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HICKS: MTV once again exploits youths with ‘Skins’

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Admittedly, the Egyptian uprising, the nullification of Obamacare and the ongoing ramifications of "Snowpocolypse 2011" could render the controversy about an MTV program insignificant by comparison.

After all, MTV is only out to destroy an entire generation. No big deal.

"Skins" is yet another television import from the U.K., brought to the U.S. by creator Bryan Elsley. It portrays teenagers — several played by actual teens, not older actors — engaging in all manner of immoral, illegal and unethical situations. The show is built around story lines that glamorize promiscuous sex, sexuality exploration, drug and alcohol abuse, illegal activities including selling drugs, disrespectful attitudes toward adults, graphic language, hypersexual attire, profanity and more.

It's every parent's nightmare. And it's targeted directly at children ages 12 to 18.

The Parents Television Council (PTC) has asked U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and the judiciary committees of both houses of Congress to investigate the show, since the use of underage actors in graphic sexual situations may violate several laws against child pornography. It appears MTV and its owner, Viacom, may realize this and are attempting to mitigate their exposure (pun unintended) by editing future episodes.

But as PTC President Tim Winter has noted, the company doesn't have to distribute the seedy sex scenes to have committed crimes. Merely videotaping teens in sexual situations may be enough to violate several federal and state laws.

The PTC also has pressured advertisers to drop their funding of smut TV for youths. None of the eight advertisers (Taco Bell, General Motors, Schick, H&R Block, L'Oreal, Subway, Foot Locker and Wrigley) that the PTC criticized for underwriting the content in the first episode of "Skins" appeared in the second broadcast.

Defending his tawdry production, Mr. Elsley released a laughable statement about the value of the show.

"'Skins' is a very simple and, in fact, rather old-fashioned television series. It's about the lives and loves of teenagers, how they get through high school, how they deal with their friends and also how they circumnavigate some of the complications of sex, relationships, educations, parents, drugs and alcohol. The show is written from the perspective of teenagers, reflects their world view," he said.

Likewise, one of the show's actresses, Sofia Black-D'Elia (who plays one of the show's lesbian characters), was reported to have argued, "It's what teens are doing. It's the way teenagers believe."

There's the bogus justification for corrupting an entire generation: It's what kids are already doing. Whenever producers of rancid content want to rationalize their tactics, they claim they're only "holding up a mirror to society."

Mountains of research dispel this feeble excuse. And if it's already what kids are doing, why do content ratings include assessments of "imitative behaviors" — negative material that will influence children in the wrong ways?

Simply put, MTV and other purveyors of pop culture are exploiting and corrupting America's young people. Our children are intentionally being told through TV shows, movies, song lyrics, websites and advertising that it's normal and appropriate to be hypersexual and sexually questioning, it's OK to experiment with drugs and alcohol (because every teen does), it's typical to be disrespectful toward parents and other adults, and it's common to lie, cheat, steal and cuss your way through adolescence.

When, when, will the producers of media content for children and teens admit their role in demoralizing and demeaning an entire generation of Americans? And when will they use the power of media to inspire our youths to be wholesome and good?

Visit www.marybethhicks.com.

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