Media and me…

This is actually in reply to C:  (I hope I don’t ramble too much.)

Generally, I thought I grew up at a good time, and in a good balance.  When I was just knee high to a grasshopper, or until I was 9, my family only had 5 channels over-the-air.  That was ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, PBS.  And it was back when ABC wasn’t owned by Disney, so cartoons were awesome.  We didn’t watch a lot of TV, but we did watch Saturday morning cartoons.  And my parents had some recorded cartoons (complete with commercials–we didn’t mind).  I’ve watched a lot of Winnie the Pooh that way.  I grew up watching Sesame Street, Bill Nye, Reading Rainbow, The Magic School Bus, and even a dose of Barney.

At about 9, we moved across town into a bigger house and soon after moving, my parents got a nice TV for the family room.  They also got cable.  Now we had experienced cable at my grandparents’, and we loved Nickelodeon.  So when my family got cable, we would watch Nick, Cartoon Network, and the Disney Channel.  Now sometime around this time, Disney had bought ABC, and instantly, ABC morning cartoons went from awesome (Sonic the Hedgehog and Reboot) to crappy (Pepper Ann and Recess).  At the same time, more and more dumb programs entered Nick, CN, and the DiCh.  Luckily, because we hadn’t had cable during our younger years, TV was just something you watched when there wasn’t anything better.  While still younger, my sisters and I would still watch Disney movies and those recorded shows we had.  But we got out of the house a lot, and we weren’t addicted to TV.  And by the time shows got really dumb, we knew it and could avoid them.  We completely avoided the Disney Channel onslaught of self-proclaimed star actors.

But probably the best timed event for us chillins was the internet.  In ’94, my parents bought our first computer.  With 12MB RAM and a 256MB hard drive, this baby was loaded with Windows 3.1.1, had a state-of-the-art CD-ROM drive.  Plus it had a joystick.  This baby could play Doom and Descent better than any computer out there.  The internet still just a sparkle in Al Gore’s eye.  (Actually, nerdy professors and government types had been using the internet for years, but it still wasn’t main stream.)

Then when I was in middle school, we got it.  The internet.  Yes, back when digital cameras took pictures at a whopping 640×480 resolution and recorded to a floppy disk, we got the internet.  Like so many back then, we got America Online.  AOL was cool then.  It had chat, it had chat rooms.  We could go online and talk with random people.  Then that became dangerous, but we were old enough to listen and just chatted with family.  Email was still cool, and that’s what we did.  The intertubes weren’t full of YouTubes and Wikipedia yet.  I had a Yahoo! account and remember WebCrawler being a cool search engine.  There wasn’t as much garbage yet, or if there was, it wasn’t so IN-YOUR-FACE as it is now.  We had dial-up, and that was awesome.

So what’s all this got to do with anything?  Timing. The timing of all these things was perfect for a developing human bean.  I only had limited access to the media in my youngest years, nicely filtered by parents and PBS.  I had good programs that taught something meaningful.  And there wasn’t any of the crap trying to teach me Spanish (yeah, I hate you and your awful accent, Dora).  (Note: I know Spanish, and it’s cool to know, but the biggest mistake the US ever made was not proclaim English as a national language.)

Back on subject…

Once we were a little older, we got a bit more media.  When I was old enough to choose the Discover Channel or The Learning Channel before Nickelodeon.  I think that was important, because when I was sitting in front of the television, at least I was learning something instead of purely rotting my brain.

But probably the most important timing was our exposure to the World Wide Web.  And my parents were smart enough to filter us from the get-go.  I didn’t have full access to the webs until a year or two after we had had it.  And by that time I was in high school, getting straight A’s and holding down a part time job.  I could be trusted.

Another aspect of me growing up, but not so much my sisters: video games.  I like ’em.  They’re fun.  When I started playing, all we had was games like Mario Bros.  Now with stuff like Grand Theft Auto, it’s hard to find a game that doesn’t drop the F bomb every sentence or show some cyber boobs.  I just wanted to steal cars and shoot mafia.  I shouldn’t have to be plundered by continual cuss words.

Now I could have a few details a bit wrong, but that’s about how it happened with me, and I think it worked out well.  I turned out alright.  So when it comes to my kids, I want to somehow replicate that with them.  (Sorry C, I’m just barely getting to really answering your question.)  When my kids are 0-10, I want to keep them in a nice bubble of DVDs and recorded material.  You can’t trust anything on the TV anymore, and you can’t trust the internet.  Plus, then they won’t see stupid commercials and want everything under the sun.  Plus, I’m going to keep Disney from showing 6 million previews at the beginning of each movie… but I regress.  Basically, until my kids are in the double digits, they can watch any movie or program that we’ve got, but that’s gonna be it.  Video games: probably not during this age.  Internet: they don’t need it, and I don’t want them on it.

Now, once they’re getting older, say from 10-15, I’d like to just send them away so I don’t have to go through the pre-teens.  But alas, I’ll love them, so I’ll keep them around.  And as they get older, I think we’ll let them watch TV, play video games, and get on the Net.  We’re not going to have filth on our TV, so that’s gonna be easy to filter.  Video games, since they’re a physical media and device (at least for now), should be easy too.  No Mature games (heck, mature games bother me anymore).  The internet is going to be the hardest.  Luckily, a background in computer engineering and computer science should come in useful here.  The family computer: clearly visible in the family room, and allowed only to connect to white-listed websites.

I don’t worry too much about getting good stuff for my kids.  If you look, you can easily find great stuff from our generation’s younger years.  But where I worry is all the bad stuff.  There’s so much of it these days, and it’s only going to get worse.  It’s getting harder and harder to keep filth and garbage out of homes.  And it’s mostly to do with the internet and media in general.  The internet is really a mixed blessing.

I’m not sure if I answered your question, C, but I tried.

Currently listening to: “Fireflies” by Owl City

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