[library-media] Common Sense Media

CHRISTINE Hunsaker chunsaker at weber.k12.ut.us
Fri Nov 19 12:49:38 MST 2010

I have been becoming disenchanted with what is termed "Young Adult" literature.  I understand students have difficult lives and it is not a Pollyanna world out there.  However, at one point I wondered if I was "opening a bar for young adults" filling it with sex scenes, nudity, drug abuse, date rape scenes, bad language, etc.  Some of the authors may justify their content because 'young adults' are interested or participate in some difficult or 'adult-like' situations.  Critics have said students may be searching for answers on how to handle their situation or validation for acting as they do or want to do.
I don't think it's censorship to take care in what we present to our school audiences.  It is part of our selection policy that purchased material should be appropriate for the age and clientele of our audience.  As I read the reviews of the books on CommonSenseMedia.org, a particular "Yellow-17" sounded pretty raunchy with very descriptive sexual acts and I wondered why it isn't a "RED" (for every secondary level) on their guidelines.  We have to decide if the literature warrants residency on our shelves.  If it isn't good literature, we can spend our limited budgets on better literature for our students.  
It took much of the public by surprise when they discovered that students as young as elementary had been "sexting" (sending pornographic pictures or texts) to each other.  Currently, the issue is the use of Spice and Ivory Wave:  something that has not been banned in the past, but now recognized that the effects of participating in a previously non-controlled substance is harmful.  
We need to understand that addictions are not limited to drugs, alcohol, or other substance abuse.  Pornography creates addictions for some people as well and it can start in the junior high years (or earlier).  Will everyone reading the contested titles become addicted to pornography? No, just as not everyone who drinks wine will become alcoholics.  However, I have a difficult time feeding an addictive substance to young people knowing it could be detrimental to them as they may seek material that is harder core when they become desensitized to the current material.  According to our district's guidelines, we would be justified in not checking out videos that have a PG-13 rating without parental permission.  While our books do not have a MPAA rating, we need to be careful with the printed material as well.
Should parents be involved in their students' reading material? Definitely!  Should librarians use wisdom in making appropriate selections for their audience?  YES!  Just as Hunger Games should not be in the elementary libraries for the young students, graphic adult situations or violence is not appropriate for young adults.  Students seeking this material will can be purchase or find it from other sources.
Good luck in your libraries!  Thanks for all the input I have gained from this listserv
Christine Hunsaker
Roy High School
Roy, Utah
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