I had a chance to watch some of the new Nickleodeon shows the other day because several friends were waiting around for a while (long story). One of my friends was a thirteen year old girl, which is why she chose that channel.
Now, this is not at all a diatribe against my friend, because I like her very much. She does not exemplify or condone the practices of the characters on the t.v. shows we saw. However, I was rather shocked by several things that the shows epitomized.
The shows I saw were iCarly, Victorious, and Hannah Montana. iCarly appeared to have characters who were between twelve and fourteen years old, Hannah Montana's were between thirteen and fifteen, and Victorious was set in a high school, so the characters were between fourteen and eighteen. I won't bother explaining all the shows here.
After thinking about the episodes I watched, here are some of the messages that are being imparted to the audience (who, from what I've understood with my students, range from the age of six or seven and up).
- It's okay to be mean to people who are mean to you.
- It's natural and fine to argue with/talk back to your parents.
- Kids are almost always smarter than their parents anyway. And teachers. For some reason, people automatically become stupid when they reach adult-hood.
- Once a child reaches eleven or twelve years old, one of their main concerns should become "who likes who".
- Being kissed is of utmost importance in the teen/pre-teen's life, and is a goal to be pursued at least every other episode in the t.v. series by the characters involved.
- If you have a problem or question, the best thing to do is ask your friends, rarely your parents. Peer advice is preferred over adult wisdom ninety-five percent of the time.
- It's okay to laugh at people who are socially awkward and make them look stupid.
- Wearing designer clothing, make-up, and jewelry and having your hair perfectly styled (all according to the latest fashion) is what makes a person attractive. By the way, since when is it acceptable for anyone, but especially a middle schooler, to wear a dress so short that their butt is barely covered when they sit down?
- Being ditzy is cute.
- Being famous is the most desirable accomplishment a young person can hope to attain.
- Being famous is the most desirable accomplishment a young person can hope to attain. Yes, I just wrote this twice. Look at the premise of most of the t.v. shows on the kid-oriented channels.
- Witty sarcasm is the norm for the majority of relational interactions.
- If you actually enjoy school, you are a complete nerd and uncool.
- In one show, a group of elderly people were called an "antique parade". Um... I can't even begin to describe how angry this makes me.
Television is one of the main forms of indoctrination children experience in our culture today. What kind of lessons do I want my future children to learn? Not any that are embodied in children's shows currently. Yes, each show has a moral of the story like "sisters should be nice to each other" or "always be true to yourself", but they are vague at best. Giving a child twenty minutes of an ADD plot full of the messages I described above, eight minutes of commercials promoting cheap materialism, and two minutes of a weak ethical lesson is not what I would call a worthwhile half hour of television programming.
Why don't we have valuable, positive entertainment for youth? Or do those adjectives lose all meaning when paired with television?