I have a doctoral degree in telecommunications.
I taught an entire class on sex and violence in the media last semester.
But it was neither of those things that led me to my current conclusion. It is television's powerful force as an agent of socialization that is the problem.
Sitting here yesterday, my kids were watching Baby Looney Toons
Really, what could be more innocuous than that, right?
This particular episode involved Baby Sylvester (a boy) wanting to play at a tea party. He got kicked out and told to do something such as play basketball, at which he was bad and of which he was afraid.
Meanwhile, Lola (a girl) did not like to be at the tea party and longed to play basketball with the boys.
Let's take a look at that, shall we?
The entire point was to set up a conclusion that we should not
gender stereotype these activities. However, in order to satisfy this seemingly good resolution, the bulk of the show had to build up these gender stereotypes to be torn down.
And I think that is fundamentally bad.
At the end of the day, one has to ask what the children will remember. Will they remember the build up or the tear down?
As someone who does research within this area, the data suggest that children will remember the build up. These gender stereotypes are consistent with what they will see in their real lives, so the build up will resonate with their real lives. They get a double dose of the stereotype. The life lesson is far less likely to be remembered.
When I ask my kids questions about what they are watching, my hypothesis is generally confirmed. They bite on the build up.
So they get all kinds of ideas. Multiple episodes of Hannah Montana
-- I am sooooo lucky -- center around of a theme of deceiving your parents. Sure, by the end of the episode, there is a tidy ending where the deception fails to pay off. But the lion's share of the episode was a lesson in duplicity.
Say what you will, the Teletubbies
had no such nonsense. But it's been downhill from there.
It was a mistake to ever let my kids watch TV.
Growing up, I had friends who were not allowed to watch TV. I pitied them as if they were some kind of pauper child forced to wear home-sewn bib overalls.
But their parents were right. You cannot protect kids from the entire world, but children's television offers almost nothing of value, and it unintentionally teaches a lot of lessons that I try pretty hard for them not to learn.
Labels: children, television