Kids' TV: All That Glitters is Not Gold

September 5, 2012

Children's television programming - what can I say? I have had many years as a parent to sample the best and the worst of what television has to offer as entertainment and education for our children.

I am saddened by what I have seen and by what I have learned. Gone are the days of carefree, fun-spirited cartoons and "family values" based television - replaced by network programming with "child superstars" who sing, dance and banter like adults. These "children" who captivate, entertain and now socialize our children represent media perfection or rather the media norm - they are cute and attractive, smart, quick witted, popular and entitled. The scripts, the sets and the costumes are slick - meant as marketing vehicles to sell everything from clothing, CD's, toys, and lifestyle. But that's not news.

What I find most unsettling are the values that our children learn from these "child friendly" programs, and I use the word "friendly" very loosely. After spending time watching what my children watch I have learned that many of my children's idols demonstrate and reinforce what I consider to be negative behaviours. Sadly, all of the darkness and negativity of these behaviours are covered up by designer clothes, perfected with make up and made light-hearted by a laugh track making them appear palatable and even acceptable as entertainment for our children. If you watch with a discerning eye and listen carefully you see bullying, sarcasm, aggression, passive aggressiveness, undermining, cheating, deception and just generally mean and socially unacceptable behaviour. It's subtle, that's for sure - but make no bones about it, your children are taking it all in, processing, learning and it does affect how they perceive the world around them and what they believe is "normal" behaviour.

As parents we want what is best for our children in all aspects of their lives. We ensure their physical health, we establish guidelines and rules for their physical and personal safety and generally we never take their well-being for granted. The same must apply to their social well-being. So, take some time to watch what your children are watching - see what they are learning, and don't be afraid to change the channel or at least talk to your kids about what they are seeing and help them to interpret it from a healthy and socially acceptable perspective. Better still, make TV time, family time and find some family friendly, fun, informative shows that reinforce your values and build family bonds, rather than programs which simply entertain and sell goods and a consumer lifestyle to your children.

Hopefully this "clicks" with you!