The Centre For Media Literacy (CML) has released it's annual list of television programs it deems harmful to children. While shows with sex, drugs and violence have been around for decades, the unrestricted access now available on-line and with mobile devices make it even harder for parents to monitor what kids are watching. As well, the CML has noticed an increase in the intensity of negative stories plus a reduction in consequences for the characters.
This year's list includes the standard fare: American Dad, Gossip Girl, Teen Mom and American Horror Story most of which have been on the group's "naughty list" for years. However, some of the harmful shows singled out in 2011 are quite surprising:
Rachel Ray: The daytime talk show apparently provides an unhealthy level of "perkiness" while host Rachel Ray provides potentially harmful lifestyle advice. Cooking and home decorating hints may seem innocuous, even helpful, but their failure to produce a simple casserole or re-painting a "yard-sale" bookcase, can be devastating to a child's self-esteem.
Dog Whisperer: On the surface, the National Geographic channel program instructs dog owners on responsibility and pack leadership. However, portraying all dogs and being good if given the right reinforcement of positive behaviors merely sets up an expectation in children's minds that they can all have a dog (even if we live in an apartment that is too small and there is a 'no-dog' policy. How many times do we have to go over this already?). Frequent viewings of Dog Whisperer lead children to nagging and pestering: "Mom, can I have a dog?", "Mom, can I have a dog?", "Mom, can I have a dog?", "Mom, can I have a dog?", "Mom, can I have a dog?".
Meet the Press: The long-running Sunday morning political forum not only conflicts with church attendance, but has more sleazy content than a "Sex and The City" marathon. After another year rifle with scandal, are the men and women of our government really the sort of questionable characters we want speaking directly to our nation's young people? The CML says an emphatic "No!"
NASCAR on FOX, ESPN and TNT: A staple of sports programming in America, NASCAR promotes all the wrong values, according to the CML. From the aggressive driving of the racers to the promotion of harmful products such as alcohol and tobacco, children are negatively influenced for several hours at a time. Worse still are the beliefs strengthened that it is acceptable to wear a tube top and cut-off shorts at a public event when you are 35 pounds overweight.
Once Upon A Time: ABC's smash hit blurs the line between fantasy and reality. While recasting classic fairy tale characters in a modern setting may seem clever, it is merely Satan worship thinly veiled as entertainment. In much the same way the Harry Potter books promoted witchcraft, Once Upon A Time leads kids away from Jesus by showing that the Devil's magic can solve their problems.