Girly Girls Are Being Exploited

Posted on 03/24/2014 by John Poland CEO, Town Hall Foundation

Before their first birthday, our girls are being taught to be princesses and girly girls. As they walk down the rows of toys, they are offered baby dolls, princesses and sexy fashion figures; the boys section has superheroes, building blocks, science kits and dinosaurs.

The choice that we as a society offer our children is a direct attempt to define the roles of boys and girls. Boys get the sports and adventure and the girls get the dolls and fashion clothes. To me this poses a larger question; whether this gender differentiation in products and fashion actually leads to another big concern, especially for parents of daughters, the sexualization of our young girls.

A mother in Wisconsin, says there's a correlation. "You have to connect the dots," she said. "With princess culture and all these pink toys that are almost always focused on fashion and beauty and how a girl can please somebody else, either by keeping a nice house or looking like a perfect princess, that all segues into the sexualization side of the market."

"Once you're done with princesses, if you are growing up in that girly-girly culture, the next thing offered to you are the sexualized dolls and you are growing up too fast," she said. "You are being introduced into adult concepts of sexuality that otherwise wouldn't be present in toys and it doesn't allow a girl to develop on her own, and at her own pace.”

Our children are being defined by the environment around them and if left without guidance from parents and churches, the effects can be devastating. Some song writers clearly write about the true love between men and women, the pain of a broken heart, the positive adventures of love and the excitement that comes from being a woman.

Other song writers pen lyrics that demean girls, debase women to the lowest levels, extol violent behavior against their women, write graphic lines promoting drug use and that leading to depraved sexual behavior. This unacceptable behavior starts in the cradle with the stereotypes from the vendors who push the girly girl concept and ends for some with outrageous behavior we see in the classroom, the dance floor, and in the street.

It’s time to stop music artists from demeaning our girls and getting away with it.

That’s the message for today,more coming.

Smoking Kills and Music Lyrics Maim

Posted on 03/03/2014 by John Poland CEO, Town Hall Foundation

The surgeon General is taking a fresh aggressive approach to smoking among our children. “Enough is enough,” acting Surgeon General Borish Lushniak declared at a White House ceremony unveiling the 980-page report that urges new resolve to make the next generation a smoke-free generation. “The clock is ticking,” Lushniak said. “We can’t wait another 50 years.”

Nearly half a million people will die from smoking-related diseases this year. Each day, more than 3,200 youths smoke their first cigarette. New products such as e-cigarettes, with effects that aren’t yet understood, complicate public health messages.

And if current trends continue unabated, 5.6 million of today’s children and teens will go on to die prematurely during adulthood because of smoking.

They’re not afraid of lung cancer and they can’t imagine ever developing heart disease. So the Food and Drug Administration is trying to get at what might really scare teenagers in its first campaign against smoking: looking ugly and stupid.

The $115 million “Real Cost” campaign uses a little humor and a few scare tactics to discourage teens from ever starting to smoke.

Advertisements will run in more than 200 markets throughout the U.S. for at least one year beginning Feb. 11, 2014. The campaign will include ads on TV stations such as MTV and print spots in magazines like Teen Vogue. It also will use social media.

In days long gone, children watched the Lone Ranger save the day, Roy Rogers singing his way into the sunset, “Happy trails to you, until we meet again”, Gene Autry was quick on the trigger and handled the bad guys, and the Marlboro Man, smoking his way, showing how he was a manly man.

Well, not so fast. The last of the four Marlboro men has died from COPD. Three of the other Marlboro men died from smoking complications. Eric Lawson, who had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease caused by a three-pack-a-day habit, died, but not after promoting non-smoking campaigns for children. Lawson, the face of what became the best-selling brand of cigarettes, was felled by the lethal products he helped promote. Being the manly man was more than dangerous to his health.

By corollary, dangerous lessons are being perpetrated on our children by the music industry. The glorification of gratuitous sexual content, drug use, hate speech and the exploitation of violence in today’s lyrics are similar to children of the past watching Cowboy movies. We watched our heroes clean up the Wild West and the folks from Marlboro found the perfect match to promote childhood smoking.

As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, God-parents and all family members, let’s join in fighting the music industry. Keep the Over-The-Top lyrics off the shelves. MTV and the music artists should not be the Marlboro Man of today who define the do’s and don’ts for our children.

That’s the message for today, more coming.

The Grammys; Another Point of View

Posted on 02/24/2014 by John Poland CEO, Town Hall Foundation

The 2014 Grammy Award show went on for hours. The opening number was performed by Beyonce, who sang one of her songs while gyrating in a scanty costume in awkward and suggestive positions. Toward the end, her husband, artist Jay Z joined her and the two of them snuggled and cuddled while singing and dancing. And the beat went on.

The next act was Lorde singing Royals. Royals won song of the year and for those who keep score, Royals earns the THF Stamp of Shame. The lyrics have two instances of unacceptable violence and two instance of gratuitous sex, this from a 17 year old New Zealander.

