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Family Time: We Interrupt This Broadcast

by Robin Rieger

“Do you suffer from E.D.?” You’re in luck. Evidently it’s a problem widespread enough that on just about every television station, in a 30-second commercial aired numerous times an hour, a man and woman holding hands on a beach, raking leaves or dancing send the message that a little pill is the simple solution to an intimate problem. I wish it offered a solution for the problem the commercials create for me when our 11-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son are in the room when they come on. What’s a parent to do?

“What’s E.D.?” Or ... “Why is that woman (in the blue dress with an accent, long blond hair and sensual moves) acting like that?”

“Ewww, that’s weird.” No kidding. Awkward!

I find myself sputtering often or saying something completely out of the blue to distract them when these ads begin. Cough, cough. “Hey kids, look there’s a clown out the window!”

It’s not like we are watching ‘R’ rated shows or movies with the kids late at night when adult content shows are on and that commercial is aired. When Kansas City was celebrating their baseball playoff win recently, there was a break in the action, for guess what? A commercial about a different kind of break in the action! It was just after 7 p.m., I looked at the clock and thought, “What the heck?” Here’s that happy couple again, and the voiceover saying, “For when the time is right.” Seriously, the time wasn’t right. Doesn’t anyone think young kids are watching? Ours were. But advertisers know their target demographic is watching, too. Talk about dysfunction.

At least the kids haven’t memorized those commercials like the lyrics to some new songs that are catchy but, at the age of our kids, not really what Tom and I want them singing all day long.

It seems there’s no easy transition from Radio Disney, which they used to love, to music for pre-teens. If you do find something you like as a parent, it’s not what “all the other kids” are listening to. (My kids will only tolerate my old classic country music songs for a mile.) On a recent car ride several 11-year-old girls started singing along with the radio as my son turned to different stations. It went something like this:

“Yeah my mama, she told me don’t worry about your size, wha-wha-wa-ooooo.
“She said boys like a little more booty to hold at night, wha-wha-wa-ooooo.”

I’m trying to remember if there were curse words or vulgarity, or over-the-top sexuality in songs or TV shows of my youth. My mom says she really never worried about what we were listening to or watching. I don’t recall anything in particular making me uncomfortable. I can’t say our kids are uncomfortable with the songs they like since they don’t know exactly what they mean yet. It’s just that it’s all so much different than what Tom and I grew up with.

“Oh, my nose!” was, I believe, the worst Marcia Brady ever said. “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” was Jan Brady’s boiling point. And who can forget “Jeepers, Mr. Wilson!” from a menace named Dennis.

I loved sick days from school when I could watch a lot of those shows. General Hospital could have been on Sesame Street for as tame as it was then compared to today’s afternoon soap operas. I don’t remember if there were awkward commercials. I do know girls my age then—myself included—wanted Farrah Fawcett’s hair. I must admit, while discussing this with Tom, he says he wasn’t saying “Jeepers!” Or looking at Farrah’s hair. He says he liked Kate Jackson too! (He says Farrah was out of his league.)

This subject of the media’s impact on kids and teens comes up regularly in parenting blogs, educational articles and websites, all of which debate how much is too much and what kinds of messages TV shows, movies, commercials, songs and video games are sending kids. While people will always debate where to draw the line, most experts quoted say parental monitoring of media influences, including social media, is most important. Time will always change things. What we’re not OK with now could be nothing compared to what the next generation is exposed to. But Tom and I can—and do—turn off the TV and radio and we let our kids know what we think is appropriate for their age. I am happy to see they are developing their own filters, too.

“That’s horrible!” said my daughter before dinner one night.
“What?” I asked her.
“That commercial.” (Not another one!) “They are tearing each other down so bad,” she said.

I caught the end of it. It was a political ad, paid for by somebody’s committee to make an opponent look really awful. At least those spots have ended post-election and don’t come with a long list of side effects … unless you don’t like who was elected.

*Check with your doctor if you have a reaction to this article that lasts longer than four hours.

Robin Rieger is a former anchor and reporter with CBS 3. A lifelong South Jersey resident, she lives with her husband, Philadelphia 76ers Radio Play-by-Play Broadcaster Tom McGinnis, and their two children in Burlington County.

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 8 (November, 2014).
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