”If you wish to converse with me, [first] define your terms.” –Voltaire
Defining 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 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:
- Provided children with the option to meet online friends offline
- 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.
Other Parenting Posts You Might Like
- You’re going to have to homeschool your kids whether you like it or not, which really sucks.
- I am a James Brown dancing Santa aka How to tell your real friends from the fake ones
- How Do I Persuade My Child to Be Obedient; or The Hammer and Nail Approach
- Beyond the Beyonds: Putting Minnie Mouse on a Diet
- A Modern Woman’s Apology
- MY child a bully? Inconceivable
- Teach Your Kids to Cope with Stress : They’re Going to Copy You Anyhow
- Parenting May Cost You Friendships OR Circle the Wagons – This is Really Hard!