? If you don’t know, that’s scary. By the way, join the club. The producers of media, from Mulan to Grand Theft Auto and unrepeatable porn titles, like to downplay the effect of media on society. It’s just entertainment; no victim, no crime. There are many perpetrators and victims who would disagree with this assessment. Also, multiple studies and surveys have concluded that many forms of media negatively affect kids’ psyche and behavior. Certain types of media plant bad seeds in the minds of youngsters, and these seeds grow and bloom into bad behavior. But these are just studies. Think what you want.
How Youngsters Justify Law-Breaking
I talked to a twenty-something young man about his habit of pirating movies. “Don’t you think that’s wrong?” I asked. Without any hesitation or thought, he stated, “Absolutely not. By the time I was 15, I had seen at least 20 movies where the computer hacker saved the day. He broke the law and was cool. Then, Johnny Depp showed me that pirates could be heroes. When I watched these movies, I realized that I could go to my computer and be the hacker and pirate. I even learned how to pirate and be invisible. When I go to the movies and see some poor Hollywood schmuck whine and complain about video piracy, I laugh. Hollywood created me. I don’t owe them anything.”
There is a good reason why the most successful youth treatments include wilderness therapy programs. Such programs take away the Hollywood influence. I also talked to a single mother who commented that her 15-year-old daughter had inexplicably become more disrespectable, angry, and vicious in her language. She didn’t notice any change in her daughter’s choice of friends or other activities. She did, however, discover that her daughter loved the TV show, Bad Girls. So, she decided to investigate. In less than one episode, she discovered where her daughter’s language and attitude were coming from.
The two examples above are PG-rated media. I don’t have the desire to wade into the areas of pornography, graphic violence, and anarchy that kids today have access to. And before you say it, I agree with you; most kids who play Halo war games don’t go on shooting sprees. All in all, your child’s questionable media choices aren’t a suicide pill. You child and most teens will survive the experience. It is more like Russian roulette. You will, only some of the time, lose your child.
- License: Creative Commons – me and the sysop. “2”. April 2, 2009. Online image. Flickr. image source
Clyde Go is a freelance writer who regularly writes articles about teen problems and other social issues that plague adolescents. He also blogs about wilderness programs, specialty boarding schools, and other facilities that provide help for troubled teenagers.