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If adolescents don't exist, then a crusade to put cigarettes out of the reach of "children," on the model of childproof caps, is clearly the way to go. If, on the other hand, they do exist, then calm and respectful education about smoking and risk seems somewhat more sensible.
Am I missing something, or is it odd to suppose that treating the Internet as a threat to "children" will dampen teenagers' curiosity about www.hotsex.com? In June, the House defeated a proposal to ban the sale to "children" -- all persons under 17 -- of materials containing "explicit violent material," such as depictions of sadism, torture, and rape. "The federal government helps parents protect children from dirty air...and dirty water," said Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Md. "It is only incumbent upon us for the federal government to help parents protect their children from vulgar, violent videos." If you think such a measure would reduce a teenager's interest in Natural Born Killers, you have never met, been, or heard of a teenager.
I imagine that 25 years from now people will look back on today's systematic infantilization of adolescents and wonder: How could so many people have forgotten the very most obvious truths about adolescence? Had they never met, been, or heard of a teenager? But then every generation of parents feels obliged to test some outlandishly dumb idea on its children. My parents' generation managed to forget that divorce is bad for children, which was nearly as impressive as forgetting that 16-year-olds aren't the same as 6-year-olds.
Oh, well. I'm not a baby boom parent. I suppose I don't understand children.