Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I was involved in a study today and I had the opportunity to talk with the father of one of my young subjects. This man was a professor of communications at the University that I attend. I learned a lot and thought of changing my major, although I think that two years into a doctoral program is a little late for a drastic change of directions.

First I learned a little about communications. At our university there are three major directions that people take that are related to advertising, convincing people to buy things they don't want and convincing people what to think so that they will buy what they don't really need. OK, I made that up, but the big three were sort of centered around advertisement. There was also a lesser known major that is the consequences of communications which this guy I talked to studies. Specifically he was interested in print media and its influence on consumers.

OK, he's interested in print media, but we talked almost exclusively about television. He talked about how the television has become a cue to so many things. You wake up and turn on Good Morning America, you come home in the evening and turn on the television and watch whatever, but then when a certain show comes on you know it's time for dinner and then when the news is over it is time to sleep. Our lives literally revolve around television programming. So is it the television that has programs or the television that programs us? While many of us use the television as a cue to eat, sleep, go to work or whatever, that is not the main problem. The programming which may contribute to violence, drinking, or other undesirable behaviors is a small part of the problem. The real problem is what we would be doing if we weren't watching television. We watch television instead of doing stuff... like exercising, being involved in our community or playing with our kids. The major problems with television are not what they bring into our home, but rather what it keeps us from doing.

Speaking of community, this guy showed the differences in homes since the advent of the television. First, lets look at the interiors.

Before televisions living rooms were arranged so that people could interact with one another and communicate.

Now living rooms are situated so that people can interact with the television, although the multiple people in the room may distract one another from the real reason for being in the room.

Do you know what else happened around the 1940s or 1950s? The exteriors of houses changed Before that time we were big into the Craftsman style homes with big front porches that invited the community to interact with the homes.

Now we have no need to be with the community because we can interact with our television and house styles have changed to reflect that (that's probably not the only reason for changes in house styles, but it is one that I talked about today with this guy).

Good buy front porch, hello big fence.

I was pretty proud to announce that I don't have a television. He suggested that wasn't the solution. He said that we need to be 'inoculated' with television. We need to watch a little with our kids and make sure to communicate with them and positives and negatives so they understand the use of television. But he suggested that we don't depend on the television for our scheduling, that's sending the wrong impression. He even went as far as to say that television are a good way to introduce kids to social standards. He admits that the television gives a skewed image of social standards, but if a child goes to school without ever watching television, he will be in a situation where everyone else relies on television to understand social interactions, but without television experience you won't understand. It's an interesting thought. We won't be purchasing a television any time soon (probably never).

Another thing I found interesting was the laws that we have in the US regarding advertising to children. They are quite limited. Did you know that in Norway (I think it was Norway) they are not allowed to advertise to children. The Happy Meal is absolutely never advertised, you just have to know about it from the menu, that is all the promotion it gets, because any advertisement for a happy meal would be directed at children and that is illegal. During Saturday morning cartoons, or any children oriented television programming there is no advertising allowed. Not during the program and not for a certain amount of time before or after the children's time. They also don't allow any cartoons that have products associated with them. They are illegal because it is advertising at children. Many countries actually have laws like that protect children. Here in the US, we have some limitations, but we seem to allow the advertisers a lot of reign over our children.

I just felt like writing that today.


The Woulfes said...

the best part about that picture is the giant book shelf full of videos/dvds.

and i love the mcmansion, everyone safely inside slurping up whatever garbage fox news tells them to believe, with a perfect lawn that's not for playing on, only for showing the neighbors how well off they are...

Nate said...

What you lack in TV entertainment and innoculation you can make up in DVDs, newspapers, magazines, and my favorite medium--books.

I think the key to inoculation is the discussion that occurs between parents and children after the viewing or reading, not the media themselves.

Emily A. W. said...

Wow. I am so used to not using the television in the conventional way that I forgot that advertisement is a huge part of what people watch.

I am not opposed to TV, but I am opposed to letting it schedule and run my life. I am also opposed to advertisements or kids which is why my kids will only watch series from DVD or PBS...which has limited commercialism.

I don't think kids who don't watch television will be any worse of socially than kids who do. There are a lot of kids who watch tv that are still socially ignorant because their parents ignore them or they are watching the wrong things.

Earl said...

Our television broke a few months ago, and it was great! Since then we watch our shows on the internet. Most networks put their best shows online the day after they're broadcast.

So we watch our shows whenever we want. I also noticed that we watch less TV. We still watch the same amount of good stuff, but we cut out all the junk like reruns, the news, and stuff that you don't want to watch but do since nothing else is on.

Liberating our schedule from the TV has allowed us to do more.

Alisha said...

amen to no TV. my dh and i both grew up without TV and are continuing that practice in our own homes. it frees up TONS of time. it also makes the occasionally DVD a real treat (and i don't groan through all the commercials).
i also love that my kids are not flooded with branding. they get enough of that by just hanging out with other kids.

i agree with nate, that we can use other forms of media (much less invasive) to keep our kids up-to-date on society. i also like that there is much more control over the flow with these methods. i'd hate to have my 4-year-old channel surfing.

TV Free said...

I still don't want a TV.

But, some interesting thoughts. I agree wtih Nate in that TV is not the only way to become "socialized" to popular culture. At the same time, is that the socialization we really want for our kids? One of the main reasons I don't want a TV is because of the rampant commercialism advertised there. My kids still want stuff, do they really need someone selling it to them?

Yes, PBS has some great shows. I even think they can teach good stuff to kids. My concern happens when the shows replace experience. As good as those shows are, they should not replace those childhood experiences - you can learn about balance from Dragon Tales, or you can go for a hike and walk along a log, learning it for yourself. For me, there is no comparison.