Kids and the media - carried over from another post

Stephanie_in_TNMay 21, 2002

I am starting a new post for a subject Arkansasgardenboy brought up on the kids activities post. I thought it deserved its own place. I'll repost his link in a sec, too.

This book was actually the subject of yesterday's Oprah, speaking of media, and the author was the guest. It was very interesting. I was thinking of bringing up the subject for discussion here.

There was another guest on her show yesterday, a family with one 5 y/o son, who say their son watches 60+ hrs of tv/computer/music every week. He has a tv in his room and sleeps with it on all night. The mom said she feeds him 3 meals a day in front of the television. I think Oprah was as speechless as I would have been, JUST DUH, Mom and Dad! They saw it as a problem, but didn't seem to see that they have the power to stop it. Let me teach you to say "No."

Most parenting issues DH and I agree. TV is the one where we differ the most though. We had different upbringing when it comes to TV, so our opinion as adults differs. His parents owned an electronics store, they had every media available. We didn't get a VCR til I was 16. My parents didn't allow much TV, his parents keep one in the dining room. Of course he had on in his room as a child, I wouln't even have dreamed of that!

DH brings up putting TVs in our kids' rooms once in a while, they are 8 and 5. That will happen over my dead body. I'm just not budging on that. He has a tendency to soften the line on what is acceptable viewing, so sometimes when I'm out he'll watch something with the kids that I would not have allowed. Not way over the line, we just interpret the gray areas differently, particularly violence.

I agree that there are some lousy things on TV. However, I don't think we can just sit and point the finger at the media. We all know that profit is the bottom line, it's not like anyone keeps that a secret. It bothers when people say "They are just trying to make money." Well, yeah, are you new here? This is America, free and capitolist and the pros and cons of both. To have our freedoms, we have, to an extent, agreed to the risks. We can't just object with lip service, we have to object with our wallets. So if it bothers me that TV shows, even kids cartoons, are full of violence, sexuality, and commercialism, the people I should really be upset with are the idiot parents to continue to encourage the producers by spending their money on the junk. OK, so the producers of shows 20-30 years ago paid more attention to the censors, they didn't put as risque stuff in the show. That was not a moral decision, no sense of obligation to the sensitivities of viewers. They would have lost sponsors and viewers if they did. It was the bottom line then, just as it is now.

I don't think every program on TV should be acceptable for children. I don't think the writers of things like "Friends" or "Seinfeld" or "Frasier" should be mindful of younger viewers. There are no children on those shows, they are about adult lives, so adult subject matter is fine. Parents should be the one to not expose their children to the programs that are about adult lives.

I have not had trouble finding acceptable shows for my kids to watch. My younger ones enjoy the kids programs on Nick Jr. and PBS. My older son gets completely absorbed in Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic channel. Yeah, I can find a lot of unacceptable things, too. But it's like the grocery store, I can choose to shop in the produce section or I can choose the junk food isle. Also like food choices, the kids choices are set by the example parents set. You can't eat chocolate donuts for dinner while you serve your kids broccoli.

So bottom line, I think it's a parents responsibility to the choices when it comes to media. What is watched, what games are played, and how much time is spent on it. Around our house, it really is like the grocery. I mostly provide the "healthy" choices, but the occasional media version of a chocolate donut is allowed. I don't them in the fridge or pantry without permission, I don't let them turn on the tv or computer without permission. I dont' think it is up to the media, I understand they are not a public service. But I believe if as parents we eliminated the market for some of the junk they make for kids (i.e. Dont' Buy It!) we would influence a change in what is made for kids in media.

I think the biggest problem with the media is the commercialism that goes with some of the movies and programs. They market it to kids by filling the isles with toys and other products for kids. But if it's wrong to do that, it's wrong for parents to buy it. Just because it's there and your kids ask for it doesn't mean you have to buy it! Just like the candy and the checkout. A parent who spends money on that stuff has no right to complain about the media marketing to their children. They should kick themselves for being sucked into it.

In a perfect world, the media would have a moral sense about what they produce and care about the effects it has on children. But since we all enjoy our right to free speech, we have to take the good with the ugly and just be good parents.

It's probably good that I have to go be a soccer mom now so my freedom of speech doesn't go on any longer than it already has. Sorry.

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here is gardenboy's link

Here is a link that might be useful: The Other Parent, kids and media

    Bookmark   May 21, 2002 at 5:15PM
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Thank you Stephanie. I agree with you. It does make a difference and the difference that it makes is vital to our children and to all of us. I am thankful that we still have parents who do take a stand for the best interest of all.
There are a lot of things I haven't felt the need to buy. I liked your comparison. You make me feel guilty concerning eating "sweets", because this is one of my weaknesses.
Thanks again.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2002 at 7:04PM
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Do you guys think that people like the author in the link sometimes overestimate the effect that media has on kids? I mean, people are always drawing comparisons to "when we were kids," and the media was innocent and inoffensive and there was a family hour and the six-o-clock news and whatnot. But I wonder if, in juxtaposing the content, they are unconciously acsribing the same attitudes they had towards their four channels to kids today. It would have been easy to be extremely trusting of TV when it was so simple and authoritative. I think that children of today are somewhat more savvy about the media.

