Regulation on Everything: Think Different Edition

(With apologies to Marginal Revolution)

From the Technology Liberation Front I see that some kind-hearted government folks are looking at the possibility of extending V-Chip technology to our iPods (of which I am now a proud owner; the Cult card comes soon) and assorted other media. In fact, Senator Clinton is going to be introducing legislation that would

“create a program to study the impact of electronic media on children’s cognitive, social and physical development, focusing in particular on very young children and infants. The program will also examine the links between media consumption and childhood obesity.”

So the fear is that all of this access to technology is making kids fat? Then why make technologically delivered media an easier crutch?

Hillary: “Just a decade ago, we made great strides to keep children away from inappropriate material. But we face a complex new world. All across our country, kids today are playing increasingly violent video games while sending instant messages to friends and strangers on-line and listening to music they’ve downloaded on their I-Pods. How does a parent today who wants to protect their child from violent or explicit content have a chance? Parental responsibility is crucial, but we need to make sure that parents have the tools they need to keep up with this multi-dimensional environment. All of us need to rise to this challenge.”

(Quote from TLF.)

See, I think people have this exactly backwards. Here's my argument. Suppose I really do believe that there ought to be some sort of governmental intervention in people's personal eating habits. In that case, I want television, music, movies and video games to be as graphic and filthy as is entirely possible. Blood, gore, graphic sex, hate-filled language, mistreatment of minorities and women -- and that's just the Disney channel. In fact, I'd suggest government subsidies to pornography producers, tax breaks to video game companies researching high-definition evisceration graphics, and endless loops of George Carlin's "7 words" on the public access channels. Rap music written by serial killers. Government research into more and varied spam for impotence drugs and kinky sex phone lines.

That's what will make my kids skinny. After all, if television, games, movies, and music got so horrendous, then there's no way in hell I'm letting my kids just sit around and surf the web or channel-flip. Go on, then, boy. Get out into that great big world; Congress says its good for you.

Sigh. Using technology to regulate choice simply makes it easier to rely on the technology, and thus makes it more likely to have overweight children. It's not like Rolie Polie Olie is lower on carbs that Blue's Clues. And all that thumb work on the X-Box might wear off a Tic-Tac or two, but that's about it. My friends weren't thinner than me because they played Super Mario Cart while I was mowing down Nazi's in Castle Wolfenstein.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the technology isn't really the issue. I'd offer the suggestion that technology happens to be a strong indicator for something else. Something that boils down to personal choice on child rearing, for good or ill. (I played a lot of video games growing up, and never once have I considered taking a semi-automatic to school.)

In my opinion, regulating technology is wonderful way to feel like you're "doing something", but if my money is being spent to figure out why kids are fatter today than they were 20 years ago, is it too much to ask that the people doing the study ask slightly better questions?

IMMEDIATE UPDATE: It only dawned on me after posting this what this post might do to the Google Ads and search results. If it gets bad, I'll move the bulk of the post "below the fold" to see if it helps.


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This page contains a single entry by published on March 10, 2005 1:14 PM.

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