What New Thing Will We Find Harmful to Children Next?

Readers, I am really enjoying the new book Kevin C. Pyle and Scott Cunningham, “Bad For You: Exposing the War on Fun!” It’s a comic book…er…graphic depiction of everything from products for panicked parents (like the Thudguard helmet for toddlers), to the rise of plastic playgrounds, to the “danger” of Dungeons and Dragons. (And before that — the danger of chess! For real!) Here’s the Bad for You website, and, below, just a little taste of the book. Voila its explanation of:

THE MORAL PANIC MEDIA CYCLE

In 1972, professor of sociology Stanley Cohen coined the
phrase “moral panic” to describe how the media overreacts
to new behavior and ends up defining (and distorting)
how people understand it. For instance, when a new
technology becomes popular, especially among youth,
it is often greeted with suspicion by the older generation.
That suspicion is then amplified by the media to draw
more attention—often negative—to the behavior. It happens all the time, actually.
For instance, in the example below, watch how the
“moral panic” over video games can turn a simple research
paper about a little rise in vitamin D deficiency into . . .
THE RACKET OVER RICKETS.
 *

So begins a panic.

The graphic (part of a whole page of these) begins: “New technology is introduced and becomes popular. Reporters and editors at media outlets search for ‘angles’ on stories that will grab readers…”

And here’s the book’s trailer!

 

25 Responses to What New Thing Will We Find Harmful to Children Next?

  1. Kelly D. February 7, 2014 at 8:31 am #

    My poor kids get really annoyed that all the plastic playgrounds at the local parks are basically the same 10-ish activities in a different configuration. We did get super lucky and our city has a few more open-ended playgrounds scattered around town. I also found a plastic playground that is actually pretty cool, right down the road! It has some actual risk involved (crossing a path of “rocks” about 6 feet in the air with nothing to hold onto but the “rocks” themselves), spinny things that my son likes to fling himself off of, and music toys that are unique to that playground (that I’ve found so far). Most of them are getting boring and my twins are only 2.

  2. Andrew February 7, 2014 at 9:01 am #

    I think that a book that points out the gullibility of people who buy into moral panics is a bad influence on our children, and should be banned.

  3. Natalie February 7, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1174

    The science news cycle.

    By the ever-great PhDComics.

  4. Rich Amor February 7, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    Media often produces bad opinions.

  5. BL February 7, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    Banning is bad for children. And adults.

    Banning should be banned.

  6. Michael F February 7, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    Loved the ending vocal track from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

  7. J.T. Wenting February 7, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    my mom was certain television caused your eyes to become cubes…
    She was also certain cartoons cause illiteracy…
    She was also sure playing with toy soldiers makes a boy become a homicidal maniac…
    And oh, pop music is the work of the devil…
    The Beatles are demon worshippers (she was an avid Cliff Richard fan)…
    Every decent child should play at least one musical instrument (and then went on to constantly tell me how hopeless I was when I practiced the one she forced me to try to learn, putting me off playing for decades)…

  8. CLamb February 7, 2014 at 1:14 pm #

    This has been going on for millenia. The earliest example I can think of is Socrates being executed for, among other things, corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens. How many kids do you know have been corrupted by reading Socrates?

  9. TeagansDad February 7, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    Ah yes, the “dangers” of Dungeons & Dragons.

    My grade 7 teacher (in 1987) was concerned for my safety when she found out I had started playing it. In grade 8, my best friend at the time wasn’t allowed to come to my house because his parents were convinced that I was going to kill him (not joking here). We couldn’t talk for more than 10 minutes on the phone, because they were afraid that we were going to play D&D. That same year, my band teacher was trying to get permission to confiscate any D&D books that he saw at school.

    In grade 9 (1989), we were playing a similar game (but not D&D) every lunch in one classroom, and late in the year a substitute teacher overhead us playing. The next day, she gave us a long lecture on how we were engaging in devil worship and were endangering all of the students at the school. She complained to the principal, and we were no longer allowed to play any role-playing games on school grounds. So we left the school grounds and walked over to a friend’s house every lunch hour instead. Occasionally, we didn’t bother going back to class after lunch.

