Children and Pop Culture (cont.)

Given that parents control the money up until a certain age, aren't we responsible for buying into pop culture and saying no to that which we find offensive?

Absolutely. It is the parents' responsibility to protect their kids from popular culture and to prepare them for the real world when they go out there. Unfortunately, many parents have been seduced by popular culture, too. They have become enablers of popular culture. And when they go to "the dark side," they advocate their ability to positively influence their children.

I have a chapter in my new book called "Lazy Parenting." Many parents are taking the path of least resistance in raising their children. They're doing what's easiest for them rather than what's best for their kids. A good example is car DVD players. Parents buy them to make their lives easier, not because it's what's best for the kids.

Let me make a little disclaimer. Not all pop culture is bad. Popular culture can be a wonderful source of entertainment and escapism, but when kids have access to pop culture in excess and without guidance or boundaries, then there's a problem.

It's up to parents to make sure that popular culture is controlled by the parents.

You feel that our children are "under attack." Do you really feel that the creators of pop culture are trying to undermine our families, or are they just trying to make as much money as they can?

Pop culture is amoral. It's reason for being is to make money. It's not trying to actively hurt children, but that's the result.

In my book I talk about six values that I believe are most under attack by popular culture. Values, unfortunately, have taken on very different mediums, and the values I talk about are values that everyone in America can agree on. I'm not talking about "red state" values, I'm not taking about "blue state" values, I'm talking about red, white, and blue values - the values our country was built on. The six values I talk about in my book are respect, responsibility, success, happiness, family, and compassion. Popular culture is doing everything it can to undermine those values because it makes them more money.

Give an example.

"Another message about success is that you've got to get it quick and at any cost. That's why we see cheating in school, steroid use in sports, and corporate corruption in the business world -- anything to win."

Respect. Popular culture tells kids that the way to gain respect is to disrespect others. An example: professional sports. Terrell Owens, trash talking, touchdown dancing, taunting, famous football player and now you see kids now doing that on football fields, soccer fields and baseball fields when the real way to gain respect is by caring for others. Popular culture also says the way to get respect is by being wealthy, famous, powerful and popular. But real respect is earned by living a value-driven life and through good works. So, popular culture twists these six values to make more money.

Is it pop culture twisting these values or are we allowing them to sell us this? If we didn't buy into it, would they keep it up? For example, when Little House on the Prairie was getting good ratings it was what was being sold to us. What do we have to do to get parents to buy into positive pop culture messages?

I think many parents have lost perspective. They have been seduced by popular culture themselves, so they don't see the unhealthy value messages that kids are getting.

An important thing that I mention in my book is that parents need to know their children's enemy, meaning popular culture. They need to study popular culture. They need to see the unhealthy values communicated in reality television. For example, The Apprentice is about greed, Extreme Makeover is about beauty and Survivor is about manipulation, deceit and selfishness.

Yes, these are all very entertaining shows and adults can watch them as much as they want, but kids don't just see it as entertainment. And if you think that kids aren't watching adult shows, Desperate Housewives is one of the most popular shows for 12- to 17-year-olds.

Some specific examples: television, movies and video games. They glamorize violence, sexuality, wealth, and the use of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. Fashion magazines -- there's been research that has been shown that when girls read fashion magazines they are more insecure about their bodies, more likely to diet and more likely to have eating disorders.

Another example of the values I mention is success. Pop culture defines success in terms of wealth, fame and power. It defines happiness the same way, yet the research shows that wealth, fame and power actually take away happiness. But those are the messages kids get every day. Another message about success is that you've got to get it quick and at any cost. That's why we see cheating in school, steroid use in sports, and corporate corruption in the business world -- anything to win. These are the messages kids are getting; these are the values of success and happiness they are getting from popular culture.

Compassion is another good example. There's a culture of cruelty and humiliation in schools today. Mean Girls is a good example. Why do you think the Columbine killings or the Red Lake killings occurred? Because these were boys who felt isolated and ostracized. Popular culture is teaching this value rather than the value of compassion.

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