Sunday, March 20, 2011

Deterioration of Children's Television and the Moral Decline of American Youth

Growing up with Pokemon, Power Rangers and MTV instead of Mr. Rogers, Captain Kangaroo, Reading Rainbow and Sesame Street is hard for me to even imagine.

I regret that if I ever have kids of my own that they won't be able to get to know Mr. Rogers the way I did.  The same goes for Mr. Greenjeans, Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster and the Count as well.  I was never too fond of Big Bird, Elmo, Grover, Ernie or Bert, although my phlegmatic attitude towards them has nothing to do with the fact that Bert and Ernie are a same-sex couple and Big Bird, Elmo and Grover are so effeminate it makes one wonder if Sesame Street is located in San Francisco. No, I never cared for any of those characters because they simply aren't interesting enough to captivate me.

Moving on, four and five year old children now days watch violent animated cartoons with poor graphics, no plot to speak of and nothing whatsoever about the programming that would qualify as even being within the same ballpark as the word "wholesome".  The stuff that by today's standards is considered wholesome is so bizarre and creepy (that's right, I'm talking about you SpongeBob, Teletubbies and especially Pokemon) I'd have to sit down and put some serious thought into whether or not I'd even allow my hypothetical child to watch such downright weird and freakish characters.

I certainly wouldn't want my hypothetical child to start to identify with those creepy fictional characters that undoubtedly originated as the products of either a very sick mind or a very intoxicated mind, and I ain't talking about a couple of beers or even your more common hard drugs.  No, whoever is responsible for unleashing SpongeBob and Pokemon on society must've been dropping acid like AT&T drops calls.

Even if we had cell phones at 13 years old the way kids do now (I got my first one at age 19 my sophomore year of college), I seriously doubt my generation would have had these issues with "sexting" and "cyber-bullying" the way kids today do.  For one thing, the girls would make us "go out" with them for months before we'd even get to second base.  Sex was rare, and even then usually only for the handful of the most popular students in school.  I'd like to think it was because the girls back then had self-respect, but I learned that was definitely not the case once they got to college.

"Sexting" would never have taken off among my generation even if we had the technology.  The last thing any of us would have ever wanted was naked pictures of ourselves or our romantic interests being distributed to the entire school and God-knows who else.

In my estimation, the technology itself is not to blame for the ways in which children are using/abusing it.  Part of the problem is that parents are leaving it up to the schools (and to television) to instill values, morals and the explanations for why these concepts are eventually embraced by virtually all functional members of society.  That is not to say teachers don't care or make no effort to teach these things.  However, it is the parent's duty to teach those matters to children --- and not just the bottom line of right/wrong, acceptable/unacceptable behavior --- but also the "why" behind it.

Children are far more likely to be obedient and well-behaved if they understand why their parents want them to behave in a certain way.

The other part of the problem is that children today are growing up watching Pokemon and a host of other programs about which the term "mindless entertainment" would be far too generous a description.  Twenty-five years ago, children grew up watching Mr. Rogers, Sesame St, Captain Kangaroo, the Smurfs, the Transformers, Looney Toons and other cartoons that were entertaining, had storylines and didn't make fight-to-the-death combat the focal point of the programming.  Compared to what they're seeing today, I worry about how the generation of Americans that are young children now will turn out as adults given the radical shifts in the nature of children's programming combined with (in many cases) the declining role of parents in establishing moral and ethical boundaries with their children while placing extra emphasis on the explanation of "why".

No comments:

Post a Comment

Build Your Own Website in Minutes