    I met my best friends in high school and university through playing these games — many of whom I am still good friends with. As a very shy and withdrawn child, games like D&D helped me become more comfortable socializing and interacting with people.

    Dangerous, indeed.

  10. Sharon Davids February 7, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    My mother-in-law has been trying to convince me for years that my parenting skills are bad. I let my daughter take karate (3/4 of her belt class is female), I let her eat salad with chickpeas instead of cooking, I keep leftovers in a refrigerator, I let her keep two beautiful jackets from a coworker (bad because someone else wore them before her), and I let her decide tonight to attend a school dropoff function without me tonight.

  11. J.T. Wenting February 7, 2014 at 3:27 pm #

    “The earliest example I can think of is Socrates being executed for, among other things, corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens. How many kids do you know have been corrupted by reading Socrates?”

    see, it worked!
    If he’d not been executed there’s no telling the damage he’d have done 🙂

  12. J.T. Wenting February 7, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    “So we left the school grounds and walked over to a friend’s house every lunch hour instead. Occasionally, we didn’t bother going back to class after lunch.”

    a practice that led for a while at the school I went to to the school staff locking the gates during breaks (the entire school yard was surrounded by an old wrought iron fence with sharp spikes (intended to be decorative but quite effective to prevent escape) to prevent the kids from leaving…

  13. Andy February 7, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

    “So we left the school grounds and walked over to a friend’s house every lunch hour instead. Occasionally, we didn’t bother going back to class after lunch.”

    We would get unexcused absence for that and it would be a major problem. Two-three of them could seriously screw you for a long time. Especially not recommended in 9 grade just before high school entrance tests and selection. Highly not recommended and only the biggest troublemakers would do that.

    Nothing against role playing games. I liked them too.

  14. Papilio February 7, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

    @Sharon: “I keep leftovers in a refrigerator, I let her keep two beautiful jackets from a coworker (bad because someone else wore them before her)”

    Wow, this sounds perfectly normal to me, so my parents must be real child abusers then…

  15. Jenny Islander February 7, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

    The Dungeons & Dragons thing was one of the great Baffling Stupid Grownup Tricks of my childhood. When I grew up and looked into why some kids said that their parents said that I was worshiping Satan by rolling funny-looking dice, I got angry. Follow along:

    1. A teenage boy named Irving “Bink” Pulling plays D&D for a while.

    2. He kills himself.

    3. His mother, Patricia, considers the reasons. She decides that he can only have shot himself with the pistol she had left lying around, after having told her that he was depressed about assorted non-D&D matters, because somebody in his old gaming group put a D&D curse on him.

    4. She founds Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons to spread the word about D&D curses. Nationwide, including in my hometown, children are robbed of D&D game components that they bought with their own money, forbidden to speak to their friends, shamed before their congregations, and sometimes beaten, in order to save them from “demonology, witchcraft, voodoo, murder, rape, blasphemy, suicide, assassination, insanity, sex perversion, homosexuality, prostitution, satanic type rituals, gambling, barbarism, cannibalism, sadism, desecration, demon summoning, necromantics, divination and other teachings” that Pulling says are part of D&D. Schools and police departments get involved in spreading the good word about D and that rhymes with D and that stands for . . . uh . . . we don’t know but we don’t like it!

    5. Gaming professional Michael Stackpole gets sick of her bullcrap and publishes a point-by-point takedown of her lies and reality-challenged arguments, including her apparent ignorance of what role-playing games are even in print in the late ’80s. Pulling leaves BADD in 1990 partly as a result of Stackpole’s report.

    6. Pulling dies in 1997.

    7. Her enchantingly truthy stories about the Satanic conspiracy that is out to take your precious children right in your own living room!!!!!!! but you can save them!!!!!!!!!!!!! hallelujah mom and dad are awesome they saved the children in an afternoon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! continue to be spread around and accepted as gospel. One of the first explanations proffered by police responders to the Columbine massacre was that the killers played D&D. And it just keeps lurching along, like a shambling mound made of Gospel tracts and the sweat of ignorant fear.