In the category of Best Gospel/contemporary Christian Music Performance, Natalie Grant was nominated for her song, Hurricane. She arrived at the Grammys as most artists do, in a state of excitement. Her song was nominated for both song writing and performance, so it could have been a double dip for her.

She and her husband walked out after the first half or so with a sense of too much is too much. The Grammy Awards had become a burlesque show and not the tribute to music artists that has been the long held tradition of the award show. Having watched the show, I agree with her. I left the show and taped it for review with a hand on the fast forward button.

By the time I reached the Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard and Blake Skelton performance, I listened to the show. I also enjoyed Pink’s performance of Try. Although dressed in a scanty outfit, she was in fact doing acrobatic work similar to Cirque du Soleil while singing her hit song.

My take away was that the Music Industry was trying to be over-the-top with the production as we have seen with many of the top artists. We at the THF will continue to award our Stamp of Shame on music lyrics that fail our review criteria.

That’s the message for today, more coming.

Selfies: Precursor to Problems

Posted on 02/10/2014 by John Poland CEO, Town Hall Foundation

A new phenomenon is all around us. Our children are becoming experts on the use of technology, from the remote on the TV, the complex media systems in cars and to Smartphones. They are learning at a younger age and the level of competency is growing. My kindergarten grandchild was able to help his teacher resolve a PC shutdown in only a few minutes, while the teacher was clueless. Our children have grown up with technology and for better or worse this phenomenon is here to stay.

Children at a young age, 2-3 years old are exploring their parents Smartphone’s and after only a few clicks, figure out how to take a selfie. The word selfie is new, only added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2013. The word is self evident, taking a picture of yourself and recording the digital image. Back to children, with great amazement, they can click for hours. This reminds me of the first time I saw a reflection on a still pond and reveled in the surprise as a ripple changed everything. Children want to do it, and do it, again and again.

So why the comment from the Town Hall Foundation? First, we are teaching our children that instant gratification is acceptable. Point the camera, shoot, and look. Reminds me of the last two words of the Star Spangled Banner, Play Ball. Repetition creates habits. We become infatuated with the technology. But we do not inspect for the unintended consequences.

After we teach our children that selfies are cool and they grow just a few years, those selfies will be posted to their friends accounts and again, beware the consequences. Technology is a blessing and a curse at the same time. When the iPhone was introduced in 2006, the integration of music and technology has forever changed our lives. We have seen rises in violence in the classroom, bullying as commonplace, knockout games, and the list grows. Music lyrics can become the new learning space for moral values.

When we teach our children to create selfies with the outcome of instant gratification, we run the risk of a generation growing up to expect outcomes now without the required thought and work that is generally associated with positive outcomes. Add that to the consequences of posting selfies as some music artists tell our children to do and we will pay the piper as a society.

There is no easy answer to this issue. As parents we should continue to remain diligent and coach our children how to use the technology, not from a mechanical point of view, but from a sense of morality point of view. Let’s make sure our children learn their values from Parents, Churches and Family and not the street.

That’s the message for today,more coming.

The Impact of Social Media on Our Children

Posted on 02/03/2014 by John Poland CEO, Town Hall Foundation

With the introduction of iTunes in 2000 and the follow-on of the iPod in 2001, the music industry was forever changed. Steve Jobs was able to convince music artists that the physical distribution of their works on vinyl, tape, and CD’s was passé and the ability to download their songs was better, cheaper, and faster. He was right. The physical distribution of music continues but is declining every year.

In 2006, YouTube was introduced and was an instant hit. The iPhone and other smart phones were arriving just in time to take advantage of the new Social Media outlets. So, we have music distribution, video distribution and social interaction taking place on a real time basis.

But it didn’t stop there, Twitter recorded the 500th million client in 2012. Now real time is measured by the second, not minute, day, week, month or year. Today it is common for children of ages 5-17 to have a smart phone, managing their music libraries, photos, videos, messaging, and tweets, all without direct parental oversight.

The technology allows users to share all forms of media by simple transfer of data from one device to another. This creates a situation where users are pirating the media without thought of compensation to the artists. It is projected that over seven copies of each song that is purchased are passed on to others for free. This is knowingly done by our children and guess what, we are teaching them to steal and not feel remorse.

Then we have the situation of Sexting, the sending of explicit photos or video from one user to another, which if it between minors can be unlawful. Children have not developed to fully understand the consequences of their actions.

So, how does this relate to the THF? The music lyrics that our children listen to are explicit. They regale the uses of drugs, violence, hate speech and gratuitous sexual conduct. Sexting is a form of gratuitous sexual conduct and theft is another commonplace theme in music lyrics. Our children have unfettered access to music and that creates an outcome of behavior that can be dangerous to childhood development.

That’s the message for today, more coming.