For The Parents In The Audience: Which Tools Would Help You Manage Your Children’s Media Intake?

Given that efforts are continuing to pin blame for gun violence on violent media culture, the content industries are responding proactively with a new and voluntary campaign to help parents understand the tools that already exist to help them keep their children from consuming media they find disturbing:

In the news release on Wednesday, representatives for the industries said they would “make a positive contribution to the national conversation on violent behavior by launching a national educational campaign through communications channels including television public service announcements, educational and informational websites, in-theater advertising, and other media.”

The industry representatives include the lobbying groups for filmmakers, theater owners, broadcasters, and cable operators. They said the public service ads would appear on television and on the Web in the months to come. The ads will remind parents about the existing television and film ratings systems and the parental controls that are built into most television sets. Ads about the film ratings system will also be shown in movie theaters.

As someone who was very effectively kept away from violent movies, television, and video games as a child—though not from an extremely violent graphic novel version of Frankenstein, which gave me nightmares for months—I’m genuinely curious as to what options the parents in the audience wish they had to regulate their children’s media useage that aren’t available to them now. I totally understand that it can be jarring to have advertising for violent or sexual content come on during or in front of programming that itself is rated for general audiences. And I imagine trying to prevent content creep both at school as children get older and have more autonomy over how they spend their time, and as kids visit other people’s houses where video games are more widely available or certain channels are unblocked, must be a constant source of frustration.

The first problem is one that could be fixed by voluntary self-regulation on the part of movie theaters and television broadcasters, in coordination with movie studios and video game manufacturers. The second is harder, and involves lots of conversations with your children about what hard, scary things mean, and what makes you uncomfortable, and what makes them uncomfortable. And the latter probably involves some limits-testing and kids encountering things that upset them, and that they decide they’re not ready for. That’s a risk I think some parents don’t particularly want to take, but it seems to me to be a fairly necessary part of children and young adults developing their own internal set of limits, which are likely to be more effective than simply asking them to abide by parentally-determined ones.

But beyond those ongoing efforts and voluntary regulation by the industry, and excluding the idea of bans on certain kinds of content on the grounds that censorship is neither desirable nor implementable, what are the resources you wish you had? Better channel-blocking and web-monitoring software? Guides to talking about certain kinds of images, like gun violence or sexual assault? Or are you all set?