tvSmarter – Life in a TV Nation

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Book Review: Raising Generation Tech

Raising Generation Tech


The standard formula for books on kids, the media, culture, etc. is to describe various studies and to illustrate with real-life stories. This is actually a pretty good formula and was what I was expecting when I started reading “Raising Generation Tech: Preparing Your Children for a Media-Fueled World”. Instead, the author, Jim Taylor does things a little differently. Yes he does go over some of the new research and yes he includes some real life anecdotes, but what stood out for me was his philosophical take on the storied relationship between children, media and family.

As someone who has read extensively on how media is affecting both children and adults, I wasn’t expecting anything particularly new. But you can tell Dr. Taylor has thought about this deeply and has found some new, very interesting ways of looking at these media issues. For example:

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Channel One Campaign


This week, CCFC sent letters to the Superintendents of Education for each of the 42 states where Channel One has a “significant presence”.

From this letter:

“Since its founding in 1989, Channel One News has been widely criticized both for its business model and its content. Channel One loans schools television equipment if they agree to show a daily 12‐minute program that includes news, feature stories, and two minutes of commercials targeted specifically at students. No other company generates revenue by compelling a captive audience of students to watch television commercials during taxpayer funded class time. For advertisers, the benefits are obvious. As Channel One’s founder, Joel Babbitt, once remarked, “The advertiser gets kids who cannot go to the bathroom, cannot change the station, who cannot listen to their mother yell in the background, who cannot be playing Nintendo.” But for students and educators, Channel One is a terrible deal.”

Exactly. A big reason so many kids are failing in school is because they are spending a huge amount of time watching TV (kids spend, on average more time watching TV than they spend in school). Schools using Channel One are sending the message to parents and kids that watching TV is good for kids.

CCFC has setup a Campaign page urging everyone to write to their state superintendent of education to get the message across that Channel One is a bad deal for kids and schools , plus they have nifty tools to make this quick and easy:”

I just sent my email, I hope you’ll do the same!

More on Channel One:

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Creating a Hunger

 “This is significant when we consider that the most essential product of the advertising industry is hunger. That is, commercials are intended to create a feeling of lack in the viewer, a deep ache that can only be assuaged by purchasing the product. As Dr. Neil Postman, chairman of the Department of Communications Arts at New York University, points out, “What the advertiser needs to know is not what is right about the product but what is wrong about the buyer.” So we hand our children over to Madison Avenue to be told, hundreds of hours a year, how hungry, bored, ugly, and unpopular they are and will continue to be until they spend (or persuade their parents to spend) a few more dollars. And then we wonder why our children feel so hungry, bored, ugly, and unpopular, and why they are so needy.”

“Cable aside, the television industry is not in the business of selling programs to audiences. It is in the business of selling audiences to advertisers. Issues of “quality” and “social responsibility” are entirely peripheral to the issue of maximizing audience size within a competitive market.”

From Simple to Remember  –  “Commercialism”

See also Simple to Remember  –  “The Dangers of TV”

See also Simple to Remember  –  “Television Addiction is No Mere Metaphor”

See also Simple to Remember  –  “TV has made nation complacent, Gore says”

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CCFC – The Mouse That Roared

Baby Einstein by khara
Baby Einstein, a photo by khara on Flickr.

Walt Disney is a multi-billion dollar mega-corporation, and according to Wikipedia “It is the largest media conglomerate in the world in terms of revenue.” Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), on the other hand, is a tiny multi-thousand dollar non-profit who took on Walt Disney… and won.

“Parent alert: the Walt Disney Company is now offering refunds for all those “Baby Einstein” videos that did not make children into geniuses. They may have been a great electronic baby sitter, but the unusual refunds appear to be a tacit admission that they did not increase infant intellect. “We see it as an acknowledgment by the leading baby video company that baby videos are not educational, and we hope other baby media companies will follow suit by offering refunds,” said Susan Linn, director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which has been pushing the issue for years.

And it didn’t take long for Disney to take it’s revenge:

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Slate Misleading Parents and the Public

Slate Misleading Parents and the Public

Slate recently published an article called “Are TV and Video Games Making Kids Fat?”

The author, Darshak Sanghavi argues that no, TV and Video Games do not make kids fat. According to Sanghavi:

“If video games aren’t the problem, then what about television? We’ve know for a long time that attempts to reduce television-watching among children have a limited effect on their body weight. For a 1999 paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers gave a group of third- and fourth-graders in California regular lessons on the dangers of excessive television. Their parents were asked to enforce time budgets (using a device to limit total screen time) and participate in television turnoffs lasting 10 days, among other projects. This very involved, two-month intervention halved television watching among participants. Eight months later, researchers measured the children’s heights and weights, and compared them to those taken from children at a school without a similar program. The drastic reduction in television-watching made for only a very modest difference: Weight gains in the experimental group were reduced by an average of only one pound.”

But 8 to 10-year-olds are still growing. Just purely from growth they would be expected to gain weight. That is why the researchers, who did this study, did not use weight as their main metric. From the link that Sanghavi provided, this is how the researchers described their results:

Journal of the American Medical Association 1999

“Results: Compared with controls, children in the intervention group had statistically significant relative decreases in body mass index… , triceps skinfold thickness… , waist circumference… , and waist-to-hip ratio… . Relative to controls, intervention group changes were accompanied by statistically significant decreases in children’s reported television viewing and meals eaten in front of the television. There were no statistically significant differences between groups for changes in high-fat food intake, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, and cardiorespiratory fitness.”

Conclusions: Reducing television, videotape, and video game use may be a promising, population-based approach to prevent childhood obesity.”

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Dove Campaign for Real Beauty

Jon Hanson has written an excellent takedown of the “Dove Campaign for Real Beauty”.

Here are a few excerpts:

Several weeks ago, as part of its much lauded “Dove Campaign for Real Beauty,” Unilever released “Onslaught,” a video (above) examining disturbing images of women in beauty-industry advertising. The video ends with this admonition to parents: “Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does.”

But is talking “to your daughter before the beauty industry does” an effective solution?

It seems peculiar, therefore, that Dove would offer a film demonstrating the ubiquitous attack of the beauty industry that ends with the suggestion to parents that they are the ones to make a difference by simply talking to their kids. If the industry is the problem, it strikes me as odd that the parents are supposed to be the solution.

Hanson, makes a very interesting point, about parallels with Philip Morris ad campaigns.

Telling parents to talk to their children is not unusual as a public relations Philip Morris Talk to your Kids; They’ll Listen strategy. For instance, Philip Morris, among other companies, has long been pushing that message in its “public service” ads, particularly since the industry began to face a real threat of tort liability in the 1990s. The message seems public-spirited, but most industry analysts believe that Philip Morris is delivering, not a public-service message to parents, but a responsibility-shifting message to the public: kids smoke because of uninvolved or irresponsible parents, not because of anything that Philip Morris has done.

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