Home Divider About the Author Divider The Book Divider Author Blog Divider Press Room Divider Contact

I’ll Brainwash My Own Kid, Thanks.

by janderson on March 7, 2012

I find myself increasingly bothered by propaganda and PSAs targeting kids. Primarily, I think our kids are being over-messaged. This is putting aside, and out of the discussion whether I agree with the message or not. Frankly a lot of the things I see kids bombarded with are probably good messages. One glaring thing missing from all of the propaganda, however, is any included message directing kids to talk to their parents about the cause celebre. We are, after all, the ones conscripted and charged with guiding them through life, and, anybody who’s been on the playground with other parents knows that opinions vary on what is right for our children. Often there is no one best approach to anything, whether it be nutrition, bullying or a kid’s place in saving the environment.

I mention the latter because it seems lately that I cannot take my son to a movie, a museum or to lunch at a chain restaurant without some form of messaging about kids and environmentalism making it into the film, exhibit or children’s menu. Clearly, the green crowd has been out in force for a long time to put a bee in a generation of baby bonnets and change the thinking of the new generation.

A lot of the things they have to say seem like good sense. Even as I want my son to care about the world he grows up in, I also want him to be able to eat his mac and cheese and root beer, color on his menu, without a group of branded cartoon characters imploring him to save water and recycle. Maybe I’m being oversensitive, but it starts to feel intrusive, after a while. I can talk to him about all of this stuff whenever we encounter it. It is my job to do so. But it might be nice to not have to be confronted with it constantly.

Being a kid should be about having fun and new experiences, learning on your own terms. I don’t think kids should have to constantly worry about eating right, exercising enough, saving the ecosystem, being stalked on the internet, drug dealers or when the next bully is going to show up in their life. Those things are mom and dad’s domain to vigilantly watch over. It is our place to make them aware of these issues, to keep them informed without making it a constant and overbearing theme. It tends to suck the fun out of life. Further, what if the message being put forth seems questionable, or even damaging?

Recently, Cartoon Network began running an anti-bullying ad in which the spokespeople adamantly implore kids to never stand up to a bully. Remarking that it “just makes things worse.” Instead, children are directed to always go tell on the bully.

Now, on one hand I get where this is coming from. More frequently, in these times, bullying situations have sometimes escalated into serious violence. No one wants to see that happen. As an umbrella rule for bullying, however, run away and tell on them seems like an extremely misguided protocol.

Most of us can remember bullying situations, involving ourselves or others, as we made our own way through childhood. We also remember seeing those situations resolved in different ways and what the results were. I remember a kid on my school bus in middle school who decided not to like me, for some reason. I endured daily assaults of spitwads, actual spit, taunting and name-calling. His threats to beat me up escalated for a period of time, until one day when he decided to start pushing me in the line to exit the bus. I was tired of being intimidated and became angry. Stomping on his foot and elbowing him in the ribs hard enough to knock the wind out of him ended the bullying permanently. Years later we were actually pretty friendly with one another.

Telling on that kid and getting him in trouble would have escalated that situation further and probably led to a more severe fight later on. I had witnessed that outcome with other kids who were bullied.

Kids need to know how to stand up for themselves. When they leave school and become adults there will be other kinds of bullies they encounter at work and in life. There will be no one to run and tattle to, then. Dealing with them confidently and courageously, even diplomatically is an important life skill.

Of course kids need to also learn to recognize when a situation may get out of control, or when there is a potential for life threatening violence and get help. There is no good golden rule for all situations.

Of course Cartoon network can’t advocate fighting back, even if that is the best solution. They also can’t afford to spend the airtime instructing kids on dealing with various scenarios and learning when the danger may be too great to handle yourself. So, rather than adamantly promote a dubious message, perhaps they should shut up and stay out of it, altogether. It’s a parenting duty, anyway.

As for the rest of the PSA tsunami, well, it will likely have to be weathered by parents and be yet another force for them to help kids navigate and find shelter from. The messages are mostly good and we’d all benefit from the reminders ‘now and then.’ But, it might be nice if these advertisers remembered who is in charge and included parents in the discussion.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: