Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kids and Tv: Imagining the Worst

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kids and Tv: Imagining the Worst

Article excerpt


I think I better start to worry about my kids.

I am afraid that my husband and I have encouraged them to make some very misguided assumptions about what life is like.

They may, for example, think it is normal for a preschooler to play conga drums in a nightclub, like Little Ricky Ricardo. Or for a teen-age girl to spend much of her energy trying to stake a claim to an unwilling potential husband, the way Zelda did with Dobie Gillis.

They may even have some strange ideas about parents. Maybe they think that Donna Reed, doing housework in a bouffant skirt and pearl choker, is the normal one, and that the screwball is me in my sweat suit.

According to a new study just released by Children Now, a California-based advocacy group, kids all over America are getting a lot of ideas about what's "normal" from television and other media, like the movies.

If that is true, what about kids like mine, whose TV fare consists mostly of old reruns on cable? They must imagine that the Ricardos, the Gillises and the Stones (as Donna Reed's TV family was called) are the salt of the earth.

Actually, considering what else the study said, that might not be the worst thing in the world.

The study was based on a poll of 750 children aged 10 to 16. Two-thirds of the kids agreed with the statement, "Kids my age are influenced by things they see on TV." The kids went on to say that media influenced them to be disrespectful of their parents and to have sex too young.

Well, as a matter of fact, rude attitudes and casually smarmy innuendo (not to mention outright vulgarity) are among the things that have driven our family away from commercial TV. But my husband and I are both members of the original TV generation. We grew up with it and we know it can be relaxing. So it's not as if we make TV forbidden. We do, however, limit it to programs we consider OK - and how better to know what's on the show that to have seen it yourself a few decades back?

In a related study, Children Now had Katharine Heintz-Knowles, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Washington, assess the way that children are portrayed on entertainment television. …

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