� Anger | Main | All I Have to Say On Veteran's Day �

November 11, 2003

Harder than Avoidance

This weekend I'm performing a semi-volunteer gig with the company that makes an up and coming kid's multilevel experiential multimarket phenomenon sensation. Yeah, a toy.

One of the young folks I'll be working with was at the training session last evening. As we were talking about this product, she mentioned that she keeps her four year old completely away from the television. It reminded me of the days before I had kids. I never even owned a television until I was 31, and then I only used it to watch Charlie Rose. So I understand completely the anti-television logic and sentiment. But that doesn't work with kids, and it shouldn't.

Unless you're wealthy, or you live on a farm, I don't see how any parent can come up with enough activities to keep children from missing television. There's a possibility for a stay at home mother with one child to do so, and I presume that to be my young friend's situaion. But for the virtue of saving children from the poison of toy-phenomena like Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers and Pokemon, I'd say inoculation is a better strategy than quarantine.

For quite a while I dealt with the videostore. Picking this Disney movie, rejecting that one, finding this particularly educational computer CD Rom. For a family of five this is very expensive, not to mention time consuming. Then one day I went over a friend's house and their kid was talking about Blue. Blue? My friend said, you haven't heard about Blue's Clues? No I hadn't. Within two minutes of watching the program I realized that I wasn't the only conscientious parent on the planet, and some people at Nick Jr. had obviously overheard our collective playground bench conversations.

So suddenly PBS Kids became the habit, yes including Teletubbies and Barney. After a time, I became a more critical watcher of kids television rather than writing it all off entirely. Instead of leaving long-lasting stupidity marks on the kids, they grew tired of Barney. They outgrew him sooner than I thought. I was completely relieved, maybe kids TV isn't so bad, even the stuff that gives me headaches. (No we never did Power Rangers). So the problem of commercials hit inevitably.

So I introduced the kids to the concept of Marketing. It was sufficiently complex to explain but I did. So now my kids know better than to walk around the house singing jingles from commercials. They are smart enough to sniff at commercials. They recognize the tricks of verbal small print: "Many will enter, few will win." Best of all they don't crave what's on the tube. They recognize marketing for what it is, a clever way people think of to cheat you out of your hard earned money.

I am relieved to have largely commercial-proofed my kids as well as put overall TV into perspective. I still encourage them to play video games, many of which are of similar or superior animated quality than the television programs. They become the locus of action. They also still dig CD Rom games on the computer, as well as board games (Especially Monopoly). But without question the girls favorite thing to do is play with dolls. M9 digs video games, especially Halo and Tony Hawk, with me. But there's a great variety they have and enjoy - that's in the domain of my control.

I hope to encourage my new friend to do the same. TV is inevitable. It's better to be smart about it early than to demonize it as an unbeatable monster. It's harder too, but worth the effort.

Posted by mbowen at November 11, 2003 09:21 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry: