With recent news of Toronto writer Emily Keeler getting trapped in a Hudson's Bay location and taking to social media to get out, many quickly took to their twitter accounts (Keeler included) with replies including comparisons and jokes about the classic Canadian children's show Today's Special. Like any child of the 80s, I tweeted about it and shared the story on Facebook -- but not because I thought it was overly newsworthy. Yes the story got picked up by almost every major Canadian news outlet, but more so, I suspect, for its oddness, humour and proverbial "trip down memory lane."
When I think about the comments and likes I received by sharing the story, the outpouring of nostalgia by several handfuls of Facebook friends made me realize one thing. Television in the 80s kicked ass.
We may not have had all the computer generated imaging like in shows kids watch today, and looking back the quality of the filming was, rightly so, decades away from HD. But what the shows I (and so many of us) grew up on have that trump anything kids are watching today is heart and imagination.
Now, I may not have children yet, but I have enough friends with kids to know the basic extent of children's programming. I also have two adorable twin nephews, who in 5 years will likely argue to the end of the earth with me that what they watch on TV is a thousand times better than what their parents and I watched as kids. But let's face it, a whole generation who would try to argue that point, including my nephews, would simply be wrong.
Today, it seems that TV shows for children only use the formula of song, bright colours and outlandish looking characters to retain their audience. While many of those methods were used in TV shows of yesteryear, it seems like nowadays it is the only leg they have to stand on. Take for instance Yo Gabba Gabba. A show often compared to as a nightmare or LSD flashback, by wait for it- "mommy blogs." A show so often criticized for its ridiculous cast of characters that even South Park decided to use it as the punch line of an episode-long joke.
I think back to some of my favourite shows growing up like M.A.S.K, Today's Special, The Elephant Show, Dear Aunt Agnes, Inspector Gadget, Harriet's Magic Hats, G.I. Joe, Zoobilie Zoo, Fraggle Rock, The Edison Twins, BraveStarr.
TV back then wasn't just about learning to count, the colours and the alphabet. It wasn't about adults in leotards clapping ridiculous patterns at children or household items that live under the sea. TV shows of the 80s taught us manners, etiquette and moral lessons. They taught us to read. A set of fraternal twins taught us to solve problems with science -- and it was cool. A young girl transported us through history and the working world, educating us along the way by simply wearing different hats belonging to her eccentric Aunt. These shows taught us make believe and took us to worlds unknown. They taught us that an underground task force can fight crime or that an intergalactic cowboy can provide moral lessons by fighting off villains in the 23rd Century. The point is, they always taught us.
Shows that lasted sometimes only one or two seasons were still epic franchises with movie spinoffs, board games and toy lines or action figures. BraveStarr and M.A.S.K come to mind; my brothers and I had tons of action figures from each show yet one lasted a season and the other, only two. Kids today, while getting targeted by the same Hasbro-style marketing campaigns for their respective cartoons and live action programming, are missing out on so many of the life lessons we learned through what was children's entertainment at its best.
I think an exchange I had with a friend regarding Emily Keeler's story pretty much sums things up when it comes to comparing TV today to what we had growing up. She mentioned that my post regarding the Today's Special-style lock in and the nostalgic feelings for the past it induced made her feel so sad to see we are getting old(er). But I don't feel sad that I am aging. Like most of us, I quite enjoy all the new challenges and experiences it brings and the occasional trips down memory lane.
What actually makes me sad is that kids today just don't know quality TV programming like we did.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
<strong>Source</strong>: Pew Research Center <strong>Gist</strong>: "Fully 95% of teens are online, a percentage that has been consistent since 2006. Yet, the nature of teens’ internet use has transformed dramatically during that time ... Teens are just as likely to have a cell phone as they are to have a desktop or laptop computer. And increasingly these phones are affording teens always-on, mobile access to the internet — in some cases, serving as their primary point of access."
<strong>Source</strong>: Huffington Post (to read the actual study, visit <a href="http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/02/13/peds.2012-3872.full.pdf">Pediatrics</a> -- subscription required) <strong>Gist</strong>: "New research out today by Dr Christakis finds that putting our time and energy into working to improve what our children watch, not just how much they watch, can have a positive impact on their behavior -- even for children as young as 3 years of age."
<strong>Source</strong>: Common Sense Media <strong>Gist</strong>: "While longitudinal research does allow us to speak in terms of a 'causal' relationship, it is probably more accurate and useful to think about media violence as a 'risk factor' rather than a 'cause' of violence — one variable among many that increases the risk of violent behavior among some children."
<strong>Source</strong>: Reuters (to read the actual study, visit <a href="http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1548755">JAMA Pediatrics</a> -- log-in required) <strong>Gist</strong>: "[R]esearchers said the new study backs up earlier findings showing too much screen time and not enough exercise may be separate issues that parents and schools need to address independently."
<strong>Source</strong>: Facebook <strong>Gist</strong>: "We investigated anonymized and automatically processed posts and comments by people self-identified as parents and children to understand how conversation patterns with each other might be a bit different from those with their other friends."
<strong>Source</strong>: Pew Research Center <strong>Gist</strong>: "Most parents of teenagers are concerned about what their teenage children do online and how their behavior could be monitored by others. Some parents are taking steps to observe, discuss, and check up on their children’s digital footprints."
