I may be sounding a bit like an old man here, but when I was a kid, we had cable, but there were no kid- or tween-oriented networks. No Nickelodeon, no Nick Jr, no Cartoon Network, no Disney Channel, no ABC Family, no Sprout, no Boomerang. The only kiddie programming appeared on broadcast channels early in the morning, an hour or so after school, and Saturday mornings. If you were lucky, maybe one channel in your town showed Davey and Goliath on Sunday morning, right before CBS Sunday Morning, Ernest Angley, or Meet the Press.
Otherwise, as a kid in the 1970s and early/mid 1980s, you watched the same networks and saw the same shows as your parents. You sat with them through the evening local and national newscasts, 60 Minutes, MAS*H, All in the Family, Dallas, dull made-for-TV movies, and the myriad of nearly indistinguishable Quinn Martin Production cop shows.
Parents controlled the dial. They might let you watch something with a little bit more cross-generational appeal, like Welcome Back Kotter, Diff’rent Strokes, Facts of Life, or The Six Million Dollar Man. That is, if there wasn’t something “better” on, like … yet another Quinn Martin Production.
Today, it’s a different story. When I visit a house where young children reside, it’s the little ones that are controlling what appears on the living room TV, at least as long as they’re awake. 7:00 PM? Cartoons. 7:00 PM? Cartoons. 8:00 PM? Cartoons. 9:00 PM? Cartoons. And if mom and/or dad want to watch something a bit more mature, well … pull up a lawn chair, wait a minute or two, and enjoy the fireworks. Seriously, almost every parent I know watches almost no grownup-oriented television programming as long as their kids are awake. It’s just Disney, Nick, Cartoon Network, and so on.
I’m not saying parents should plop Junior in front of the flat screen for a marathon of Breaking Bad or Dexter. Still, what happens to kids when they’re fed a steady diet of kiddie-oriented programming, with little else? What does that teach them about sharing, not just toys and other objects, but also less tangible concepts such as time? How about the parents?
To the parents among you: what’s on the living or family room TV while the kids are up? Is it just kiddie and tweener shows, or is there more of a mix? If you don’t watch any non-kid-oriented programming while the kids are around, why?