Mandatory TV parental lock; really great or nanny state?

1 Mar

Televisions sold in Australia are now required, by law, to feature a parental lock system as part of it’s digital set-up system. This means that all parents will have the opportunity to block programming from their children up to the age-ratings that the Australian Communications & Media Authority have set for and every show that goes on the air.

Australian news networks are just cottoning on to this major new piece of television legislation, and it’s an issue that is certainly splitting opinion.

The Brisbane Times, for instance, is not happy about the situation:

“I don’t think the Australian public is demanding a parental lock on their televisions. It’s another case of the nanny state trying to make it appear that it’s doing something productive. I’d say parents who are worried about these kinds of issues already take precautions when it comes to what their children watch.”

Which I think is missing the point slightly, as this measure is obviously targeting those parents that are oblivious to the countless studies about how TV affects children’s behavior in the long-term. Many parents would gush at the thought of allowing their child to watch an 18-rated movie, for instance, but even with similar content airing on television they often don’t consider it in the same ballpark. Not only that, children find ways around the limited constraints that parents set – I know I snuck downstairs at night to secretly watch horror shows and movies on late-night TV. With a parental lock, requiring a four digit pin, that wouldn’t have been possible (and I’d have avoided my nightmarish moment of watching The Shining as a nine year old, something that still scares me today).

Secondly, the lock is an optional setting so it’s hardly a ‘nanny state’ crackdown, like The Brisbane Times states, and purely putting in place restrictions that exist for similar mediums already.

The parental lock doesn’t stop the secondary problem of children’s exposure to TB though – which is that too much of it can potentially harm a child’s personality and health (and although research studies have mixed results in this field, as is always the way, I think that it’s common sense to assume children over eight who now spend an average of four hours a day in front of a screen will have altered personality traits than those who spent zero time in front of screens fifty years ago).

But the step to restrict the inappropriate content that children risk seeing on television screen must surely be a good move? Just like films and games have classifications that are illegal to bypass, this is the final video & audio medium to get the same treatment.

Parents can choose to ignore these measures, yes, and I hope the term ‘parental lock’ hasn’t forever been tainted thanks to the terrible way that the internet ‘parental locks’ were implemented on browsers year ago (where if a web page featured the word ‘sex’, even referring to gender, it would be blocked). So as a first step to protect kid’s exposure to violence (et al) this is welcome news, and any uttering of ‘political interference on parenting’ and ‘nanny state’ I think is premature – this is optional, customisable and has good intentions.

And if it saves only one child from watching The Shining then it is worth it.

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