<strong>Source</strong>: C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health <strong>Gist</strong>: "In this Poll, nearly two out of three adults expressed strong support for proposed COPPA updates, including requiring apps designed for kids to confirm that users are at least 13 and prohibiting apps from collecting personal information from users under age 13."
<strong>Source</strong>: Family Online Safety Institute <strong>Gist</strong>: "These surveys indicate that teens’ concerns about their online safety parallel parents’ concerns more closely than parents realize and that many teens are taking steps to protect their privacy and personal information. Nonetheless, teens suggest that parents are not as informed about what their teens do online as parents think they are, and some teens are taking risks by providing personal information to strangers online."
<strong>Source</strong>: Common Sense Media <strong>Gist</strong>: "America’s teachers -- whether they are long-time classroom veterans or young, tech-savvy ones, at wealthy schools or low-income schools, public or private, elementary or high school -- surface relatively consistent concerns: Students are having issues with their attention span, writing, and face-to-face communication, and, in the experience of teachers, children’s media use is contributing to the problem. On the plus side, teachers find that young people’s facility with media is helping them find information quickly and multitask more effectively."
<strong>Source</strong>: Pew Research Center <strong>Gist</strong>: "Three-quarters of AP [Advanced Placement] and NWP [National Writing Project] teachers say that the internet and digital search tools have had a 'mostly positive' impact on their students’ research habits, but 87% say these technologies are creating an 'easily distracted generation with short attention spans' and 64% say today’s digital technologies 'do more to distract students than to help them academically.'"
<strong>Source</strong>: Common Sense Media <strong>Gist</strong>: "Three out of four teens have social networking sites, and half of all teens are on their sites on a daily basis. But despite our concerns about social media, in the vast majority of cases, these media do not appear to be causing great tumult in teenagers’ lives."
<strong>Source</strong>: Pew Research Center <strong>Gist</strong>: “The volume of texting among teens has risen from 50 texts a day in 2009 to 60 texts for the median teen text user. The frequency of teens' phone chatter with friends - on cell phones and landlines - has fallen. But the heaviest texters are also the heaviest talkers with their friends.”
<strong>Source</strong>: Pediatrics <strong>Gist</strong>: "There was no evidence that children receiving the active video games were more active in general, or at anytime, than children receiving the inactive video games."
<strong>Source</strong>: Pew Research Center <strong>Gist</strong>: “As social media use has become pervasive in the lives of American teens, a new study finds that 69% of the teenagers who use social networking sites say their peers are mostly kind to one another on such sites. Still, 88% of these teens say they have witnessed people being mean and cruel to another person on the sites, and 15% report that they have been the target of mean or cruel behavior on social network sites.”
<strong>Source</strong>: Pediatrics <strong>Gist</strong>: “We found that children in as many as 70% of home-based child care settings and 36% of center-based child care settings watch television daily. More importantly, when television is viewed at all, infants and children spend 2 to 3 hours watching in home-based programs and ~1.5 hours watching in center-based programs.”
<strong>Source</strong>: Pediatrics <strong>Gist</strong>: “This updated policy statement provides further evidence that media—both foreground and background—have potentially negative effects and no known positive effects for children younger than 2 years. Thus, the AAP reafﬁrms its recommendation to discourage media use in this age group. This statement also discourages the use of background television intended for adults when a young child is in the room.”
<strong>Source</strong>: Common Sense Media <strong>Gist</strong>: "Nine-month-olds spend nearly an hour a day watching television or DVDs, 5-year-olds are begging to play with their parents’ iPhones, and 7-year-olds are sitting down in front of a computer several times a week to play games, do homework, or check out how their avatars are doing in their favorite virtual worlds. Television is still as popular as ever, but reading may be beginning to trend downward. Having an accurate understanding of the role of media in children’s lives is essential for all of those concerned about promoting healthy child development: parents, educators, pediatricians, public health advocates, and policymakers, to name just a few."
<strong>Source</strong>: The Huffington Post <strong>Gist</strong>: “[E]xperts have some serious concerns regarding the methods and conclusions of the first study evaluating the connection between cell phone radiation and brain cancer in children and teens. Not only was the study flawed, they note, but it was also financially supported by the cell phone industry.”
<strong>Source</strong>: Pediatrics <strong>Gist</strong>: “This study found that greater television and computer use was related to greater psychological difﬁculties, independent of gender, age, level of deprivation, pubertal status, and objectively measured physical activity and sedentary time.”
<strong>Source</strong>: Pediatrics <strong>Gist</strong>: "Viewing television and playing video games each are associated with increased subsequent attention problems in childhood. It seems that a similar association among television, video games, and attention problems exists in late adolescence and early adulthood."
<strong>Source</strong>: Pew Research Center <strong>Gist</strong>: “Fully two-thirds of teen texters say they are more likely to use their cell phones to text their friends than talk to them to them by cell phone.”
<strong>Source</strong>: Kaiser Family Foundation <strong>Gist</strong>: “Today, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). And because they spend so much of that time ‘media multitasking’ (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes (10:45) worth of media content into those 7½ hours.”
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