  16. Reziac February 7, 2014 at 9:39 pm #

    @Jenny Islander: Is this the same Michael Stackpole who writes science fiction?? (appears so from his Wikipedia page)

    A friend of mine (who incidentally is now in his 70s) teaches D&D to middle schoolers. What’s been the result of this??

    To play D&D halfway competently, you need to know something about:

    Medieval history (so you can make reasonably consistent characters)

    Statistics (so you can figure out your hit points, odds of success, and whatnot)

    And some other things I forget, cuz I’m not a D&Der, but anyway:

    So these middle schoolers, most of whom were formerly lousy students in danger of dropping out and/or going seriously wrong in life, suddenly buckled down in class and actually LEARNED for a change — so they could play D&D without looking like an ignorant dweeb in front of their friends.

    Yep, sounds like a devilish scheme to me… sure pulled one over on those kids!! 😉

  17. BPFH February 7, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

    “I met my best friends in high school and university through playing these games — many of whom I am still good friends with.”

    Yeah, I got lucky with the D&D thing–my parents actually bought me my first set (the old basic D&D *purple*–not red–box), because they thought I’d enjoy it.

    I started playing AD&D in high school, then moved to Hero System (you get to play superheroes!) in university.

    The gentleman who introduced me to Hero System will always be a friend, because some four years later, I stared playing a Hero game over the Internet with a group that included a certain woman who became and shall remain my wife… 🙂

    …and we still play role-playing games, D&D among them. XD

  18. Nadine February 8, 2014 at 1:44 am #

    I read something I think that might be similar in bookform years ago. ” Everything bad is good for you” by Steven Johnson.

    But comics with a message are way cooler :P.

  19. Hanna Campbell February 8, 2014 at 5:53 am #

    Media, technology are harmful to children. Not just what they saw, observed using our new technology the effect to their health when they are always in front of tv or computer, I can’t elaborate it all but all I know the radiation of it is not good for them..

  20. SOA February 8, 2014 at 8:53 am #

    Speaking of D&D. My husband played Magic the Gathering cards in high school. At some point his insane busybody ultra religious uncle got mad about it and called them satanic.

    At least MIL had enough sense to just ignore him and allow DH to continue playing with them. It is no wonder that Uncle and I got into it and we don’t associate with him anymore. He told MIL to get DH to “Shut his woman up” so he is a misogynist too. I am pretty sure being an asshole man is worse than playing a card game in the eyes of God.

  21. Andy February 8, 2014 at 9:25 am #

    @SOA What is DH?

  22. SOA February 8, 2014 at 10:44 am #

    stands for Darling Husband. It is a common internet abbreviation

  23. CLamb February 8, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

    @Hanna Campbell The only harmful radiation given off by a television and computer is the very small amount of UV light which has the potential to cause skin cancer–just like the florescent lights in your home and much less than that from the sun. All of the other radiation is longer wave, non-ionizing, which doesn’t do anything other than add a tiny amount of head to any person absorbing it.

  24. Bacopa February 8, 2014 at 9:53 pm #

    stands for Darling Husband. It is a common internet abbreviation

    Goes back to the earliest days of Usenet even before Eternal September.

    We have to remember that the Satanic panics that peaked in the late 90’s had real consequences. Lives were destroyed and there was no evidence of any large scale Satanic Ritual Abuse. Charlatans set themselves up as ex-satanists and made a living lecturing to school boards and small town law enforcement. It was the Salem witch trials all over again, with exactly the same charges. Even the victim profile was the same, independent women with property. But the property was a business rather than a farm.

    You can read an insider’s account of the Gilmer TX Satanic panic in the book The Boy who was Raised as a Dog by Bruce Perry. Amazing dude. He was an expert witness in the Gilmer case. He is also the psychiatrist who worked with the surviving Branch Davidian children. He really shows that love and competent professional care can help children overcome almost anything. But I have to warn you there are a couple of chilling chapters about cases where nothing helps.

    I would also recommend Ian Hacking’s books. Rewriting the Soul deals with the SRA panic of the eighties and nineties, and Mad Travelers is about the “fugue” mental illness plague of the late 19th century.

  25. CLamb February 8, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

    Ooops. That was intended to say. “add a tiny amount of heat” in my post. It doesn’t make anyone’s head bigger!