Throwing the Book at Children's Television
M. S. Mason, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
American children are being robbed of innocence - by television, movies, schools, and even their parents. So say film critic/radio host Michael Medved and his wife, psychologist Diane Medved.
"You have to protect children, and love them, and care for them, and be there for them, and be a shield against the negativity of the world for them," says Mrs. Medved in an interview. "That's the message for parents."
Their new book, "Saving Childhood: Protecting Our Children from the National Assault on Innocence" (HarperCollins), is as much an indictment of media-saturated culture as it is a wake-up call for parents to teach children manners and mores and to guard them from the excesses of modernity. The Medveds' ambitious attempt to take on the whole of American culture will raise objections from more liberal camps. Their equating teenage scarification fads with native American cultures or labeling those cultures "primitive" and "Neolithic" seems certain to encourage cries of cultural elitism. Nevertheless, their approach is provocative and engaging. "I think that the main thing that inspired us to write the book was the experience of dealing with our own kids," says Mr. Medved in a separate interview. "Every parent at one time or another ... has a natural sense of protectiveness, and there are just so many elements and facets of contemporary life that seem to arouse that sense of protectiveness." One of the most alarming, in their view, is TV. The Medveds note that TV is everywhere. Daytime TV, including very frank talk shows, runs when kids are most likely to be watching. Even the news describes crime and sex in explicit detail. But the most aggressive enemy is quantity even more than poor quality. The average family with children has the TV on 60 hours a week. Children spend more time in front of the tube than they do in school - or at play. And TV, which tends to induce a semivegetative thought, fosters three enemies of childhood, say the Medveds: impatience, self-pity, and superficiality. None of this information is new - the Medveds quote heavily from such well-known media analyzers as Neil Postman and Marie Winn. But their approach is different, anecdotal, and personal. TV- saturated children have "an edge," they say, fostered even by shows such as "Sesame Street. …