By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
About an hour ago, something happened that made me realize we’ve had far too much TV time during the long holiday break from school. I came downstairs to make lunch and found 8-year-old Adam sitting at the counter watching the little kitchen television.
“Mom, you need one of those SunSetters,” he said.
“What’s a SunSetter, and why do I need one?” I asked.
“You know, it’s a thing that protects you from harmful UV rays and, if you order now, you’ll get $200 off! You just can’t find a better value anywhere,” he said, sounding much more like an infomercial than a little boy.
“I think we’re getting by just fine without a SunSetter. Let’s turn off the television for a while,” I said.
Thankfully, this particular commercial for motorized awnings was pretty harmless. But there are so many ads with phrases I don’t want my kids repeating. With television shows, there’s a programming schedule so you know when to avoid the cartoons and shows you don’t want your kids to see. Parents can even block entire channels if they want to.
With commercials, it’s a surprise attack. By the time you realize what the ad is for and try to change the channel, you’re already 15 seconds into it, which is just long enough for your kids to start asking what Trojans are. The ads pop up like a bad rash at the most inopportune times. (Ironically, some of the commercials are actually about bad rashes. But I digress.)
Can’t the television gurus come up with some kind of warning system so we parents have a fighting chance? A loud beep, maybe, to let us know something questionable is on the way? Raising kids is tough enough without having a toddler sing the theme song “Viva Viagra” during a visit from grandparents.
And who needs Viagra anyway? If the commercials from Victoria’s Secret don’t get a guy going, then I’m betting nothing will. My boys aren’t nearly old enough to meet Victoria and her model friends, so I wish they’d stop heaving their D-cup “secrets” all over our TV.
When I was a kid, the most embarrassing thing on television involved someone pouring blue liquid on maxi-pads to illustrate how absorbent they are. Every now and then, a Summer’s Eve commercial would come on and some poor lady would mention her “not-so-fresh” feeling, but that’s about as graphic as it ever got.
There are a lot more land mines on television today, and it’s getting tougher and tougher to dodge them. There are certain discussions the kids and I just aren’t ready for yet. I don’t want to explain why the man and woman in the KY personal lubricant commercials look so darn happy. I don’t want to tell them what a “Plan B” over-the-counter pill might do. And we sure don’t want to tell them that some people actually take “male enhancement vitamins.” Can’t we just let them be kids who aren’t burdened with too much adult information?
Believe me, I’m not anti-advertising. I love a clever ad campaign and worked on several of them during my pre-kids career. I just wish that, at least during the day and early evening hours, we could see ads for things like Cheerios and Band-Aids and Tide and Welch’s grape jelly – things that kids can more easily wrap their minds around.
I guess we all realize that childhoods aren’t nearly as innocent as they once were. But kids are growing up soon enough without having the world push them along faster in 30-second doses.