Forum by parenting experts on raising children. To the question “We hear so much about negative cultural influences, whether it’s toxic media messages or the perils of consumerism. What effects do these influences have, and what should we be doing about it?” there is these two answers:
Damon: If you turn on the television, or listen to some of the song lyrics, you understand why parents wish they could shelter the kids or screen it out. But I don’t think that these influences themselves have a very strong effect on kids. They’re mostly stylistic and superficial, and don’t change behavior except if kids already are marginal. What worries me is not the mass media; it’s the vanishing number of positive opportunities for constructive engagement that traditionally kids have had in our society. Everything from local playgrounds where parents used to let their kids go out and play stick ball to apprenticeships where kids would tag along with the neighborhood cop or show up at the newspaper and learn about reporting. A lot of after-school programs—clubs and sports—have been dropped for budget reasons. The disadvantaged populations are in a much worse situation than highly advantaged kids in that regard. If you get a kid involved in something positive, whether it’s sports or academics or art, that kid is not going to get in trouble.
Mendoza: In my clinical experience, when you have parents engaged with kids, the kids can deal with a lot of negative influences. When parents, for whatever reason, don’t have the time or take the time to engage their kids, the chances are greater that media and other influences can sway kids. The obesity issue is one example. Kids have always loved hamburgers, Slurpees, Cokes, but now our culture has convinced children that bigger is better. When parents are busy, and unable to mediate this external influence, when there are fewer after-school activities, and when most kids by the time they reach high school aren’t involved in sports or regular exercise anymore, what happens? You get our national epidemic of obesity.
Mystery of an Internet model (don’t forget to go to all three pages!)
[A]fter Coulter’s June 6 appearance on the Today show, in which she stood by her claim that the widows are “enjoying” their husbands’ deaths, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams reported that Coulter had gone “over the line — the line that is shared by just about everybody because some things, it turns out, are still sacred.”
What the heck did NBC think was going to happen if it gave Coulter access to the airwaves? This is a person who says 9-11 widows are “enjoying their husband’s deaths”; who has suggested assassinating a sitting president; who has repeatedly called for violence against liberals and journalists. And NBC wants you to believe it is shocked and dismayed that she would cross “the line,” piously telling you that some things “are still sacred.” Coulter’s calls for violence — assassination, even — against liberals and journalists didn’t clue them in to the possibility that she went “over the line” (not to mention ’round the bend) years ago? Of course NBC knew Coulter was “over the line” before it invited her: She didn’t say anything in her appearance that was further over the line than what she wrote in her book — a passage Today host Matt Lauer read on-air. NBC just didn’t care.
This is what NBC and the rest of the media have made of our public discourse: They routinely confer legitimacy on venomous, hate-filled right-wing pundits. Uber-pundit Howard Fineman, for example, said on the June 7 edition of MSNBC’s Hardball: “I think Ann Coulter often has interesting and provocative things to say about the clash between liberalism and conservatism.” Interesting? Which part: Her desire for the military to kill U.S. journalists? Or her suggestion that Bill Clinton be assassinated?
When an Ann Coulter appears on NBC or in Time magazine, those news outlets not only tell the world that Coulter is someone to be taken seriously, they nudge the bounds of acceptable discourse a bit further to the right. Suddenly, far-right politicians appear mainstream by comparison. Suddenly moderates appear liberal, and liberals appear extreme, and people who are VERY liberal … well, you don’t see them on television at all.
Grant McCracken wonders why Moscow males don’t seem to pay much attention to a beautiful woman.
I recently upgraded to Nokia 770 OS without hitches and found (after trying to install a Bloglines viewer) that I needed to cut down the number of feeds I watch. Instead of simply selecting which feeds to go on my mobile, I decided to export the rss feeds via opml file into a new email. Then I would start massively deleting feeds that I wouldn’t possibly be interested on my PDA. I have 269 feeds on my main account, and I was able (after an hour’s work and some hard choices) to bring it down to 150. Even 150 was way too much for this client application to handle. But it was hard to limit myself to 150. It would be painful to bring the list down any more than that. What have I come to?