The things they’re aiming at, and profiting from, our ‘tweens’

  • October 18, 2011

Two recent events at our house got me thinking about Tipper Gore.

Remember her? She is the former wife of Al Gore who years ago fought against profane language in music, particularly rap and heavy metal genres, and violent imagery in media. She was dismissed by many as, at best, a meddling mom and, at worst, an enemy of free speech.

But she stuck to her guns and co-founded the Parents Music Resource Centre in 1985 and ultimately forced record companies, and later video game makers, to put warning labels on their products. In 1987, she wrote a best-seller called Raising PG Kids in an X-rated Society. For all intents and purposes, it appears she fought hard for something she believed to be right and she won a modicum victory.

Or did she?

Looking at society today, one could argue it was a hollow victory at most.

Our 12-year-old daughter takes piano and voice lessons. She’s a good singer and enjoys it immensely — singing in the church choir, attending a special school for the arts and taking private lessons.

The other day her latest music book arrived in the mail. My wife and I couldn’t believe some of the lyrics. Mixed with foul language were descriptions of him doing this to her, and her doing that to him.

Even though our daughter wasn’t asked to learn those particular songs, we were shocked. So was her music instructor who comes to our home each week.  When we showed her these songs, she pulled the book out of my wife’s hands and told her, “We’ll find an appropriate song book.”

Who are these people who are publishing this stuff that is aimed at young people? Do they have no moral compass? Do dollars drive everything?

The second incident peeved me even more. It was time to pick up the latest book-club book for our daughter. (She belongs to a club run by a considerate mother in the neighbourhood for about a half dozen 12-year-old girls.)

For the past three years, the club has started around the time school starts. Each girl recommends a book she read over the summer that other club members can read and discuss. Remember, these are all 12-year-old girls.

My wife went to Chapters to pick up the first book this year. The book was clearly written for young girls, but something prompted my wife to open it. On a quick flip through, she counted six “F” words and two detailed discussions of girls losing their virginity and sexual prowess.

The underlining message was that boys and girls at that age exaggerate their sexual experiences. But, please, I am not at all sure that 12-year-old minds would take away that message. They certainly don’t need how-to descriptions.

The mother organizing the book club immediately agreed and pulled that book when this was brought to her attention. I’d like to think she is like most parents in this regard when offensive material is pointed out to them.

But what of those 12-year-old latch-key kids who don’t have parents closely monitoring their media habits ?

It goes back to my original point: who are these people who are publishing this stuff that is aimed at young people? Does profit mean so much to them that sowing these seeds in society is inconsequential?

I suppose they would all call me a prude with my head stuck in the sand. My daughter could no doubt find much worse on the Internet.

But we are effectively sanctioning the consumption of such material, whether knowingly or not, when it is placed in 12-year-old hands. I am not willing to do that. They are just too young.

But how do we keep up? These are just two small examples. There is an avalanche of graphic videos and other material bombarding young minds through the Internet and elsewhere.

It makes me think, sadly, that Tipper Gore’s fight was all in vain.

(Robert Brehl is a writer in Port Credit, Ont. and can be reached at

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