Member Rara Avis
While I essentially agree with much of what you're saying, hush, I think it needs to be carried much farther to reach anything approaching full agreement.
Let me prelude this, however, by saying I don't think there is anything that can't be discussed with children. Kids are just little people, albeit with less experience, and not necessarily stupid. They are smart enough to understand complicated issues, smarter indeed than many adults, because they will usually see through euphemisms and pat answers in a heart beat. If there's a problem at all, it's not that kids can't understand - it's that too many adults don't really understand what it is they're trying to explain. Most try to do their explaining from the gut, instead of doing a bit of real research to find real answers.
However, we're really talking about a number of different issues when we talk about a nebulous "family" orientation. Some of those are cultural and revolve around privacy issues. As a teen, I dated a girl whose family had moved to America from the Netherlands when she was nine. At 16, Bridget thought nothing of walking through her house naked, in front of parents and a 14-year-old brother, because nudity simply wasn't part of the privacy paradigm under which she'd been raised. In some cultures that would be "wrong," and in virtually every culture there are at least some privacy taboos even within the family. That a mother and father make love is a given, but they don't usually do it in the living room while their ten-year-old is watching television. So, when we talk about family suitability, we're often talking about privacy issues and matters of personal taste.
Here's another way of saying the same thing. What's suitable within the family isn't necessarily suitable FOR the family.
Let me quickly add that most of those privacy issues have very little to do with age. If I walked in on my forty year old sister, whether with her husband, in the shower, or whatever, it wouldn't offend me in any way, but it would certainly make me uncomfortable. Each of us has our own levels of comfort, which is why we have an Adult forum, but just about every one of us will react similarly when our concepts of privacy are exceeded. I guess that's why mankind first invented doors.
Another very real issue when discussing family suitability is respect for the rights of the parents.
A candid birds-and-bees discussion with your eight-year-old son or daughter is not only admirable, but I think absolutely necessary (and, yea, I really feel it should done that early, before puberty confuses the issues). But I think most of us would agree - if that discussion was conducted by the grizzled wino hanging out near the local liquor store, we'd probably look at it in an entirely different light. That's two extremes of the spectrum, but few of us will agree where the midpoint exists. Should your children learn about sex from a favorite aunt or uncles? From the doctor? From a pastor or rabbi? From a teacher at school? From the other neighborhood kids?
Most of us will have different answers, but that's not really the issue. The issue, rather, is whether we have the right as parents to make the decisions. Personally, I think most parents do a lousy job with those decisions. I also think most Americans do a lousy job at the voting booth. But if I want to protect those rights for myself (and I do), then I have to be ready to protect the rights for everyone. I will decide when and how my children learn about sex, about drugs, about religion, about a whole slew of what I consider important issues. I don't want society making those decisions, I don't want the schools doing it, and I sure as hell don't want a web site doing it.
Again, what's suitable within the family isn't necessarily suitable for the family. And that's a decision that can only be made by the individual family.
Essentially, that answers your last paragraph. You personally think children should be exposed to more reality, and that's your decision to make - with YOUR children. If you feel strongly enough about it, you can try to educate other parents to your way of thinking, just as you might argue for your candidate in a political race. But, when someone is going to cast a vote you think is wrong, you can't take away their right to vote. And you can't take away a person's right to raise their kids the way they think is right, either. Because if you do, somewhere down the road, someone else is going to be able to do the same to you.
We walk something of a line at Passions, because it's virtually impossible to both fulfill our mandate and still fully protect the rights of the family. The best we can ever do is keep the precepts foremost in our minds and abide by the spirit of protection. Usually, that just means approaching ANY theme with a healthy measure of responsibility.
I have yet to find any subject that can't be explored in these forums, either in poetry or discussion. I have, however, found a few that require ground rules. About a year ago, a thread about teen sex arose and I offered to open an Adult forum for the teens. The only stipulation was that the parents of each teen entering the forum had to agree, because again, it is their decision to make.
Contrary to what many believe, there is no rule against exploring suicide and depression - except that it has to be done responsibly and realistically. Most threads about suicide get pulled because those posting have no idea what they're talking about, throwing out gut reactions instead of relevant data. The most recent thread, by the way, is no exception to that history, and when opinions perpetuate myths that ultimately hurt so many they inevitably lose our tacit support. You can't yell Fire in a crowded theatre and, in a responsible forum, you can't promote half-truths that kill people.
In truth, the few Guidelines we have are less family-oriented than they are humanity-oriented. It doesn't matter whether you're part of a traditional family, a commune, or sitting in a dorm, encouraging hate or promoting harm to others simply doesn't make a lot of sense. We discourage titillation, in graphical sex or violence, not so much to protect youngsters but because we want Members - of every age - who enjoy balanced truths instead of attention-getting stimulation. We frown on swearing because we know many people find it offensive (not everyone in the world habitually talks that way), AND because it's usually an unnecessary impediment to communication. Those who can't make their point without four letter words should stop pretending to be writers. (And, yes, there are exceptions. Indeed, there are exceptions to everything I've said. Our Moderators make allowances for those exceptions every day.)
In short, I think any definition of family has less to do with values than with rights and choices. When we call Passions a family-oriented site, what we're really saying is that we try to make those choices possible. We're not always successful, and sometimes I feel like we're not even very close. But we keep trying.