Watershed? Get under my umbrella

Rihanna is the pop star at the bottom of the whole debate. Image: Bob Xu/Flickr

In a brilliant and decisive move, Ofcom has, following a damning report by Mother’s Union chief executive Reg Bailey, tightened regulations pertaining the 9pm watershed.

It has demanded that broadcasters be more vigilant in preventing the smut that pervades music videos from reaching our children’s sensitive minds.

Huzzah to that, for Britain is now safe from filth. Whoop-de-do.

Of course, while the new guidelines were seen as a reaction to last year’s X Factor scandal and general chart music sauciness in the media, Ofcom’s own report painted a different picture: “The majority (58 per cent) of all parents surveyed were not concerned.” Well there you go.

Even the causes for concern were also not exactly what the coverage would suggest. Parents were worried most by soaps, with music videos coming third on the list. And those most concerned were “older parents, parents whose eldest child was aged 10-14”. But what on earth are middle-class parents of 10 to 14-year-olds complaining about?

After all, let’s face it: childhood is not really that innocent. Right up until late adolescence, it’s about exploring the world, including the discovery of violence in the playground, and having your face shoved into the mud by some bigger kid. The learning of words that mummy would have a heart attack hearing, and most of all the slow unravelling of the mystery that is ‘where do babies come from?’

By age 12, children are, regardless of their level of maturity, bang in the middle of finding out about the world and most likely have quite some experience to boot.

I hate to break it to middle-class parents, but your 12-year-old swears like a sailor around his mates. At least, he would if he possessed even a fraction of the figurative sailor’s imaginative talent.

In a year or two, he’ll be sneakily watching 15+ DVDs with the gang, gaping at the massive metaphorical balls of Jason Statham and howling with laughter at the antics of Cartman et al.

But nevertheless, he’ll turn out OK. Because he has a stable family that cares about him, economic security, a decent social environment and nice hobbies that give him a certain sense of purpose.

Because while our modern culture naturally has an impact on children, they soon grow up to learn that fiction isn’t reality, and they gain a proper understanding of the world.

The causes of violence, teenage pregnancy and other acts of “low moral fibre” aren’t 50 Cent’s open descriptions of fornication or the latest preposterous EastEnders story arc, but mostly economic circumstance and lack of education.

And swearing, to quote the quite eloquent Stephen Fry, is an “important part of one’s life.”

There’s no use in hysterically campaigning for a squeaky-clean moral environment like a collective reincarnation of Mary Whitehouse.

Parents will always be faced with the challenge of deciding what’s appropriate for the offspring, which is mostly their job, not the telly’s.

The Government needs to support them in this endeavour, but holding its regulatory hand over the children’s eyes is not the answer. It takes education that holds a real-world relevancy and an active support of responsible parenthood.

Concerned mothers could probably complain endlessly about the commercialisation of childhood and the teenage years. The easy answer would be to smash capitalism. The longer answer is definitely more complicated.

But if you’re complaining about the commercialisation and vulgarisation of television programming, turning off The bloody X Factor might just be a start.


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