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Meeting to shine light on East Texas kids' media habits

By Angela Ward award@news-journal.com
Feb. 22, 2013 at 11 p.m.

The first time Tricia Biggs heard the song "Pumped Up Kicks" on the radio, she thought it had a cute, catchy tune.

Then the mother of five and president of the Longview ISD PTA Council looked up the lyrics on the Internet to see exactly what the song was about.

"I was horrified," Biggs said. "It sounds so upbeat, but it's really about a kid shooting other kids. I made an immediate decision that it wasn't a song our family would be listening to."

The PTAs of Longview, Pine Tree and Spring Hill are holding a joint meeting Monday to help parents better understand much of the media their children are exposed to daily.

Devices such as smartphones, iPads and iPods make it possible to listen to music, stream movies and play video games pretty much around the clock. And just as Biggs had no idea of the true meaning of that song, many parents and educators are clueless about the content of many popular songs and games, she said.

"What surprises me most about the lyrics and story lines of so much of today's songs and shows is the way they try to sexualize kids at such a young age," Biggs said. "Activities that were once considered inappropriate are now celebrated."

Monday's program. "Avoiding the Dangers of Today's Media." will be presented by Spring Hill School Resource Officer Roger Askew who warned, "Some of the lyrics and scenarios we'll be discussing in detail will be pretty lurid, so this is an all-adults event."

Askew said the program deals with all forms of media, but especially focuses on music and video games.

Even younger parents are often unaware of the meaning of slang words used by adolescents and teens and often can't understand or interpret the meaning of a song.

Askew's presentation takes an historical look at how TV and music have influenced past generations.

"I'll be talking about the evolution of the media and how things have changed over the past decades," Askew said. "I'll also be giving parents some tools and tips they can use to evaluate the media their kids are consuming."

While the Internet can be part of the problem, it can also be part of the solution, he said.

Parents should seek out information on the lyrics to songs their kids like and story lines of video games they play or TV shows they watch.

"Kids today are walking around with computers in their pockets," Askew said. "A lot of what they're exposed to crosses lines into stuff their parents might not want them dealing with at this point in their lives."

Biggs said she tries to get as much background information as possible on the music her kids are listening to, the video games they are playing and the movies they're watching, but it can be an uphill battle.

"It helps to work as a team, so I'm excited about having an opportunity to talk to other parents and educators about ways we can become more involved in our kids' entertainment choices," she said.

Linda Martin, president of the Area 13 PTA, which encompasses much of Northeast Texas, helped arrange the event.

Her own children are grown, but she still volunteers at Pine Tree Intermediate School as part of her job at Network Communications, which is helping to sponsor the event.

"It's been great how much inter-district cooperation we've had between the Longview, Pine Tree and Spring Hill districts in putting this together," Martin said. "One of my goals as an area PTA president was to arrange community-wide events, and I think this is one that will appeal to virtually all parents."



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