Tuned In

Are You Age-Appropriate for a Fifth Grader?

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Fox’s Are You Smarter passes the PTC’s test. Does it pass yours? Rachel Devine/FOX

I tend to be hard on the Parents Television Council and its campaigns for TV decency, but in truth the PTC is a bit of a two-edged sword. Some of its efforts–the most-publicized ones, which I spend the most time bashing–involve agitating for stronger government regulation and oversight of TV programming. But it also does work and keeps databases to advise parents on deciding what their own kids should watch. In other words, sometimes it advocates taking choices away from viewers and other times it advocates helping viewers make informed choices, and if I’m going to slam the former I should praise the latter.

Today, for instance, the PTC issued its ratings of 20 programs most watched among kids under 18, and ranked each for appropriateness. Do I agree with all their assessments? Of course not: I’d probably rather not have my kids watching the crass Deal or No Deal; whereas the objectionability of Heroes or House (to me) depends entirely on a kid’s age. (I’d rather have a 14-year-old watch them than, say, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader, but that’s me.) And every reader will have his or her own objections and agreeements. Some parents are bothered more by violence, some by sex, some by other things.

But that’s the point: the PTC makes its case, gives reasons, and parents can look to the list, decide whether they have the same priorities as the PTC, then use that information (or not) to make their own choices. What a concept! If only everything the PTC did were about informing people’s choices–rather than protecting people from their own choices or, worse, from other people’s choices–I’d have no problem with the group.

(Speaking of choice, the PTC also advocates for a la carte cable pricing; i.e., charging customers for only those channels they view, a practice some commenters wished for in this morning’s cable thread. So whaddya know? P_lukasiak has at least one thing in common with former PTC president and conservative columnist L. Brent Bozell!)

Parent (or non-parents): Are there any “inappropriate” shows you think are fine for your kids, or vice versa? What are the things you watch out for most in your own kids’ TV viewing? Has Grey’s Anatomy led you and your children to valuable family discussions about public health issues?