I had something else I was going to post. About children and how easily they pick things up from television. But, here in Ireland, we’re in a crisis brought about by the decision of the government to pay private banking debts with public money. It’s sinking the country. And the Wikileaks cable documents serve as a reminder of some of the other crap that goes on in the adult world.
Dark uncertain times.
Not like preschool television, where everything is bright, everyone helps everyone else and things work out for the best for everybody. As I sit genuinely pissed off at the adult world around me, I can’t help but be reminded why I love children’s television.
Children are amazing.
They are creative naturally. We don’t have to teach them to be creative. All we have to do is not stifle it. They are explorers. Adventurers. Children embrace fun and allow themselves to experience excitement and joy. That’s something, as adults, we seem far more reluctant to do. Children are problem solvers. Children love to laugh – children develop their own sense of humour.
Many of us in children’s television spend so much time trying to figure out what we’re going to teach children. But so many of those things children do far better than us are on the list of things adults try to teach children. Some even have claimed that we have to teach them such fundamental things as a sense of humour (worth pointing out that one particular US children’s block that set out with that aim didn’t last long).
Of all the things we as people are capable of – and we’re capable of wonderful things, wonderful expressions of life, wonderful acts of creativity, wonderful acts of kindness ‘ so many of those things come naturally to children but become harder and harder as we grow up. Okay, yes, there are plenty of things children do that we wouldn’t want to do as adults and the whole concept of sharing is one that is tough for many to grasp (well, lots of us carry that into adulthood). Nevertheless, children are amazing. And we can’t in any way claim as adults that we’ve got it all figured out.
Perhaps we should spend less time wondering what we can teach children and spend more time trying to learn from them.
In the meantime, I will continue to try to create colourful worlds where everything is bright, everyone helps everyone else and things work out for the best for everybody. Both in and out of television.
Trying something different today. I hope it works. You’ll see an‘Articles’ section in the menu above. From time to time, I’ll be posting an article on certain aspects of children’s media, particularly from the perspective of a parent.
This first article, Everything is Educational, explains how everything a young child sees or hears goes towards forming their world view. That’s something that puts an immense amount of responsibility on programme makers, many who see their job as simple entertainers (“what am I, a clown?”), and, of course, on parents.
If you find it interesting, feel free to pass it along (there’s a downloadable version at the end of the post). Or let me know what you think in a comment. Here it is: Everything is Educational.
We’re doing this as parents, as teachers, as neighbours, as citizens, as whatever we happen to be. If there’s a child close to you as you read this, you’re teaching them right now (if you’re picking your nose, please stop it – it sets a bad example).
The youngest years, what we call preschool, are so important developmentally. From motor skills, language development all the way to nose-picking (though I think that may be instinct), the amount of learning that happens during those years is staggering.
It’s in those years we can do the most good.
Or the most damage.
And, accepting that young children watch television (they do) and learn from it (they do), what children watch and how much of it is something that should always be seriously considered. Good preschool output, created for the right reasons, should be in the forefront of any broadcaster’s mind. We have an opportunity, and responsibility, to do so much good.
Forget your 24s and your Losts, the most important television on any channel is its preschool output.
You make Mars bars for people who like sugar-filled chocolate. You make MP3 players for people who like music. You make Mercs for people who like fancy cars in a weird wine/brown or gold colour.
Who do you make children’s shows for?
Obvious answer: children.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Children don’t buy preschool shows. Broadcasters do. Distributors do. And they’re selling to licensees. Toy manufacturers. Even in the home, children usually don’t make the choice to turn on preschool shows. Parents do.
So who do you make children’s shows for? Broadcasters, distributors, parents, children. Often in that order. If a broadcaster doesn’t buy your show, it’s a dead show and the rest doesn’t matter.
And I can tell you that they don’t always want the same things. You can’t please everyone. Not all of the time, at least.
So, who should we make children’s shows for?
On a totally unrelated subject, Chromeo totally brought the funk to Dublin last Thursday. Absolutely fantastic gig. Here they are getting the Yo Gabba Gabba seal of approval.
There, you’ll find articles on fatherhood, impending fatherhood, health, finance and so on. Resources for fathers, from fathers. Oh, there are no end of sites for Mums. But not all that much out there specifically for Dads. So it’s great to see such a strong Irish site for Dads.
With television being at the forefront of my mind, both as a programme-creator and a father, what better place to get fathers thinking about the viewing habits of their children?
So, right now, over there at the Fatherhood section of Dad.ie, you’ll find my article on television, my daughter Daisy and the ash-cloud volcano. In it, you’ll find some questions I feel it’s important to ask if your children are watching television.
I hope you find it helpful.
While you’re there, why not have a browse through the archives? There are some excellent contributions by fathers, experts, doctors and more. A fantastic resource for parents and I look forward to seeing the site grow.
Last week, Devlin’s debut album ‘Bud, Sweat & Beers’ was released. Who is Devlin? A young UK rapper. He’s been around for a long time and I’ve said he was one to watch. His album certainly doesn’t disappoint.
At 35, I don’t know if I’m quite who Devlin aimed his album at. But I love it.
The album is labelled ‘CLEAN’ on the iTunes music store. It’s not. The language is very colourful in places. And listening to his colourful language and his obvious anger has me thinking about role models for our children.
Would a parent approve of this album? Would I approve? Isn’t there some nice boy band that would be better for my children?
I can’t help but be reminded of what Bill Hicks said about New Kids On The Block and good role models – “When did mediocrity and banality become a good image for your children?”
The world our children are growing up in is one constantly bombarded by choice, by commercialism, by careers, by television, internet, games and distractions. Even as adults, we don’t have time to think about even a tiny percentage of the choices we make every day. What chance do children have?
I think a lot about how we can make a better world for our children.
But, one day, what will be far more important is how children make a better world for themselves. One day, they’ll be in charge. For my own girls, I hope they’ll make it through the conformity machine that is school, survive the commercial bombardment and come out the other end still able to be creative. To think for themselves. To really look at the world. And be motivated to help make it better.
So when I hear a young rapper not rapping about bling, or guns but about his community, about the homeless, about wanting a better life, pushing back and clearly having the drive to achieve something, I can’t help but have hope for what the younger generation will be able to do for themselves.
And, yes, as horrified as Devlin (now 22) might be, and as much as it may damage his street-cred, I approve. How could I disapprove of any rapper who namechecks Pingu?