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Censorship: Is Closing Their Eyes Good Enough?

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Censorship: Is Closing Their Eyes Good Enough?

        Throughout the decades, censorship has become an ongoing battle. Some believe that censorship has become too strict, while others believe that it is not strict enough. But many agree believe the best way to draw the line between what’s right and what’s wrong is to consider the audience most at risk of negative exposure: children. America continues to revise the way it censors its media content in order to protect its minors.

        About fifty years ago, the only way for a child to be exposed to inappropriate material was through word of mouth, or sometimes an explicit magazine. But today, a child does not even have to try to find inappropriate material; nowadays it finds them. A person does not have to look too hard to find something inappropriate for children. By simply surfing channels on a television, a person can run into suggestive commercials, music videos with partially nude women, or inappropriate language. At first some people find no harm in it. Most adults feel they are mature enough to handle the material. But if it is that easy for an adult to run into such material, is it not just as simple for a child? Some adults believe that even young adult books have become too explicit. Young adult books that used to contain stories of friendship, or stories of fantasy and adventure, now contain content about sex, drugs, and violence. Most teens that read these books feel they can handle the material, and often feel that it reflects their generation. Some parents of these teens feel that these books also encourage the behavior that they reflect. So where can one draw the line? Is most of the material minors consume from the media inappropriate?  Or will they encounter the same situations they read about and watch on television in real life?

        Those who do not believe in censoring are not only thinking of their own benefits. They also are concerned about being robbed of the rights given to every American citizen. Charles Taylor argues in his article that censoringship for the sake of protecting children is not a valid excuse when it comes to giving up ones freedom of speech (Taylor par. 1). He describes an encounter with a friend who was trying to protect his young relative from being exposed to a curse word in a magazine. He comments that the word was, “…something the boy had certainly already heard in the schoolyard” (Taylor par. 1). His statement introduces the common argument that many believe: if they don’t hear it on TV, they will hear it at school.  He makes a point by explaining that children will hear and see inappropriate material by the time they reach a certain age. Filtering every bit of material they encounter can only protect them for so long; but sooner or later, they will hear or see it elsewhere. He also argues that by hiding subjects such as sex and contraception from minors, they are sure to make poor decisions they were never taught to make. “…people who want to deny teenagers access to sexual information…are implicitly saying that kids should die rather than have their innocence sullied” (Taylor, par. 25).  Although Taylor makes a strong defense for the freedom of free speech, some may argue that the fact that he has little experience with children makes his argument justifiable.

        There are also a portion of people who are against censorship simply because it is too difficult to determine between what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Most censoring done by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), determined by whether the material is obscene, indecent, or involves profanity. Material that is deemed obscene is that which “portrays sexual conduct, defined by law, in a patently offensive manner”(Mazur, par. 7). But how can the FCC determine what is indecent or profane if what is profane to one person is acceptable to another? Mazur argues that sometimes minors are categorized into a vast age group, meaning most material “arguably applies equally to an emancipated 16 year old and a 4 year old child” (Mazur, par. 10). So those opposing censorship have reasons beyond getting to watch what they want on TV. It is far deeper than that. Some would like to preserve their right to freedom of speech, while others are tired of counting on the FCC to decide between what is right or wrong.

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