…parenting hard-ass, hater of mediocrity, with a moderate dose of compassion

“Dog With a Blog” – Yet another example of Disney Channel’s complete lack of moral compass in programming to young children

 “If you wish to converse with me, [first] define your terms.” –Voltaire

disney channelDefining one’s terms is the cornerstone of civilized discourse, just ask Voltaire. So for the sake of clarity: I LOVE Disney Parks, I HATE the Disney Channel.  (BTW Disney marketing needs a kick in the ass too)

Disney Parks – Magical in Every Way

I’m a Disney Dork. When it comes to visiting the parks – I’m only slightly embarrassed to report that we have visited Disney World in Orlando 5 times, and my youngest child is only 10 years old. A visit to Disney is (forgive me) a magical experience in every sense of the word. The moment you enter one of the parks the “engineered happiness” begins. Everyone wishes you a “magical day”, every child’s wide-eyed wonder is cultivated, and every parent gets to view the world through the eyes of a innocent child seeing Mickey or Minnie for the first time. Personally, I have been accused by my husband of mugging Winnie-the-Pooh for a hug.

When you enter the parks, you become a child again – and that’s OK. It’s kinda the point.

CAVEAT: Yes it’s true that it is wildly expensive, that there is a theme-related gift shop at the exit of every ride, and that it’s an exhausting experience. But that’s not the point here….

Disney Channel is Dante’s 8th Circle of Hell

For Voltaire’s clarification of terms: In Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, the 9-level descent into hell goes past the 8th level which is a punishment of fraud. In order to descend to the 8th circle, there is a hug cliff which Virgil travels on the back of a winged monster which usually has 3 heads or 3 bodies. Hmmm, sounds like a great animated plot.

So where is the fraud? The Disney Channel’s weekend prime time demographic is the 9-13 year old pre-teen market. If you’re a typical parent you might willingly offer your approval to watching the Disney Channel by assuming that those channel executives actual care about their audience. These are your children, your neighbor’s children, the children who are meant to run the world. Like, soon.

You wouldn’t (for example) think that the very programming aimed at 9-13 year olds would in any way encourage risky or unsafe behavior. You would be wrong. Very, very, wrong.

Safety online and offline

As a parent, and as an IT developer I have been very interested in Internet Safety for years. As a result, I have developed an Internet Safety course which I have given (to parents and children) over 50 times to groups large and small.

By definition, children who are 6-15 (maybe even older) are not developmentally mature enough to assess how their online and offline behaviors can put them at risk. And yet, as a society we hand these same children dozens of devices which provides them with open access to the world and all its inhabitants (good and bad).

dog with a blogDog with A Blog – Absolutely FREAKING Amazing 

My 10 year old daughter knows that I hate Disney Channel. But she never gets tired of telling me how she’s the only kid at school who can’t watch it. Moooooom, it’s DISNEY – how bad can it be?

So just this afternoon – just now, really, I was sitting in the living room getting ready to put together a blog post (on a totally different subject) and I agreed to watch Dog with a Blog with her.

“Mom, let’s just do like an experiment. It’s about this dog who can talk, and he blogs – just like you. It will be fine, you’ll see. Then maybe this can be the only Disney show I watch.” 

Normally haranguing doesn’t work with me (at all). But I thought for the kid’s sake, why not, right? I can be reasonable, I think. I can maybe come down ONE notch from the meanest mom in the history of matriarchy. “Sure!” says I – all full of hopefulness.

The episode started out with the typical kid snark. The littlest sister is nagging her mother to get her ears pierced and won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Dad is portrayed as a boob who does whatever wife demands. Nauseating and typical – but nothing serious yet.

Meeting Online Friends Offline

So it appears that Stan (the dog) can speak, and writes a blog. He also games online and wears a headset so he can speak to his fellow gamers. Stan’s “online” friends who have NEVER met him, think that he’s a kid, not a dog. Interesting point.

So Stan’s online friends do not know that HE’S A DOG. Why would they? They’ve never seen him. (More on that in a tick)

Stan wants to meet his new online friend at an event at the park. Only he can’t show up as a talking dog (that would be silly), so the middle daughter in the family, Ellen,  (around 11 years old) has a great idea. Ellen will bring Stan to the park where Ellen will *pretend* to have been the person playing against the boy (named Kevin).