The author says that kid's shows aren't supposed to be educational anymore, but were they ever that educational? Was Howdy Doody and all that stuff so educational? Educational shows are obviously great, but pure entertainment, in regualted doses, isn't necessarily wrong.

Also, what about the subliminal, extremely immoral messages that TV has largely been able to STOP giving, but which once were totally rampant? I consider messages of racial and gender inequality to be more harmful than a lot of the too-sexual content that bothers people so much today. I once watched a documentary on black people in TV comedy in the fifties, and it was ANYTHING BUT innocent and morally upstanding. I would rather see a child watch two hours of Britney Spears videos than the bigotry that was allowed on TV then. She might end up a clothing-phobic anorexic but that is better than a white supremacist.

My family didn't have a TV at all until I was eight years old. When we did get one it was kept in my mother's bedroom. Until I was 11 or 12 I had to ask what to watch. When I have kids I might try to get rid of the TV too, but I don't know if my fiancee will have it. Actually I have tried to get rid of the TV already, because I think it is a waste of $30 a month, but he definitely doesn't agree with that. I have to admit, if I was as much into sports as him, I wouldn't give up my TV either. The concession I did get was turning the basement into a TV room and banning it from the living room and the bedroom. I have a little one in the kitchen; I love to watch TV while I cook.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2002 at 9:29PM
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My coworker saw that same episode and we both were aghast that the parents couldn't simply turn the TV off - I mean the kid is only 5 as I understand it.

We did the No TV week in April. And we loved it! DD found so many toys to play with that she had not touched in ages. We did family activities, played outdoors, planted flowers, etc. It was so nice!

After the No TV Week, we limit our TV. Actually, DD probably watches the most in the house because, well, DH and I are too busy to watch. But we were guilty a bit of using it as a tool to entertain her when we needed to do chores.

Now, I see that there are many other ways. For example, playing with toys is just as entertaining to her and is more educational in a way. She's using her imagination, playing pretend, etc. We also let her help with things like laundry (she loves to watch it fill up until it starts washing) and cooking. Kids don't need computer graphics and constant noise to be happy. Just freedom to use their creativity.

And what TV she does watch is limited. Only tapes of my choosing. And I have found that PBS fare has its cons. I used to like Cailloo, but last week there was an episode that completely taught that the kid is in charge and the adults aren't.
One conversation between the boy and his babysitter is only one example. (there were more like this)
"I don't want to eat dinner!"
"Ok honey, you can just have pancakes then."
My daughter's ears perked up and the next meal we went to eat: "I don't want this, I want pancakes!"

So it doesn't necessarily take violent or obnoxious (rug-rats) shows to teach them bad habits. Some habits can come out of benign stuff.

We now do the following:
1) limit time in front of TV
2) preview shows before she watches them
3) limit choices of TV shows

As a result, here is an actual quote from my 4-year-old DD this past weekend:
"Mom, we haven't been to the library lately. Can we go again?"

We are going tonight!!!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2002 at 8:03AM
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My kids watched a lot more TV between ages 3-5 than they do now. We are busy with Cub Scouts, sports, church activities, homework. And the oldest is in 1st grade, the 2nd is 5 and the baby is 2. I doubt that the baby will ever watch as much tv as his older brothers did. We spend a lot of time outside in the yard when the weather is nice, or doing chores together around the house. I cleaned out the basement to be a toy room and the boys love to play down there - they have their own special space now.

As to content, a lot of the more subtle stuff, the kids just don't get! DH and I have different opinions on what to let them see, as in he took the older 2 to see the Spider Man movie - but overall, we both try to limit their exposure to images we don't think they should see.

I read a quote a long time ago that went something like this:

"Everything you see, everything you hear, becomes a part of you."

I thought that was pretty profound. I now believe it even more, since my oldes DS has been doing Listening Therapy as part of Occupational Therapy. Listening Therapy is listening to specially modulated CDs through special broad frequency range headphones for 1/2 hr twice a day. This litterally re-wires the brain, forming new synapes, and has been like a miracle for our son - he can do things after 5 months of listening therapy that we thought he would never be able to do. It just proves the point - everything you hear (or see) LITTERALLY becomes a part of you.

I keep that quote in mind and think "Do I want this TV program to become a part of my child?"

