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TV Is Terrible for Your Kids' Self Esteem, Unless Your Kid Is a White Boy

By 05.31.12

There are literally thousands of studies that have been done on the effect television has on children: It can disturb sleep patterns, it leads to higher rates of obesity, poor grades, anti-social behavior, and brain rot. But then again, I watched a lot of television as a kid, and I didn’t end up a serial killing, fat-ass high school drop-out with bouts of insomnia. On the other hand, I was a white boy, and according to the latest study out of Indiana University, it turns out television is basically terrible for everyone’s self esteem except white boys. Actually, that’s common sense, if you stop and consider it.

“Regardless of what show you’re watching, if you’re a white male, things in life are pretty good for you,” Martins said of characters on TV. “You tend to be in positions of power, you have prestigious occupations, high education, glamorous houses, a beautiful wife, with very little portrayals of how hard you worked to get there.

“If you are a girl or a woman, what you see is that women on television are not given a variety of roles,” she added. “The roles that they see are pretty simplistic; they’re almost always one-dimensional and focused on the success they have because of how they look, not what they do or what they think or how they got there.

“This sexualization of women presumably leads to this negative impact on girls.”

With regard to black boys, they are often criminalized in many programs, shown as hoodlums and buffoons, and without much variety in the kinds of roles they occupy.

“Young black boys are getting the opposite message: that there is not lots of good things that you can aspire to,” Martins said. “If we think about those kinds of messages, that’s what’s responsible for the impact.”

That all tracks with the majority of what most of us see on television. Worse still is that black children, on average, spend 10 more hours a week than white children absorbing these stereotypes, and when they’re not doing anything else besides watching television, they can’t help but compare themselves to what they see. It’s a depressing thought: Kids watch on average 32 hours of television a week, and for the majority of those kiddos, it’s like submitting to a slow stomping of their dreams and aspirations. Unless they’re watching “Phineas and Ferb,” of course, in which case they’re destined to be great leaders and thinkers.

I think the lesson here is that all kids should watch nothing but “Spongebob Squarepants” and aspire to be lunatic sponges that live in a pineapple under the sea. It’s an unattainable dream, of course, but at least black, white, male and female children will have their dreams equally crushed, and then they can’t take my job away from me when I’m old.


TAGSPHINEAS AND FERBSPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTSTELEVISION STUDIES

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