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Miley Cyrus’ VMA gig has got parents all in an uproar — again

The MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) don’t air until August, but the show is already generating more than its share of controversy.

First, there was the epic Twitter feud between Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift, and now the Parents Television Council is clutching their collective pearls because Miley Cyrus is set to host the ceremony.

Two years ago, Miley violated our senses when she accompanied Robin Thicke on stage for a raunchy performance at the 2013 VMAs. The resulting firestorm lasted for weeks, with angry viewers dissecting everything from Miley’s skimpy teddy bear jumpsuit to her back-up dancers to the foam finger she rubbed back and forth against her nether regions as she gyrated to the music. Now, MTV is handing her the microphone for the entire evening and the Parents Television Council is terrified of what she’ll do next.

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Council President Tim Winter is calling for the awards show to carry a TV-MA rating signaling adult content because he thinks the show’s current TV-14 rating is not enough to safeguard kids from the “very edgy, very profane, very sexually explicit” Cyrus.

As a parent of a teenager, the content from two years ago was clearly not appropriate for a 14-year-old… This year, they’re clearly trying to ramp it back up again. And based on everything we’ve seen Miley doing in recent years, she certainly seems angry and seems to enjoy being a provocateur.

Don’t show explicit content and then rate it as appropriate for children. It’s not going to be safe for children to watch, so they must rate it TV-MA.

I have to question what exactly Winter is trying to accomplish here. MTV is not, nor has it ever been, a kids’ channel. In fact, MTV made its name on content that is edgy and controversial, whether it’s Madonna or Miley writhing around on the floor. What happened at the 2013 VMAs was shocking, but no more so than when I was a young teen and I watched Britney Spears strip down to a transparent, skin-tight body suit and thrust her hips against the air.

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I don’t think parents need a rating to know that MTV content could be questionable, nor do I think moral outrage is going to force them to change the sort of values they’ve always represented. I also don’t think it’s Miley’s or MTV’s responsibility to make sure our kids aren’t seeing things we don’t want them to see. Given what we know about the VMAs and their long history of provocative performances, it’s not crazy to assume there will be cussing, bare skin and booty-shaking. It’s up to us to decide who in our house will be watching.

Children are going to be exposed to risqué media whether we like it or not. We can’t put them in bubbles and ensure they’ll grow up never knowing what a Rihanna is. Kids have friends and smartphones. They’re going to watch things we don’t want them to watch, and they probably already know way more inappropriate stuff than we realize. We might think we’re holding a proverbial hand over their eyes, but I can almost guarantee we’re the only ones living in the dark.

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A part of raising kids to consume media responsibly is teaching them how to do that. That means talking about what’s out there instead of covering it up. It also means confronting the issues you see head-on instead of hoping you can avoid them if you slap a TV-MA rating on anything you don’t like. In a perfect world, we’d have complete control over what our kids see and hear, and we’d never have to worry about pop stars giving us more than we bargained for. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world, so we have to take responsibility. It’s not up to Miley Cyrus or MTV to always look out for our kids.

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