The following is my response to an article at She Writes. I was able to edit my off-the-cuff post here though that doesn't mean this piece is error-free.
Let me open by saying I'm a vocal, very active literacy advocate and I focus on YA literature. I founded and ran a real life group for teens as well as built a library collection and ran the library for years so when I speak I'm pulling on experience with real teens. I'm also the mother of two daughters ages twenty-four and fourteen. I don't censor their reading and neither of them is scarred from their choices of reading material. Now the music and entertainment influences, that's a discussion for another time.
Do writers have a moral duty to protect the young minds of their readers?
Define young. And who determines what is appropriate and moral? Usually the drinking, drugs and promiscuity in most YA books are not there for a titillation solely. On the other hand I could rant for days how Twilight is soft chaste porn and this is read by mothers and daughters. All the titillation you could want, but that's okay because they get married before they do the deed. Mothers, teachers and other adults lavish praise on Meyer. I digress.
Back to your question about responsibility. No, it's not the writers' responsibility it's mine, the parent. Frankly, I'm tired of parents abdicating their responsibility and screaming everyone else should be held accountable for their children's moral and social development. A writer's responsibility is to write authentically. She should be neither condescending nor preachy. Tell the story as she knows it and respect the reader to draw their own conclusions. I loathe those simplistic, overtly didactic stories.
I'm a literacy advocate and while there is something to be said for morality and responsibility, there is also something very dangerous about censorship. Don't think something is appropriate for your child, by all means don't allow them to read it. But I don't want someone else (and those others rarely bother to ask or educate themselves about what I value) dictating what is appropriate for my child or anyone else.
Regarding your point about the vast age range and diversity of what is being marketed as YA, it falls back to parents and readers to educate themselves about the genre. Educators and librarians are trained to know standards and to shelve books based on them. Since it is their business to know, I trust their assessments as a benchmark and then it's up to me to decide what is appropriate for a particular child.
Today's YA has evolved in significant ways from the days when I was a young reader. In fact, if what is available today had been available when I was younger, I would have read more of it.
For me, the media and entertainment industry is where I'd like hold folks feet to the fire because in these arenas gratuitous sex, negative body images and misogynistic messaging is the norm.
Literature more often than not at its core is an examination of who we are, what we want and value and how we correct or embrace what we think of ourselves and our societies.
I'm not arguing anything goes. I am arguing responsibility rests first with the parent not the writer. No writer sets out to corrupt children.