"It's a mean culture—it's reality TV and it's watching people suffer and watching people humiliate themselves. It's little girls in pageants and housewives and plastic surgery and people in rehab. It just feels like a very ugly … it's like someone just lifted up a rock and that's all we're looking at."
—Weeds, R.I.P.D. and RED 2 actress Mary-Louise Parker, on the negativity of reality TV and the Internet blog culture. Parker feels so strongly about this, in fact, that she says she's seriously considering leaving her acting career and turning to something more simple and homey. "I would write, still. I write for Esquire and writing makes me happy. I would take care of my kids and my goats. That's about it. Bake. Throw my Internet in the lake." [salon.com, 7/16/13]
"Either Discovery desperately wanted to hear from One Million Moms or the network's writers and producers have run out of ideas for new programs. Discovery should be ashamed to air nudity and then call it entertainment. In fact, having the cast be naked is the basis for fifty percent of the show. Even though the frontal body parts are blurred out, having so much skin showing is considered soft porn."
—a message from the cultural watchdog group One Million Moms, encouraging its members to boycott the new Discovery reality show Naked and Afraid [christianpost.com, 7/10/13]
According to a new study by the Parents Television Council, underage girls are more likely to act in "exploitative" scenes on television than adult women. For the study, the PTC viewed 238 episodes of primetime television and found that about two-thirds of them had some sort of sexual content. A third were deemed to be exploitative. Underage characters were more likely to be involved in those scenes than adults, and about a third of the scenes were designed to be humorous. But PTC President Tim Winter is not amused. "Today the Parents Television Council publicly asks, 'When is it appropriate to laugh at the sexual exploitation of a child?'" he said in a statement. "How are our children and our society being impacted by entertainment content that utilizes sexual exploitation as humor?" [time.com, parentstv.org, 7/12/13]
A growing online threat being called "sextortion" is targeting children, and it has federal authorities concerned. Sexual predators befriend teens and kids online, entice them to send lewd pictures of themselves and then blackmail them into sending more. Statistics are still sketchy, but a recent five-week federal crackdown led to the arrest of 255 suspected predators—some believed to have dozens of victims. "We're talking about kids with a lot of privacy and a lot of technology," said Michelle Collins, vice president of the exploited children division of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "And they're at a sexually curious age." [nbcnews.com, 7/16/13]
Heroin is a potent illicit drug that's often been stereotypically associated with desperate junkies on the street. But the death of 31-year-old Glee star Cory Monteith from what's being reported as an accidental overdose of heroin and alcohol is shining a new spotlight on the people actually using heroin these days. "I deal with drug users every day," says Dr. Richard Clark, an emergency room physician and director of toxicology at the University of California San Diego Medical Center. "The stereotypical user on the street? That's the past as far as heroin use in the U.S. is concerned. Lots of people are using it these days—kids, teenagers, white-collar workers." In 2012, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported an 80% increase in first-usage of heroin among teens since 2002. Heroin is now cheaper and more plentiful than it's ever been. And as the government has begun to crack down on prescription drug abuse more forcefully, heroin has become an alternative. "We knew that this would happen," said Wheeler, project manager for overdose prevention and treatment with the Harm Reduction Coalition. "For the folks dependent on prescription pills, the logical thing is to switch to heroin." [nbcnews.com, 7/18/13 stats]
More teens now die from automobile accidents caused by texting and driving than from drinking and driving, according to the Cohen Children's Medical Center in New York. The group reports that accidents involving texting injure about 300,000 teens annually and result in the deaths of 3,000. Those numbers compare with 287,000 teens injured each year in drinking-and-driving-related accidents and the 2,700 deaths associated with them. "The reality is kids aren't drinking seven days per week—they are carrying their phones and texting seven days per week, so you intuitively know this [is] a more common occurrence," says Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center and lead author of the study. [edmontonjournal.com, 5/31/13 stats, c&e]
According to a recent report by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, only 5% of high school sophomores say they've smoked cigarettes in the last month, compared to the 19% who owned up to that during the 1990s. Smoking rates for eighth graders and high school seniors also plunged to record lows. [latimes.com, 07/12/13 stats]
Despite nonstop news coverage and publicity revolving around the violence in American culture, the murder rate among 10- to 24-year-olds hit a 30-year-low of 4,828 victims in 2010 (the latest year for which there is complete data). "Our youth are clearly safer from violence" today than they were in the late '80s and early '90s, which saw a sharp rise in homicides among the young, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [nbcnews.com, 7/11/13 stats]
Teens who are connected with their parents on social networks feel closer to them in real life. That's the word from a new study out of Brigham Young University (published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking). Researchers found that half of teens have "friended" their parents online, with 20% saying they interact with them online every day. "It's bidirectional," says BYU professor Sarah Coyne. "As we have experiences in new media, it strengthens bonds that are already there. It's kind of a rich get richer type of thing and cementing what's already there. You don't want these results to get overblown to say, 'If you friend your kid on Facebook, you're suddenly going to have a great relationship.' It's just one tool in an arsenal that parents have to connect with their teens." [cnet.com, 7/15/13 c&e]
"[Psy's hit song] 'Gangnam Style' came out a year ago today. I still remember exactly where I was the first time I heard (and saw) 'Gangnam Style.' It was at my desk, in front of a computer. Not very exciting, I know. But it was probably a pretty common way to experience it—on the computer. A decade ago, that wouldn't have been true. Songs and videos spread the old fashioned way, on radio and TV. Today's different, and it means that something completely unlikely—like a portly K-Pop star—can hit in never before imagined ways. … It used to be that it took some sort of gatekeeper to make this happen. A band like Nirvana would get signed to a major label, pushed hard in heavy rotation on radio and MTV, and if it worked, all sorts of similar acts would follow suit through the same pipeline. And then the great marketing beast would move on to some other scene and devour it as well. … Psy isn't the first YouTube star (and it's worth noting he was massive in his home country before Americans discovered him) but he's emblematic of how completely things have changed."
—Wired contributor Mat Honan, reflecting on the influence of Psy's viral video "Gangnam Style," which now has been viewed more than 1.7 billion times on YouTube [wired.com, 7/15/13; youtube.com, 7/22/13 stats]