Ellen’s mother takes Ellen and Stan to the park – asks no questions, doesn’t even really seem to have a clue as to why they’re there, and plays the role of the typical idiot-checked-out-duped Disney Channel parent when she downs a 6-pack of energy drinks and starts bouncing all over the park.

At Best: Missed Teachable Moment; At Worst: Putting Children at Risk

So here’s what I tell my parents and kids at the Internet Safety presentations:

You never, ever, never, ever, never, never, never meet an “online” friend offline. If  you choose to disregard this advice….YOUR parent should call THEIR parent on the phone and discuss an in-person meeting which must  include, YOUR parent remaining in the same room with you the entire time until you sort out the details.

If your kids are reckless (or uninformed) enough to set up an offline meeting with someone from an online game, or a chat room, or social media, I can guarantee you that the least remarkable outcome will be meeting up with a talking dog.

Probably it will be a middle aged-gross-sweaty-white guy from some podunk town who throws your kid  in his trunk and keeps going. (BTW – the vast majority of online predators tend to be white and middle aged, I’m not making that up. They also tend to be sweaty, also not making that up. )

ZERO Moral Compass Re-dux

I get that the Disney Channel shouldn’t have to raise our children for us. I get that it’s entertainment, and as parents it’s our job to become the gatekeepers of content. That’s what I do – and what you should do as well.

But this episode accomplished two things:

  1. Provided children with the option to meet online friends offline
  2. Missed out on a huge and available teachable moment to have a parent engage in the fictional scenario and resolve the issue

The Word ‘Disney’ Used to Mean Something 

I find it shocking and not a little disconcerting that the Disney Channel has the opportunity to become “Great” – with a capital G.

Disney Channel has really lost it’s way. You’re speaking to young children who idolize your vacuous one-dimensional characters. they’re learning how to (try to) outsmart their parents and their teachers, how to lie and weasel out of consequences. They’re learning how to come up with a clever retort while wearing the latest fashions.

Perhaps the Disney Parks “imagineers” should get together with the Disney Channel execs and re-imagine programming for this impressionable demographic. Kids are more than just snark, clothes, and mediocrity. The vapid, insipid valley girl types and the dopey one-dimensional boys.

Our kids are better than that – and they deserve better than this pathetic excuse for entertainment.

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Categorised in: culture & arts, favorites, parenting

27 Responses »

  1. Interesting. I’ve never thought about the subtleties of children’s programming before, although I just became a dad. I guess I’m going to have to pay a little more attention. That being said I just spent way too much time reading through the dog blog. ~Sean

  2. I despise this show as well, I’ve actually had little mental scenarios run in my head where Disney executives turn down something WORSE than the concept behind Dog with a Blog and green light a show about a talking dog with an online following. Not only is it STUPID beyond comprehension it also, as you point out, doesn’t show our kids good online safety habits! I’ve worked in online community and social media management for 10 years, I have literally seen and experienced it all when it comes to the online world as a result my kids have some fairly strict rules when it comes to online safety Disney, and Nickelodeon too for that matter, should do better for our kids!

    • Angela, I’m so glad that you said all of that. Obviously I agree. I’m not normally one shocked into silence, but I was literally sitting in the couch mouth agape. I could NOT believe that I was seeing what I was seeing. The #1 rule of safety is don’t meet anyone in the real world who you’ve met online because you have absolutely no idea who they really are. I kept expecting there to be a teachable moment – anything. It didn’t come.

      I almost feel sorry for my daughter, she had intended to show me that Disney Channel is not the spawn of Satan, just as he entered stage left with a pitchfork. Funny and sad at the same time :)

  3. Scary, frustrating and extremely disappointing. The name Disney has a reputation for being family and child-centered, yet with one, half hour show, the company proceeded to put countless children at risk if those children choose to imitate the behaviors and choices that they saw on TV. Thank you for reminding all of us that even a “reputable” media resource needs to be monitored.

    • Thank you Nancy – I appreciate the input. That’s exactly the point which is so infuriating to me. Whether you agree or not, Disney has a so-called reputation for being family-centric. When we allow our children to watch this garbage, we consider it a well considered decision. But it isn’t – not by a long shot.

