Essay Draft 1

Television and the Development of Youth

“Television and the Development of Youth” conjures up many thoughts and feelings for me. In my experience growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, television was a part of the infrastructure of our everyday lives. My sisters and I would come home from school and hang out in the living room watching our favorite after school shows, then our primetime favorites as well. Although there were four of us kids, and we each had our own rooms, our parents did not believe in us having televisions in our rooms, so we were forced to have to compromise on what we would all watch. I remember my mom always saying that her and my father felt that if we each had our own TV, then we would not spend the same amount of time together. So for my family, I guess the television helped us to bridge the gaps in age between my sisters and I and give us that connection.

For me, I don’t know if I necessarily identified with characters in shows as much as I enjoyed the entertainment and then discussing it with my friends. We would laugh at something funny from The Simpsons, 90210 or our all time favorite Saved By the Bell (Name five people in my age range that don’t know who Zack, Kelly, Slater, Jesse and Screech are). With reruns on four or five times a day after school, that show become the anthem for kids in the 90’s. In mid conversations we would be able to spit out a line from the show and everyone would know exactly what we were talking about. The show was of course way to corny to be realistic, but maybe that is part of what everyone loved about it so much. How simple it made being a teenager seem. Television growing up was a way to have something of my own, away from my parents. My mom always hated The Simpson and never watched it long enough to actually hear or see the small nuances, which makes the show so brilliant. So even in just that example, I was able to assert myself as a modern kid growing up in a different era than my parents.

Today when I look at kids I think I am starting to see them through my parents eyes. Although I do not have any children of my own, I have nieces and nephews that I am watching grow up from the outside. It is mind blowing how many distractions, toys, electronics, TV shows, etc., these kids are growing up with. Their TV sets are so fragmented with hundreds of channels that at that age I wouldn’t even have known where to start. The simple times of only having 4 or 5 main channels of primetime shows are gone. I don’t know exactly how this is affecting them. Is it making them smarter and able to handle more content? Is it making them distracted with so much going on? Is it giving them more options of characters and people to look up to and relate with making their life easier to deal with? Is it helping them to connect with others like it did for me? Or is it just numbing them contributing to an inactive lifestyle and dumbing them down? I am sure when I was growing up there were similar concerns among adults. Now being on the other side of it, TV doesn’t seem to be as harmless as I thought.

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About Claudia's TV & Youth Blog

Masters Student at Columbia University for Nutrition Education View all posts by Claudia's TV & Youth Blog

2 responses to “Essay Draft 1

  • Corey

    Hi Claudia,

    First of all, you are absolutely right! I remember Saved by the Bell and ALL of the characters vividly! I even remember that HUGE cell phone Zack carried around.

    On another note, you brought up some very interesting questions in your last paragraph. It is true. Young people have a lot to choose from when it comes to programming. I’m sure some of it can be distracting at times. I also like the point that you made about giving them more options to relate to in terms of characters. I think this is particuarly true of some of the premium networks (i,e HBO, Showtime, etc). The teenagers on United States of Tara, Californication and the Big C all have to deal with some very real-life situations such as, cancer and spousal cheating.

    As I’m discovering in another class I’m taking, The Psychology of Media, most of the experiments that take place don’t necessarily put young people in realistic environments to test what they may actually be experiencing or walking away with when they engage in watching different television programs. With that being said, as you move toward your final essay, maybe you can spend some time with your nieces and nephews and create an atmosphere that you can monitor and have a discussion afterwards. This may even make the experience of writing more rewarding and informative for future study.

  • Candace Salim

    Hi, Claudia!
    I, too, was an avid fan of Saved By the Bell and would watch the re-runs every morning before school. I do feel that shows like that definitely had a more “All-American” vibe, while shows these days go into the more “underground” lives of teens. This “underground” life is definitely perpetuated by the increased access that young adults have to creating cyber worlds for themselves and sharing it through social networks, and the like. Back in our “SBTB” days, we could only re-cap the episodes the next day at school or while playing with neighborhood friends. Now, kids can Tweet about it, replay it on Hulu, etc. So, I’m wondering if you can also include that in your analysis and as you observe your nieces/nephews ask them how they interpret shows, how do they discuss them with friends, what are they taking from the programs, etc.

    Last, your last sentence about “tv not being as harmless as you thought” is a great lead-in to your final essay. At the 2nd class meeting we discussed this “fear factor” that parents have over seeing their kids watch different images on tv and I’m wondering why you think that tv isn’t as hair-raising as some parents believe? This would definitely give some scope to the responses that you gather from your nieces/nephews because they can give you the most candid (and probably hilarious) insight into what THEY think about what they’re seeing and what YOU know is really being taught, subliminally.

    Good luck and I can’t wait to read the next entry!

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