It applies to radio, too. My favorite radio station plays 70s and 80s rock, but the morning DJs are pretty risque. I listen to the classic station when the kids are in the car!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2002 at 10:46AM
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I guess I occupy the mushy middle ground!

My kids like tv and I allow them to watch some the mindless nonsense. We allow tv but we limit it, just like junk food. Some is ok, but not to much. The kids have to ask to turn the tv on and I get nearly perfect compliance. We have 4 tvs in the house and except for the one in our room they are in public areas of the house, not in the kids bedrooms. I don't want tvs in their rooms. I think tv becomes even more mindless when each child is locked into their own little world staring at the tube! At least my 2 older kids usually watch together and they talk to each other (and sometimes fight) while they are watching.

If my kids go to school, come home, do homework, and play with their friends I figure allowing them to watch tv/play video games (nothing violent) while I make dinner or after dinner isn't going to turn their brains to mush. We are really to busy with lacrosse in the winter and football in the summer/fall to have much time for lots of tv anyway.

I think that tv is like anything else parents do. There are different rules for different families. It is only when you have NO rules and NO LIMITS that you run into serious problems.

So-Stephanie I guess I agree with you that it is an important parental function to limit the type/amount of tv your kids watch.


    Bookmark   May 22, 2002 at 1:54PM
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I personally hate TV--it makes me antsy, antsy, antsy. I can't stand to have it on unless I'm actually WATCHING it, and there are very few shows I can stand enough to waste my time on them (Smallville rules!!! anything w/ Superman)

I don't like my kids to watch TV because i don't like the content, I can't control it because I can't see what it is before it happens. I also think a lot of cartoons are over their heads. And I hate commercials.

The day my daughter came home from Grandma's, where she watches her 2 hours or less per week (though I swear I think it's more) and said, "Mom, do you know the hair you want can be the hair you have?" I almost called grandma right then and there to announce they wouldn't be coming over anymore.

My societal objections to TV come from 2 places: a Nero Wolfe novel, and a study done in Canada on social interactions and how they changed w/ the advent of TV.

In the Canadian study, they measured the amount of time spent in conversation, the ages of those conversing or interacting, and the topic of their interaction. There was a town that only in 1970 or so was able to get broadcast TV, so it was a great place to study. They found that cross-generational conversation plummeted, and that those conversations specifically (but all conversations) became more logistical, superficial, and less ideas-driven or emotional. Shallower, and about the stuff you HAVE to talk about, like pass the salt and what time are you getting out from work.

In the Nero Wolfe novel, Archie Goodwin goes to some people's house to pick up clues and impressions, and they all file into a semidarkened room to watch TV and nobody talks to one another. He comments to us that the advent of TV has ruined investigations, because nobody talks anymore, and when they do they talk about TV shows instead of something interesting.

When my kids watch a video (the only thing they're allowed to watch at home), they don't talk to each other (except to fight about who's bonking their feet against whom) or to anyone else.

And I'm w/ you all the way, Stephanie, on the idea that we have to choose. (I love that "are you new here?")

I also like Anita9's point that "those wonderful old shows" weren't necessarily so wonderful. And I think that kids approach TV differently. They've got a lot more competing for their time and attention--computer games, etc.

We don't really remember that time period well--WE WERE KIDS!!! And we have romanticized anything we do remember (which is perfect normal).

Also, I remember reading that w/ Game Boys they found that after the first year of kids being mesmerized, they actually didn't like to play w/ them very much anymore--they're become sated. I think that happens w/ people who watch a lot of TV.

I, for example, grew up WITHOUT a TV. We didn't have one in the house until I was 17, and our rural town got cable TV as an experiment, so my dad got us a tiny B&W (I thought the Incredible Hulk was gray, and said so at school, LOL!).

So I am mesmerized when it's on around me. I get sucked in, even if I don't want to be. I think a huge part of that is that I'm just not used to it. Other people I know can have it on as background noise and never even notice it; they all grew up with a TV going a lot. They feel lost when it's off and t e noise isn't there.

I also read that the advent of the auto and of the TV correspond w/ the advent of obesity as a problem for children.

Here's another great truth:
" It is only when you have NO rules and NO LIMITS that you run into serious problems. "

    Bookmark   May 22, 2002 at 8:23PM
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I can understand about television and its effects.

My father was very strict-well much to strict- and if you ever brought in a grade he didn't like you were restricted to your room and bathroom only after the evening meal for a week. The evening meal was always early!

Well many times I of course didn't study what he had intended me to study. Just so happened I had a shelf in my room when a child with many books...what did I do? I picked up a book, that's where I really learned to enjoy reading. Now I wouldn't want someone to put their child in a room all the time. But I really got hooked on reading because I didn't like Long division!!! Of course the long division improved and there is no trouble there now :o)

My parents though did not keep the tv on alot. Not only did I learn to love to read. I began to write stories and use my imagination instead of watching tv all the time.

