Don’t be Surprised if Today’s Kids See Life as One Big Commercial Break
Television today is still a “baby sitter” both for adults and preschoolers. When people are bored or simply want to rest, they watch TV. Some are not really interested to watch at all. They need the TV to put them to sleep. As soon as you turn it off, they wake up.
With the remote control, watching TV can be a dizzying experience. I get confused with what characters go with what plot. What with that mysterious hand switching channels during commercial breaks, you find yourself following several shows at the same time. Sometimes you have to shout, “stop!” and confiscate the remote control. “Please decide which program you want and stick to it”.
That was supposed to be final but what’s this switching channel again? “Mom, there are commercial breaks!” would be the excuse. Today’s TV imports still have family-oriented shows and the rest are soap operas, game shows and their local counterparts which include slapsticks or tearjerkers, noontime variety shows, movie personalities’ song and dance, and movie Dom’s gossip sessions.
These are the kinds of shows very young children are exposed to. Most of these are shown at times when kids are awake and those of school age are already home. Programming leaves much to be desired.
One of the positive developments in local TV is the emergence of talk shows discussing current issues as well as TV-magazine formats. For mothers, “Sesame Street” is heaven-sent. You can put the little tykes in front of the TV (at least 4 “rulers” away – instructions to the little ones) and have a little break from mothering.
But violence even in cartoons is the order of the day. You see Bugs Bunny hammered on the head or blown to pieces by Sam his Enemy No. 1 or Road Runner running over the coyote. Tom and Jerry and now their sons slug it out; and of course, the Japanese robots and the superheroes in the endless fight between good and evil.
You don’t have to think about the violent “drama” teleplays or movies and their trailers, especially the one where the lead actress pokes a gun on the actor’s head who says, “Go ahead, and shoot it”. You’d probably close your eyes and shudder to think of the countless kids exposed to this kind of violence. And you parents are helpless. Ads just pop out of the boob tube every 15 minutes and you can’t tell which one will go on. Not unless the stations publish a list of advertisers or sponsors. Boy! That’s going to be a long list!
The crucial thing about TV is, it is a powerful medium. Repetitious subliminal messages are being exploited by advertisements that target kids. They are mesmerized by commercials. Cigarette and liquor ads suggest, “It is good to smoke and drink” without warning about its dangers. They often show images of sophisticated living.
Teachers reveal their frustration with college students who have limited concentration that usually lasts only for 15 minutes due to commercial gap syndrome. They suffer from what noted psychologists term “attention deficit disorder”.
Moreover, these teachers lament. Kids raised by TV hardly read, preconditioned as they are by TV-spoon feeding. (How many students actually read a book for their term paper? If they do, they choose a very short book but most just rent a DVD version.) There is nothing wrong with this audiovisual education like “The Planet Earth” but reading is entirely different from watching. Reading develops the imagination unlike TV, where the camera can focus on the smallest detail.
The fast pacing of images gives the illusion that “life is never continuous...it is fragmentalized; it is made up of commercial breaks. And if one doesn’t like what is seen and heard, one can change channels”. In reality, one can “change channels” in one’s mind and switch to fantasy.
Television’s powerful medium can be utilized in a positive way. Already public service ads by both the station and advertiser are being shown. It aims to educate the public on traffic and safety rules. Effective communication must be two-way. TV programs now feature citizens’ woes and call the attention of the concerned government agency or ask citizens’ cooperation in government programs. Not surprisingly, this produces faster results.
It is hoped that the government will subsidize alternative TV productions that will really give wholesome entertainment, education and develop local talent rather than the superstar “mentality” and its subsequent commercial rating that dominates the industry today.
In the high-tech world of communications via satellites, fax and computers, our children are bombarded with instant, varied and conflicting messages. It is easy to be carried away with images of fun and make-believe like the MTVs that seem to be getting more and more hallucinatory and lead an aimless life. Or children of the TV generation might be indecisive due to the myriad choices they are confronted with.
This is real life. There is no instant replay or fast-forward. “Changing channels” needs a lot of thinking and weighing of consequences, advantages and disadvantages.
There is great pressure not to be traditional. Don’t apologize. You can still be progressive and choose traditional values. Indeed, your children need to have an anchor and a focus – good old-fashioned principles and priorities.
Like It or Not, Kids Grow with Violence
Like most of the parents, you are probably against guns. Real guns. At the mere sight of them, your knees turn to jelly. A gunless society is ideal but only law-abiding citizens can make it one. If guns are in the hands of goons, who will protect the gunless citizens? Nowadays, it’s hard to tell who are the law enforcers and the law-breakers.
You must be able to enforce “toys for peace” in your home. You should be conscious about this, as your boys and girls graduate from plastic toys that go “bang bang” to water guns. What are popular now are air soft guns using plastic pellets. They are quite expensive.
This is probably one step ahead of video or role-playing games, where one uses the computer or imagination. In war games, they can act it out. You probably don’t notice it but when your kids start playing war games, their relationship skills improve. They become a team with a hobby to share. It’s good, clean fun. Nobody gets hurt. They wear protective goggles or face masks, long sleeves and long pants. (It seems there are some adults who join, not to play, but to hurt.)
The children’s justifications should never change your stand about toy guns. They know they can never ask you to buy such guns for them. (So they’d probably try asking their other parent.) Besides, you reaction is always economic: “How much? That’s a month’s groceries! No way!”
But when violence is deliberate, such as in hazing, then that’s a different story. This is no longer a game. The pain is real. It is not like those “blood pellets” you can wipe away when the game is over. You can actually have blood on your hands.
Hazing does not teach brotherhood. It teaches revenge. So this batch was made to take a gulp of milk, spit it out, and pass the same glass down the line. From a half-filled glass, by the time it gets to the last guy, it’s nearly full. Next year, this same batch will do the same, or worse, to their neophytes. And so the violence escalates.
Is this a rite of passage every boy must undergo to be a man, or a girl to be a woman? A father, especially one who got by without joining any fraternity, is proof enough that fraternities are not necessary. If by brotherhood, it means cheating by test paper leaks and connections, then you shouldn’t want that for your children.
They say the culture of violence is bred by violence in comics, movies and television. That enough exposure to violence can dull one’s sense and one can become insensitive to gore and blood. Power can be such a heady experience. Guns or even a car can give one a feeling of power. You’ve seen houseboys transformed into veritable kings of the road, once they get behind the steering wheel. Can you imagine those out of school youth recruited to be security guards and issued guns?
What can we do about this culture of violence? Parents ask the schools to be stricter with those involved in frat violence. For students, the best thing is to boycott fraternities. Those who join are mostly insecure students from the province who really need some form of brotherhood, as they are new in the city or university. They do not know that one can pass the course and find jobs based on one’s merits.
Fratmen are popular with girls. Well, girls, frat membership does not make a man – especially when the measure is whether one can stand a beating and be able to beat up others in turn. Fraternities will eventually die if there will be no new recruits.
Aside from limiting your children’s exposure to violence in mass media, you have to teach them how to handle power. With power come greater responsibilities. Being a true leader means humility and service, not giving orders to slaves. Moreover, fellowship can be achieved without undergoing or inflicting pain.
You can’t completely protect your children from violence since it exists in their environment. The most you could do is to arm your children with values so that, in time, when they encounter violence, they will know what to do and hopefully make the right decision.