  4. Wow…as a Technology Teacher in an elementary school..I. AM. SHOCKED! I also teach Internet Safety and WHOA..that is awful! Thanks for the post..I am off to write to Disney Channel now! (And that show is beyond stupid!!)

    • Jill – thanks for that. Do you sometimes feel like no one else is seeing what you’re seeing? That’s how I felt as I wrote this post – the process of being a blogger is largely solitary until you get feedback. Comments like these make me realize that I’m not completely nuts. Well, to clarify, I’m not nuts about this particular point. Others? Jury’s still out :)

      • Yes! I am shocked that NO ONE at Disney stopped to think about what message they are sending. However, I may use that episode in my class to discuss the poor choices that are made regarding Internet Safety

  5. You are doing the right thing watching the program WITH your daughter. You help her evaluate what she is watching, but she can still interact with her friends about the shows they watch. When my kids were younger, that’s the strategy I used with a great many programs that I thought were questionable.

    • Thanks Mrs G for the feedback. Explaining why I think the show is inappropriate as it’s happening, has helped immensely.

      • Hang in there! My kids are grown and tease me about being a mean mom, but I think they’ve grown into responsible adults who can make good decisions. “Because I said so” is much more acceptable if you can use situations like this to show why you are making the decisions you are. Modeling and explaining carry way more clout than just prohibiting.

  6. Do you remember the title of that episode? I really want to use it with my students to highlight what NOT to do in a situation like that. Thanks!

  7. My kids hate the comments I make about their shows, but I HATE THEM. Worse than I do the hitline type music they insist on listening to, even when it means singing along the bleeped out F-words and such. Don’t get me started.

    I hate Disney kids. They’re conniving, disrespectful, simple, self-centered … I should stop, but I swear, when my kids start acting like that …

    It gets to where just hearing the theme song to any number of those shows gives me spasms in places you don’t want to know about.

    • You know what’s interesting? It’s not a surprise to me that so many parents have commented here (and privately) with their collective agreement. But it’s still heartening to me that I’m not alone. Sometimes my own views feel severe or unique, so it makes me feel better for the future in general that there is some agreement. The only issue which remains is that our offspring may not have much “like-minded” company when they are raising their own.

      • We watched Saved By The Bell on Netflix for a while, and that showed kids who had fun, but were loyal to each other and respectful. Until they started working in the resort.

        Oh honey, you’re not alone. I kind of want to elect you to congress or something right now.

      • OH MY GOD – can you imagine? First of all, I’m Cuban – and “Tiger Mother” was kind of a slacker in comparison to how I was raised. There are all of those annoying rules which outlaw punching stupid people in the throat. So, yeah – don’t think we want to expose Congress to that level of hard-core. But thanks for the support anyhow LOL

  8. my children are ages 23, 20 and 12. we’ve been watching the disney channel since 1996 or so: avonlea, science fictions stories, even stevens, jett jackson, wonderland, MADELINE! REAL QUALITY. i do NOT let my 12 year old watch disney. i don’t let her watch nickelodeon either. to quote my 23 and 20 yo, shaking their heads: there used to be GOOD stuff on kids tv, we learned how to behave and think and dela with problems. now the tv kids are rude and nasty and we don’t want our little sister learning that kind of behavior. let’s watch food network or discovery instead.

  9. I’m a young teenager and sometimes watch this show if its on. Almost every episode has a very good lesson in it. The daughter (whose name is actually Avery, Ellen’s the mom) and the son Tyler seem to always get into trouble and finally work it out.

    It’s not disneys best show, but it’s much better than Austin and Ally or Gravity Falls and Fish Hooks.

    • Hello Rachel,
      Thanks so much for your comment – I’m glad to hear your perspective. And thanks for clearing the names up – my outrage at the content kinda shut my brain down.
      I appreciate your point of view about their being a lesson in other episodes ; the one that I saw in particular was an absolute train wreck. I’m hoping that you’ll agree that meeting someone in the real world who you don’t know from the internet is just categorically stupid. I kept waiting for there to be a lesson in there, but there wasn’t. Pretty disappointing, really.
      I also agree with your assessment of those other Disney shows….barf.

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