So, I can say that sometimes tv hinders a child as far as learning to enjoy reading and also can rob a child of their creative imagination as in Playing, writing, art, music and other avenues of being creative.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2002 at 11:56PM
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true, Lynn--TV is essentially passive. That's the biggest reason for me why I won't let my kids watch more than 1 video a weekend.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2002 at 10:01AM
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I think all the PC discussion about television is a bunch of nonsense! What in the world is wrong with a parent's use of simple common sense instead of relying on this or that study or a simplistic formula of an "acceptable" amount of viewing?

I have three grown kids---all college grads and responsible people---and a 6 year old daughter. She is an All-A student, a competitive swimmer, and a travel soccer player. Needless to say, there is not a lot of TV time available in our home. However, when there are a few free hours, I refuse to get wired over the programs she is choosing to watch---she would never select a "scary" show and if she should see something that I don't agree with- well, that program offered me the opportunity to discuss my values with her and explain my reasoning. Anything that keeps the lines of communication open is never bad.

I also refuse to get unduly upset when she and my husband watch something I would never turn on. She figured out long ago that he and I are not the same person and often see things differently. She also knows we love each other and also love her---and that's the way life is...

    Bookmark   May 27, 2002 at 3:00PM
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I'm certain that I will miss something here, because there was SO MUCH to read!:) I wanted to reply to this awhile ago, and forgot!
I think that the media influence on children is negative, promoting unrealistic and sometimes dangerous messages to kids about what LIFE is about. Teenagers today are the most vulnerable to this I believe, especially teenage girls. The pressure to have a body like Barbie and Brittany is too much, and movies for teen audiences tend to have themes that are very sexual and promote "partying" as well.
As far as younger children, I am grateful for the PBS station we have that has Sesame Street and Dragon Tales along with other shows that kids enjoy and that teach them lessons. We don't have cable, and I do have a couple of guilty pleasures on HBO that are series that I watch because my friend tapes the episodes for me! But I am glad that we don't have cable t.v. here, there's TOO MUCH harmful material out there getting into kids brains!!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2002 at 12:28AM
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When I was growing up, we had 3 channels. So vegging out was not something we really did. No couch potatoes in my house. But these days of constantly being parked in front of TV/Satellite/ComputerGames/etc makes for a very different world.

Also back-in-the-day, some of the cartoons I see on Cartoon Network during the day would not even have been allowed during prime time. Remember how cutting-edge shows like Soap and All in the Family were?

Now, previewing shows is a must. I get surprised all the time by behaviors, attitudes, unacceptable words, etc. You are right that sometimes, seeing these behaviors gives mom a chance to discuss why it's wrong with the child.

But the sheer quantity and ubiquitousness of the language/behaviors on TV barrages the kids to the point that the TV's message drowns out Mom's message.

(my english teacher would be so proud of me for using ubiquitousness in a sentence!)

I don't limit TV because it's "PC". Believe me, I'm far from PC. I had always limited her viewing choices, but only recently tried limiting the time. And she's a different child. She was ok before. But now she's falling in love with books, art, music, sports, you name it. She's enjoying trying all sorts of things out, that if she was vegging in front of the TV, she would not try.

You know what else? Mom and dad are different, too! We get more projects done around the house. We talk more. We are caught up on things such that we actually have weekends free to do family outings and things.

Just yesterday, on the Clark Howard radio show (not sure if you're familiar with it), a man called in with a story. He turned TV off 4 years ago. He keeps 1 TV for weather emergencies only. In those 4 TV-free years, he has gotten married, had a child, and started his own business, and is now pretty well-off.

He said that the TV being on was cluttering his thinking. And that when he unplugged, literally, he started to use his imagination and came up with ways to build a business!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2002 at 8:02AM
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Sorry Karen, I think it is ubiquity :)

You are right, it has nothing to do with PC. PC = conforming because society tells you that it is the new moral thing to do. I don't think most parents who worry about TV needed society to tell them that it can have negative effects.

I remembered yesterday that I read once that in, I think it was Tahiti or Fiji (one of the Pacific islands), they used to think that weighing a good bit (trying to put that sensitively) was attractive, but when they started getting American TV they started getting a lot of eating disorders, which had been unheard of before. It is amazing that TV could singlehandedly introduce a mental illness to a society.

No nevermind, I looked it up and ubiquitousness and ubiquity are both words, and synonyms.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2002 at 12:27PM
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Actually, Anita, I looked it up, too, before using it, because I had my doubts! Thought I'd go for the long version just because it sounded neat!

TV has its benefits; I'm not sure I would ever eliminate it from life completely. But it has downsides, when the quantity and quality are left unmonitored.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2002 at 1:30PM
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