Thursday, March 12, 2009

Your media stupidity for the day...

...and there's plenty to go around.

Harvard psychologist slams PBS "Good Night Show", claims it is keeping kids awake.

And then on the other side: Group says PBS show is like "sleeping pill for toddlers."

Apparently both groups are working to get the show pulled.

Now, I don't know. I don't have children. But I remember in my childhood, my parents had a solution for dealing with shows they didn't want my brother or me watching. It was called "'No,' and the OFF button on the TV."

And at any rate - we had television "budgets" where we were allowed a certain number of hours per week. Use up your hours early in the week - and no getting to watch The Muppet Show when it came on later in the week. Too bad, so sad, plan better next time. So I doubt we would have wasted our tv budgets on some dingus "good night show."

My parents also enforced bedtime rituals - about an hour before bedtime, we were notified. Told to put up whatever we were working on (I was five years older so my bedtime was later, and by the time my brother was big enough to be told, rather than just be picked up and taken to bed, I was expected to follow the bedtime ritual on my own). Then you took a bath. Then you put on pajamas. Then you brushed your teeth. Early on, the next step was being read to, or later on, you could read quietly in bed for a while - but just for a while. Lights out was pretty strictly enforced. (And I don't really remember trying to circumvent it; I was not one of those kids who read under the blankets with a flashlight).

But stories like this one worry me. "It's not goooooooood for my kids, you need to take it away!" or "There oughta be a law!" instead of parents going, "You know, in our house, we're not going to partake of this."

Because I worry - when people begin relying on outside forces to "control" behavior within their families - stuff that parents COULD do with a little willpower and a little willingness to let their kids be "unhappy" because of their choices - well, where will the outside forces stop?

What if someone starts demanding that all TV go away after 9 pm at night, so children won't be tempted to stay up and watch? What if someone says that every old movie in which people smoke needs to be sharply edited for television viewing so that impressionable kids don't see Hollywood actors and actresses smoking?

Seriously. If people think the program's a dumb program, if they think it's bad for their kids, they just should turn the tv off. Tell the kids why. Give alternatives. Sure, it's harder work than whining to some muckety-muck until you get your way, but in the long run it's better for everyone. (And if it is a truly bad program, and enough parents decide it is, it will go away. Market forces and all that.)

But I just worry because it seems daily there are more and more people crying for an abridgment of people's liberty to do stuff, because they don't want to take the responsibility for avoiding bad stuff.

It's like the cell-phones in cars issue. On one level, I'm not too bugged by legislation limiting cell phone calling and texting by drivers - for one thing, it does not affect me directly, because I know that driving safely takes up all my concentration so I would not call or text-message while driving. And frankly, if people are going to be idiots and make the road unsafe for those of us who are driving safely, they need to be stopped. (I have been in six near-misses in the past year - either someone running a four-way stop where I had the right of way, or someone turning to their left in front of me when I had the right of way at a green light - and in every case the person had a cell phone jammed up to their ear).

But on the other hand, it makes me sad that the people who CAN'T talk and drive are requiring legislation that hits everyone. I do know people who can talk and drive - at least in low traffic situations - but now they can't do that even when they deem it safe because of the laws.

And I once heard someone - and this may have been tongue-in-cheek but I don't think so - float a proposal that all new cars come equipped with a Breathalyzer device attached to the ignition. To prevent drunk driving, you know? So EVERYONE in the country - even people who don't drink, like me - would then be required to experience the inconvenience and humiliation (and yes, it would be kind of humiliating) of huffing down a tube every time they wanted to start their car. (And what about the inevitable malfunctions - the false positives?)

Sure, stopping drunk driving is a noble goal. But treating everyone in the car-driving population as a potential DUI - assuming guilt while they are still innocent (and while the vast majority would remain innocent of this particular infraction all their lives long, because they're not stupid and reckless) - is insulting.

But it's what I see coming. People all too happy to abrogate their responsibility and let some other entity take over.

Maybe what we need, instead of having the government slap it to all of us, is Personal Nannies.

This would be a fantastic idea. It would kill two birds with one stone - first, it would employ some of the out-of-work people, and second, it would keep those of us who know how to run our lives freer of government intervention.

The idea of a Personal Nanny is thus - the person who feels they cannot run their life - who spends hours playing online games, who cannot bring themselves to eat healthful food, who will not go to bed at a decent hour - hires a Personal Nanny. (Perhaps there could even be a government program to pay for this? The money that would have gone to new legislation requiring restaurants to post calorie counts or some similar idiocy?). The Personal Nanny observes their charge for a couple weeks, and then in consultation with them, decides what behaviors are unacceptable. Then the Personal Nanny moves in - oh, they get a room in their charge's house, just like an old-time nanny - and they run this person's life for them. Put out their breakfast in the morning. Tell them what to wear. Turn off the television when they shouldn't be watching. Ride in the car with them and rips the cell phone out of their hand when they start driving and dialing. All of that.

Now, granted - the Personal Nannies would probably face a certain amount of hazard in their jobs. Perhaps they'd even need bulletproof vests in some cases. But I like the idea of the clueless Special Snowflakes who can't manage their own adult lives getting a Personal Nanny, instead of all of us getting a de facto Government Nanny in the form of more regulation, laws, taxes, and irritating PSAs.


Kate P said...

I'm confused--are they pulling the whole thing? My parents use the "Thomas and Friends" part of it to get the grandkids to chill out before bed when they stay over, but sometimes they use a DVD. Ultimately, you're right, Ricki, my parents decide when it's time to turn off the TV, signifying it's time to go to bed.

My mom says Mr. Rogers came on at the perfect time of the afternoon to get me and my sibs to mellow out by the time my dad got home from work.

The thing is, with all this media stuff--everyone seems unable to make a move without consulting SOMEBODY ELSE FIRST. Some sort of analysis paralysis that is very rampant in our generation. What happened to educating yourself, and forming your own opinion, and trusting your own judgment?

Joel said...

I find the Good Night Show to be a parent's best friend. Along with the rest of the PBS lineup. Much cheaper than daycare. :)

Seriously, there's no reason why the TV can't just go off at that time. Our satellite package lets us block specific shows, which is really cool because it prevents them turning something back on when we're not looking.