Free flow of racy content a headache for parents

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Deemed “cute” and “adorable” by the video’s many viewers on YouTube, Sophia Grace later performed the song on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show, where she has since become a regular.

Minaj herself seemed a tad uncomfortable when she appeared on the show with Sophia Grace and urged the girl to sing a tamer part of the song.

But Jeffrey McCall, a media studies professor at DePauw University in Indiana, says he’s not surprised that few others questioned whether a kid this age should perform the song, or even have access to it.

“The entertainment industry has a huge role in deciding what is culturally OK, and society will often take (its) lead,” says McCall, author of the book “Viewer Discretion Advised: Taking Control of Mass Media Influence.”

Even Pat Cooper, a comedian who knew George Carlin, sees a difference between the late comic’s “Seven Words” skit and much of the material he hears today.

Carlin “was saying, ‘Let’s express ourselves. Be a human being,'” says Cooper, who’s 85 and lives in New York City. Too often now, Cooper says, vulgarity on stage and elsewhere is used for shock value alone.

“We don’t want to think anymore. So instead of thinking we just curse out what we want to say,” Cooper says.

Jeanne Achille, who heads a New Jersey public relations firm, cites a recent story as another example of this problem: the media’s summer obsession with New York politician Anthony Weiner and his habit of sending lewd photos of himself to women.

“Sadly,” she says, the coverage “validates … our society’s tolerance for ingesting everything and anything with no sense of what to filter and no ability to put boundaries in place — whether sensationalistic news delivered 24/7, huge quantities of bad food also available 24/7, or horrible television programs featuring stupid, foul-mouthed people.”

But she’s found her way to deal with it and suggests others do the same.

“Not to sound like Nancy Reagan, but, ‘Just say no.,'” Achille says. “I’m at a point in life where I’ve finally learned that I can shut it out and don’t need to participate when it doesn’t suit me.”

For an individual decision, that can work fine. But, again, what about when it comes to raising a teen today?

Bischoff, the mom in New Jersey, feels powerless to filter out all the inappropriate content.

“There’s no way to shelter a kid anymore, unless we home-school her and go live in the woods somewhere,” she says. “The only thing I can think of to do as a mom is to try to stay ahead of it . with talk, talk and more talk.”

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Martha Irvine is an AP national writer. She can be reached at mirvine@ap.org or at http://twitter.com/irvineap

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