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Jewish World Review Jan. 24, 2003 / 21 Shevat, 5763

Tom Purcell

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Consumer Reports

"Gimme the, goo-goo, gah-gah, remote!" | A new Tufts University study concludes babies as young as 12 months are significantly affected by the images they see on television. To learn more about the adverse affects television has on our young, I contacted an expert: my nephew.

"Look, Brennan, a psychology professor found that children as young as 12 months are making decisions based on the emotional reactions not only of the people around them. Her study was published in the journal Child Development."

"Sounds interesting."

"The researcher says that babies carefully watch other people for cues about the world. For instance, a mother urging her baby to eat 'yummy' soup can encourage the baby to like soup, whereas a brother crying in fear when a dog approaches can make the baby fearful of dogs."

"Makes sense to me."

"Well, the study also found that babies as young as 12 months are responding to the emotional cues of actors and people they see on television."

"Emotional cues, Uncle Tom?"

"Yes, in the study children were shown videotape of actors reacting to objects such as a red spiral letter holder, a blue bumpy ball and a yellow garden hose attachment. When the actors responded positively to an object, the babies were happy to play with those objects. But when the actor seemed to be afraid or disgusted, the baby would avoid the object."

"Go on."

"Well, with all the garbage on television today, I wondered how it is affecting the way children see the world. See, when I was a little one, I watched great shows like Captain Kangaroo and Mister Rogers every morning. How does morning television affect you?"

"I usually start off the day with Good Morning America, and, boy, are those newscasters mad at President Bush. They don't think he should attack Saddam, even though Saddam is a really mean man."

"But aren't there programs on that show children how to have fun with arts and crafts?"

"Sure, I never miss Martha Stewart. I can' tell you how elated I am that mom and dad have finally remodeled the living room using colors and accessories reflective of Martha's spring line."

"But when I was a child, we used to watch Romper Room. We'd play fun games and at the end of every show, the host would look into the Magic Mirror so she could see into our homes. Then she'd call out our names. That was great fun."

"And nothing but a scam, Uncle Tom. You actually bought that silly mirror gimmick?"

"But don't you want to learn fun games, play with fun toys or go outside with your friends to have fun?

"You kidding me, Uncle Tom? You see how many toys are recalled every year due to defects that can kill? And how can a kid go outside today with all the weirdoes out there waiting to cause us trouble? Don't you watch Cops or America's Most Wanted?"

"Look, Brennan, when I was a child, television captured my imagination. I wanted to grow up to be an astronaut or a fighter pilot. What do you want to be?"

"Fighter pilot! I want nothing to do with the military industrial complex. Protesting looks fun, though."

"Wouldn't you like to get a good job, marry and have a family?"

"Ha! You ever see some of those cats who pass through Divorce Court? Those married people make outrageous accusations about each other. Besides, why would a guy ever want to marry with so many good looking women out there?"

"You've been watching The Bachelor!"

"Uncle Tom, the dude only makes 19 grand a year, yet he's got gorgeous women all over the place. Is this a great country or what?"

"Let me get this right, Brennan. Television has made you terrified by world events. You are afraid to venture outside to play. And yet you have learned to value material things and superficial people. These are certainly not the values your mother and father are teaching you. They surely had no idea you were sucking in so much negative information just from being near the television."

"I suppose not."

"I have to tell you, Brennan, it disturbs me that your exposure to television has made you so cynical at such a young age. How old are you, by the way?"

"I'll be 13 months next week."

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01/21/03: "Misunderestimated"
01/10/03: Republican night life
01/06/03: Exercise pills
12/31/02: They provide unending joy to those who are wise enough to let them in
12/13/02: Hurried Man Syndrome
12/06/02: In DC, snowstorms have important ramifications --- or, at least, they should
11/26/02: Police advertising
11/15/02: An Interview with Osama
11/01/02: How to vote in America
10/25/02: On edge in Washington, D.C
10/11/02: Giving new meaning to "selling your body"
10/04/02: Bush's Angels
09/27/02: Conservatives, Liberals, Dick Armey and Barry Manilow
09/20/02: Are SUV drivers are the new GOPers?
09/13/02: Bubba is Dubya's man
09/06/02: The Freedom to Picnic
08/16/02: Ah, the $izzle of anti-terrorist pork
08/09/02: Vacationless prez and gutless Americans
07/26/02: Study gives women permission not to hide their emotions
07/15/02: Patriot food
06/28/02: Eavesdropping on a San Fran classroom
06/21/02: The crowded skies
06/14/02: Contemporary Father's Day: A conversation for the ages
06/07/02: Legal rights for animals?
05/19/02: Advice for prom goers this year: Hold onto your money
05/10/02: Don't take her for granted
05/03/02: Letter to the parents of a tubby teen
04/26/02: Zacarias Moussaoui gets expert legal advice

© 2002, Tom Purcell