When we got our first color TV (yes, I'm that
old), the old black-and-white came to my room, a great big Early American console model plopped down among my pink satin bedspread and Degas ballerina drapes.
Many's the late, late night I huddled three inches from the blue light of the screen, struggling to hear with the sound as low as it would go. God knows how much radiation I absorbed, sitting so close!
In those days, though -- the late '60s -- the content on television was so different, so much less destructive to kids. I grew up on Andy Griffith, Dick Van Dyke, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, Star Trek
(the original Star Trek,
not its descendants), Underdog, Mission: Impossible, The FBI,
and that wonderful British import, The Avengers
(the Diana Rigg years).
On those shows, I don't remember seeing people behave with the callous self-interest that's so common on TV today. Even the bad
guys were not as bad as some of the heroes
Watching these shows, I grew up with a healthy disregard for social status, some basic compassion for others, and the understanding that success means nothing if you don't achieve it honorably.
It chills me to see what kids get from television now. These are the people who will grow up to lead the world! What kind of world will it be if they think it's all about money, status, and self-indulgence?
I won't even try to address the advertising issue. We all know that the ads are using peer pressure dynamics to make young people feel like they're just plain inferior if they don't wear the right designer, drive the right car, drink the right beer...
There are a couple of very nice young people -- 21, I think -- who have become friends of mine, and I love them dearly. They have genuinely good hearts. But they also think that the purpose of life is to make as much money as possible, and that the purpose of having money is to be able to go out and get drunk every weekend.
They claim to be "smart about it," though -- because before they get "too drunk to drive," they all go to somebody's house where they can stay the night, playing drinking games until they run out of liquor. This is their form of recreation, the expression of their individuality, the context within which they relate to one another.
And these are good
I don't know whether denying kids access to TV is the solution or not, though. It's a losing battle -- the media are everywhere. Maybe the answer is not to try to protect them from all that, but to educate
them, to arm
them with the critical judgment it takes to see through the manipulative techniques behind the barrage of media messages they face every day.
I think it all comes down to close, meaningful, daily interaction with parents. That's the only real solution I see.