Below you will find a ridiculous, mean-spirited example of why TV sucks these days. The mindless drones at Fox and Friends waste several minutes discussing how FRED ROGERS ruined a generation of children with his “you are special” message. I was one of those children who watched Mr. Rogers every day. I watched Sesame Street and Electric Company and Saturday cartoons. There were a few other shows that I watched, but not many. Why? Because we only had a few channels and kid’s programming wasn’t available 24/7. Instead, I read books, explored the woods, built forts, went fishing, read books, played make-believe games, and listened to music.
Jump ahead thirty-plus years…kids have computers, laptops, smartphones, handheld gaming devices, tablets, e-readers, iPods, several generations of X-Box, Playstation, etc. There is nonstop television, any movie or tv show you want to watch on-demand, DVRs to record them all. Every kid has a device that can take pictures and record, keep them in touch with their friends, Facebook, Twitter, Redditt…you get the picture. Kids are not required to use their imaginations or focus on a single thing at any time. And we adults have been numbed and disconnected by technology as well.
The Fox and Friends jokers go on and on about how Mr. Rogers ruined a bunch of kids by telling them “you are special” although they weren’t special at all. It caused them to grow up entitled and lazy. They reference “some professor” and “a study,” but never elucidate which person and study they are talking about.
Well, I’m no expert on anything, but I suspect that part of the reason that Gen Xers like me aren’t doing so well has nothing to do with Mr. Rogers. Many of us had divorced parents and had to shuffle back and forth between them. We spent much time alone, due to both parents working, giving rise to the term “latch-key kids.” This made us both independent and more likely to respect our marriage vows. It made us more involved in our children’s lives, because we knew how painful it was when parents didn’t have time for their kids.
We have lived through historic inflation, stagflation, and several recessions. We put ourselves through college, racking up massive student loans, only to find there were no jobs waiting on the other side. The American Dream lost its luster after its heyday in the 50s and 60s, because along came trickle-down economics and later the lords of austerity, just when we needed help the most. Living under crushing debt, we still manage to do some things right.
Bridging the time before widely available computers and technology and the modern day, Gen Xers are comfortable in both worlds. Gen Xers are people like Jon Stewart, who skewers politicians and modern media on a nightly basis with humor and occasional brilliance. Gen Xers have brought us Google and YouTube, which basically brings the world to our very fingertips. Gen X is more socially responsible, aware, tolerant, and accepting of differences than previous generations.
But I won’t go on about how awesome my generation is, because I don’t believe it is any better or worse than any other generation. Whatever our flaws, they were not spawned by Mr. Rogers, who, so far as I can tell, was a truly good man, a patriot, and a humanitarian. I truly loved the man and his make-believe neighborhood that didn’t resemble my own in the slightest. How dare he give encouragement to this lonely generation?
Turn off the television! I am the first to admit that I am overly addicted to technology, but I think cancelling my cable subscription has been the smartest thing I’ve done lately. We have been eating as a family more often, getting outside more, reading more, and talking to each other more, just plain LIVING LIFE more! What could be wrong with that? We still have our holy internet and our little tech devices. It takes baby steps to wean one’s self off of total access all the time.
For some reason, our Internet has been spotty lately. The other day, my daughter was whining about being bored because the Internet was down. In typical parent-fashion, I started spouting off about how we didn’t have such things to distract us when we were little. “My dad used to say only stupid people get bored! We didn’t have computers/internet/DVR/smartphones…” blah, blah, blah. I was inwardly cringing, listening to myself and sounding so much like my own parents when I whined about not having an Atari or a VCR. My daughter laughed and wondered what she would rant at her own kids about. We mused about that, imagining the scenario: “We didn’t have bionic limbs and instant download of knowledge to our brains and warp-speed transporters and cell regenerators!” The more things change, the more things stay the same.
One thing I know is that kids are indeed special. They are hope, they are the future. It can never, ever be wrong to tell them so. Don’t worry about giving them a little bit of confidence, because the world is waiting to beat them down. You don’t have to help. Fox and Friends, I would really like to see that “study.”