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I saw a comment on a friend’s Facebook page a while ago that still has my brain churning over the line between censorship and personal responsibility.

Here’s the situation:

An adult posts a comment including off-color sexual humor and an f-bomb that was appropriate for the context of the joke. A friend of theirs comments on the post reminding the poster that a young child has access to the page and that the joke-poster (and owner of the page) should be careful about what they post as a result. The friend apologized to the responder, justifying the joke. The responder replied, accepting the apology and reminding the poster not to use “bad” words.

Now, granted, I can’t claim insight into all the circumstances around the situation because I don’t know this person well enough to understand all in the unspoken context and I’m not going to presume to ask because it’s none of my business. I can, however, ponder out loud and see what happens.

There are certain passing and “close” acquaintances that would testify that I’m a child-hater, but those who know me better know that’s pretty far from the truth. I like kids. I find them to be quirky, comical, unique, entertaining, if not often frustrating little human beings. That doesn’t mean, however, that I have ANY desire to create little genetic copies of myself any time soon. (I will admit there are limited circumstances under which I’d consider such sad0-masochistic activity, but the likelihood of it happening in this lifetime is slim to none, so we’ll effectively call the baby factory on semi-permanent hiatus.) That being said, I’m all for guarding the little munchkins from things that are not age appropriate or from things that would do them harm of any sort whether that source is popular entertainment, environment or people.

I recognize that the adult I am today is not really the best influence for a little monkey-see-er, monkey-do-er. I can behave but it takes vigilance and occasional reminders and honestly, I’m likely to put my foot in my mouth more than once before I remember there’s a little set of ears running around. Luckily, not many of my local friends have young kids, and many of them are within the age range that even if I do something stupid, they’re not likely to pick up a bad habit and repeat it. On the other hand, as bad as this sounds, I’m more likely to remove myself from an environment where there are lots of little ankle-biters running around because I know I’m not the influence I’d want around my impressionable DNA-replicants if I had any. I’d like to think that if I were a parent, I’d be paying attention to what my kids were being exposed to – including my friends. I’d like to think that if I had kids old enough to play around on Facebook, I’d know who they’re friending, and if there was someone who was prone to posting items that were inappropriate for them, I’d make sure my kids didn’t add them as a friend, or that said friend filtered what my little miscreants were able to see. So my question is – isn’t that a parent’s job? Isn’t that part of the personal responsibility bestowed upon you at the moment of conception? Why does the burden of censorship lie with the outside world?

Again, I’m not saying that adults shouldn’t be vigilant and make sure cartoon characters aren’t promoting vodka and cigars or engaging in inappropriate sexual activity where a child would have easy access to it, but then again, if your kid is smart enough to play on the internet, or figure out where dad keeps his “special” magazines, you should be smart enough to stay ahead of them and restrict their access.

To take it full circle back to my little scribbler’s world: artists, writers, photographers, film-makers and creative types of all types are going to create – it’s what we do. Just like biological creation, we’re not always going to be able to choose or predict exactly what comes out because many of the variables seem to spring up out of our DNA and the experiences we’ve absorbed throughout our lives. While we do consider audience and ensure that the piece we create is suitable for our audience, just because we’re not aiming at your precious little mini-me doesn’t mean we’re going to create around them. Life is messy, dirty, nasty, scary, violent, abusive, full of toe-curling orgasmic lusts and other enjoyable sins of every imaginable flavor and it all bleeds into art and entertainment. There are those people with no desire to have kids who want to sit down with a story or movie that’s terrifying, makes us cringe when the blood flies, or snigger when naked naughty bits peek into frame who enjoy it responsibly – but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be created or shared with the world.

Having kids is a major accomplishment and a statement of hope in an often cynical world, however, the world shouldn’t have to change just because you gave birth. The rest of the planet didn’t fertilize the egg, nor are we responsible for what the fruit of your loins learns thereafter. In your commitment to seeing the process of biological creation through to it’s (messy) outcome, you accepted the inherent responsibility for your miniature human and its development and well-being. Expecting (and asking) the world around you to censor itself is unrealistic; doing your best to monitor and control what your progeny is exposed to is your responsibility. That’s what you signed up for and it’s time to do your job.

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