I once mentioned that I believe authors should put a content warning on their books because not everyone wants to read about sex, violence and/or profanity. I believe it is the author’s responsibility to give potential readers a heads up and let them know that what they would like to read may not be their cup of tea.
But is it also an author’s responsibility to make sure minors don’t read their books?
Some writers would say tone down the content of your novel so a 15 year old won’t read it and be exposed to anything inappropriate. Others say write what you want because it is not your fault if a young person reads what you wrote.
Honestly, I’m in the agreement of the latter. That does not mean I don’t care what teenagers are reading these days because I do in a way. It’s just there is no way for me to prevent an underage reader from downloading my book on Kindle. If there were some chip I could put in my eBook, that would only allow adults to read it, I would do it. But since that doesn’t exist, and kids would get around that chip anyway, there’s nothing I can do to stop an underage reader from getting my novel.
Not to say that my book, The Dark Proposal, is loaded with explicit content on every page. There are a few sex scenes plus disturbing scenes because my vampires are the evil kind. I wouldn’t rate my book NC-17, but certainly it is R rated.
Not that teens haven’t read or watched anything R rated before. When I was in junior high school, I was reading graphic sex scenes in romance novels while in the bookstore. I also watched racy movies while my parents were asleep (I hope they don’t read that part).
None of this corrupted me. It didn’t make me to run out and have sex with dozens of guys without thinking. This is because my parents actually talked to me about sex and how I shouldn’t carelessly do it. I knew early on that what is portrayed in books and movies is all Hollywood and not reality, which is more complicated and messed up.
Too bad a lot of young people are influenced by pop culture and the media, and don’t have anyone teaching them they shouldn’t. So that raises the question: do authors step in and be the role models teens need?
That depends. Doing so would mean you would have to censor your novels and not be able to write as freely as you’d want. If you are portraying the life of a college student, or in my case, a post-college young woman, you won’t be able to show what many do at that stage in life. Plus, some of your readers will be old enough to expect adult themes and would be baffled if none of it is there.
But then comes the issue if young people read that.
Honestly, I don’t believe I should censor myself because some parents aren’t doing their jobs. They are not giving their kids realistic advice on handling sex and that is not my fault. I admit I get a little uneasy when I find out a teen has read my book, but then again I was reading similar books at their age and the world didn’t come to an end. Besides, give young people credit – many are mature enough to handle graphic content.
But I do strongly suggest that parents keep an eye on what their kids are reading and watching. Yes, there’s a way for young people to get around that, but a good parent would monitor them, and keep communication open between them and their almost grown up children.