Hollywood exacerbated the pandemic's impact on children – Washington Examiner

Hollywood exacerbated the pandemic's impact on children – Washington Examiner

Hollywood exacerbated the pandemic's impact on children – Washington Examiner

In the past year, we witnessed the great impact of the pandemic on children.
Children were thrust in front of computer screens, and their screen time reached levels that were never before seen.
There have been reports of increased anxiety, depression, and mental health disorders in children and teenagers, with the U.S. surgeon general recently issuing a public health advisory that youth mental health is a “significant public challenge” that needs urgent attention.
A recent research report from Thorn found that nearly 1 in 7 children ages 9-12 shared their own nude photos last year, almost triple the number from just one year earlier.
The report also found a sharp increase in the number of children, again ages 9-12, who admitted that they’d seen nonconsensually re-shared nudes of others, and they were more likely to think sharing nudes is normal among children their age.
These are shocking reports that beg for solutions.
What on Earth could possibly cause such a huge one-year spike, especially in such outrageously dangerous conduct and beliefs? What is affecting children’s mental state?
I believe there are two root causes for this sudden change.
We know the pandemic has pushed children toward more screen time and technology. Screen time boundaries flew out the window when children were required to be online for school or when parents needed to work while watching their children.
However, I believe a far bigger culprit is that the entertainment programming children are consuming is actively encouraging them to engage in, and to approve of, conduct such as sending nudes to each other.
The tragic increase in sexualization coincides with the production and distribution of specific Netflix, Hulu, and HBO programming that the Parents Television and Media Council has been condemning.
In 2020, the PTC led a national campaign against the Netflix film Cuties for sexualizing 11-year-old girls, including a scene in the film in which the lead character pulls down her pants, snaps a picture of her genital area, and uploads it to social media.
Around the same time, Disney-owned Hulu released a TV program called A Teacher, which normalizes sexual relationships between teachers and schoolchildren. It already was streaming PEN15, which depicts an underage character masturbating in front of a mirror.
HBO is targeting children with Euphoria, which stars a former Disney Channel actress and depicts sexual relations between a teenager and an adult.
Netflix also continues to produce and distribute Big Mouth, an animated program featuring pubescent children in explicit sexual scenes. The PTC’s recent research report, “The Big Problem with Big Mouth,” pointed out that the show includes a 12- or 13-year-old boy offering to perform a sex act on his own father, as well as multiple scenes with full-frontal nudity of children in sexualized situations.
As if that weren’t enough, Netflix for years glamorized the suicide of a teenager in 13 Reasons Why, which featured the most graphic suicide scene ever produced by Hollywood. Even the National Institutes of Health linked 13 Reasons Why to a 30% increase in actual suicides among children ages 10-17. Only after years of public outcry, including ours, did Netflix relent and remove that scene. But this program’s mere existence should have raised alarm bells before it was ever brought to the streaming platform.
So again I ask why — why are we seeing such a dramatic increase in sexualized behavior by and among children and an increase in mental health challenges? Because we are simultaneously seeing a dramatic increase in sexualized, explicit behavior on-screen, particularly in entertainment marketed to and consumed by children.
The greatest blame lies squarely at the feet of those in the entertainment industry who have made a practice of sexualizing children and who are normalizing the sexual exploitation of children.
I’m angry about this. These children will be angry, too. In a few years, they are going to look back on their lost childhood, on their lost innocence. They are going to ask: “Why didn’t anyone intervene to protect me? Where were the adults when this was happening to me? Why was I denied my childhood?”
This is an epidemic, and we need to put a stop to it now. As Hollywood eagerly refrains from showing or promoting certain kinds of content it disagrees with, the industry has to consider the impact it’s having on children. Our children’s health depends on it.
Tim Winter, a former NBC and MGM executive, is the president of the Parents Television and Media Council, a nonpartisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment.

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