The Wiggles? Teletubbies? Barney?
What happened to Looney Tunes, The Flintstones and more recently, Beavis and Butthead?
As violent acts increase at ever decreasing ages, can TV be to blame? The answer is a resounding No.
The latest direction to throw blame is squarely in the face of TV network executives. Rather than placing the blame where it belongs, with inadequate parenting, people have chosen to single out violence, sex and foul language on a device the has an on/off switch.
Granted, some kids are just bad apples, but you can’t tell me that either a stern voice or, God (or whoever you believe in) forbid, a swift hand to the tush wouldn’t set the tone early.
It’s not all about punishment though. Children need positive reinforcement as well. In this day and age, we give our dogs more positive reinforcement than our kids.
As a former retail manager for a store that hires mostly teenagers, I have noticed an alarming trend: No one wants to work anymore. They just want to pick up a check on Friday. Our society is so focused on instant gratification, everyone wants what they want and they want it NOW. I remember reading an article one time that expounded on the fact that Gen Xers had some sense of entitlement and that is why a lot of them had trouble finding jobs, etc.
Entitled to what? How did they earn this entitlement?
I remember watching Pepe LePew smoke, the Road Runner shamelessly injure Wiley Coyote, Fred Flintstone yell at his wife and Beavis getting worked up about Fire. But hey, I got good grades, didn’t smoke, never dropped an anvil on someone’s head or set someone of fire, nor do I abuse my wife. I graduated college and got a decent job. That is because I knew that TV wasn’t real.
I’ll give you some examples that drive me crazy:
Smoking is bad for you. People die from it. That is fact. Pepe LePew did not factor into my decision to not smoke.
People say that children imitate what they see on TV so networks are discouraged from airing cartoons like The Road Runner for fear they will get sued because a 4 year old poured oil on the street to get that elusive Road Runner and a car slid off the road.
The Flintstones (based on the classic Honeymooners show) are rarely on TV anymore because it might teach our male children to disrespect women.
Beavis could no longer say “fire” because a 5 year old set his house on fire, supposedly after watching Beavis and Butthead. What was a 5 year old doing with access to a lighter anyway? Oh I know, he bummed a smoke from Pepe.
An interesting true story that a customer once told me when we were discussing unruly children:
The customer told me he used to have problems with his 14 year old. His teenager swore at him, threw things, disrespected him and in general did not listen to him. The customers way of punishing his son was to take something away: the TV, Playstation, or whatever was handy, and nothing worked.
One day after a particularly frustrating argument, while his son was at school, he went into his son’s room to take away his CD’s. In his words, “I just couldn’t stop there. I was angry. Angry at my son. Angry at the thought that I had failed as a parent. I took his TV, Playstation, Movies, phone, everything. Everything except one shirt, one pair of pants and a pair of shoes.”
As he was telling me this story, I could sense him getting more and more enthusiastic. His eyes were getting wider as he spoke. His son came home from school and went straight to his room. As soon as he noticed his belongings were missing he instantly started swearing and yelling. Then the son pulled out the “You can’t do this to me!” card.
Dad’s response – “I sure as hell can. The law states that all I have to do is clothe you, which you have, provide you with housing, which you have and feed you. Your beans and rice are in the kitchen. You were privileged to have everything you had and now it’s gone. Now you must earn every bit of it back.”
Now I understood his enthusiasm. It worked.
I don’t know the answer to society’s ills, but I do know it has got to start at home. Spend time with your kids. Teach them right from wrong. Teach them that TV isn’t real. Eat dinner together. Play together.
And for God’s sake, make them earn everything they get.