What this post is not:
A scientific, statistically proven, expert-driven, academic or otherwise opinionated analysis of why tv shows with commercials are not recommended for small children.
What this post is:
A personal observation of how the continuous interruption of tv commercials affected my children’s behaviour.
My kids watch some tv. They watch a commercial-free children’s station called Treehouse (although they do sneak in the odd tv commercial), and they watch dvds.
In principle, they do not have much exposure to commercials, advertisements, or brand pushing. They are not immune to it; they are limited to it.
One evening, one of us adults flipped around looking for something to watch on tv. We came across a station called YTV, which was playing the classic movie The Wizard of Oz.
We thought…hey, this is a movie our small children might enjoy? Let’s try and sit down with them and watch it for a bit. See how they react to it.
So we did.
Generally speaking, our kids are not movie people. They do not have a lot of experience with movies, and previous attempts to show them a movie didn’t always turn out successfully (as in, the 4yo would get bored or scared or both and start playing with his Lego, or something to that effect).
This movie however appeared to have some appeal. At least initially, until the scarier parts came up. Unfortunately for us, we realized that the movie was about halfway through by the time we noticed it was on, so the wicket witch and the flying monkeys made somewhat of a negative impression on Benjamin.
But not so negative as those irritating tv commercials that intercepted the movie every 7 minutes or so.
During the first commercial break, the kids sat entranced, watching the endless parade of toy advertisement. I watched their faces, and I noticed some confusion on the older child’s face. Was this part of the movie? Where did that scary witch go? He realized quickly enough though that it wasn’t part of the movie, yet he remained fixated on the screen.
By the time the second series of commercials interrupted the movie, both kids started getting active on the couch. There was some kicking of the feet, some fighting over the blanket, and some annoying noise-making.
Javadad just looked at me and said “look how the commercials are affecting them”.
And this is not even a comment directed at the commercial content!
Honestly, by the time the third series of toy commercials finished, I was feeling rather annoyed, even violent, myself. The amount of absolute crap that these sponsors are encouraging their viewers to purchase is criminal, if you ask me.
There was about an 40 minutes left of the movie. Each 7 or 8 minutes, there was a commercial break. Each new commercial break produced more, not less, activity in the kids. Activity in the form of fidgeting, whining, or jumping around.
This is not what I call relaxed family time.
Must I mention it was evening and down-time, also known as quiet-time? Watching this movie on this tv station was obviously a mistake.
It leaves me to ponder things. How is it possible that so many children are allowed to watch tv before bedtime? Or anytime, for that matter? Do other people’s children react to commercials the way my kids do? How is this handled by the parents? Or do the kids (and parents) eventually get completely desensitized?
It’s sad. But it’s also eye-opening. The commercials do succeed in selling their products. Almost all birthday parties I have taken my kids to prove this point. The bulk of toys these children receive are identical to the advertisements on tv, and are mirrored on mainstream, chain and big-box toy store shelves.
And with this thought, we enter what is known in North America as the holiday shopping season.