Monday, December 10, 2007

Issuing a restraining order on media use

I received an invitation today to give a media literacy presentation at a Portland elementary school.

Each time I give my presentation (under the auspices of Media Think), I try to tailor it to the needs of the audience.

According to my PTA contact, the school's parents are particularly worried about the proliferation of media in the lives of their kids. For instance, the cell phone/text messaging/cyber-bulling issue has arrived in their elementary school.

After we settled on details via e-mail, my contact asked me for a title to use for publicity.

Coming up with a title is always a revelation. After I dispensed with the prosaic “What to do about Media in your Child’s life” and “Smart media decisions for your child,” I explored some new metaphorical territory about media and its impact on families.

The idea of media being "the other parent" has been around. James Steyer used it as the title of his book about media and kids. But I sensed that the parents had deeper concerns than competing “other parents.”

No, for them, media are actual abductors. Their kids are being enticed away from family. The role models aren’t “other parents” with quasi-parental concerns. Rather the role models are aliens with values diametrically opposed to parental ones: violence, cyber-bullying, hyper-sexuality, crudeness.

So I played with “Protecting your child from media abduction” and “Is your child a media run-a-away?” I also considered with the judicial term “Restraining Order” to suggest the seriousness of the problem and the need for strong measures to combat it.

I confess I worried that the idea of media abduction might be too strong, so I decided to simply throw it in with a mix of suggestions for my contact to choose from.

My contact wrote right back, “I think I like a combo: ‘Restraining Order: Protecting Your Child from Media Abduction.’"


Together we have arrived at a new, more urgent way of looking at media’s influence on kids. The metaphor suggests criminality (enticement, abduction). And that suggests new, tougher approaches (restraint, restraining order).

The school’s invitation was more than an invitation to give a presentation. It turned out to be an invitation to explore new ways of understanding a growing problem and finding a solution.

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