Disney says it’s done a whole lot of research into what “moms” want their kids to see when their kids watch TV. What they say they’ve learned is that moms with kids between the ages and 2 and 7 don’t expect their kids to learn academic skills from TV, but they do want them to learn life lessons.
Call me kooky, but I didn’t realize TV shows had to be either about how to get along with others or about learning letters.
Because if you’re making a TV show for kids, even a show that has an academic element, you still need to tell a story, a good story. Stories for kids tend to be about how people treat each other.
Carolina Lightcap, president of Disney Channels Worldwide, is quoted in the New York Times as saying about moms, “They don’t honestly think kids are going to learn how to read from watching a TV show.”
Um, yeah. Learning to read takes a really long time and happens in many different ways for different kids. That doesn’t mean I don’t like a little letter recognition in the TV shows my kids watch.
The Wall Street Journal story on the new Disney Channel notes that Disney researchers “found that when parents were asked what they most want for their children, the most popular reply was for them to be happy.”
Yes! We do want our kids to be happy. And we want them to read. For kids to be happy, to play, and to look at picture books, they can’t watch TV all the time!
Ultimately, I find Disney’s positioning cynical. On the one hand, they might be tapping into a cultural moment where parents might be getting ready to lay off the Kindergarten worksheets in favor of play time (granted, play time that teaches executive functioning, but still). On the other, Disney always has a larger corporate agenda. For example, there’s this from the Wall Street Journal story:
‘Disney says it will adjust “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” which teaches kids math, to make it less academic and more whimsical. “We’re trying to capture the essence of what a family feels like when they go to visit a Disney theme park for the first time,” says Gary Marsh, president of entertainment and chief creative officer at Disney Channels Worldwide.’
So, while I’m guessing plenty of the Disney shows will be fine, considering the reach the company has, it chills my heart to think that on the one hand Disney is saying “we want to tell great stories and teach kids how to get along,” and on the other they’ll be reconfiguring TV shows that parents rely on to get dinner made to initiate wee ones into a Disney theme park experience. Once again, we’ll all just have to vote with our remotes.
What are the TV rules in your house?