I’ve recently realized a truly disturbing trend in many of our young adult tv shows and books of today. This is actually not something new but attention to it has been exacerbated by tragedies of rising school shootings and teen suicide. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really realize it until I sat down with my seven year old son and started watching some of the shows he was watching. As he grows, his taste begins to change. Cartoons like, “Go Diego Go” and “Team Umizoomi,” no longer fit the bill. The shows which usually appear on Nick Jr and Disney Jr has been replaced with more preteen oriented shows on Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and The Disney Channel.
At first glance, the change seems subtle. But as I sit there consuming the content my son finds enjoyable I begin to feel a bit uncomfortable by the underline message many of these shows portray. My initial intention, was to simply spend time, then an uncomfortable realization crept over me. The parents of these shows are seen as goofy, unrealistic, and often times unlike any parent I’ve ever come across; really not parents at all. The parents are often the comic relief, while the real living and problem solving, crime fighting and healing of hurts are all borne by the teenager or sometimes preteen of the story. Parents are perpetually sidelined, while the teens are left to solve, sometimes adult situations, all on their own.
In our YA and Mid-Grade novels the parents often meet an untimely end at the very beginning of the story or before the story starts. That way, the young protag can run off on an adventure without the restricting hand of a guardian.
To see this very trend carry from a mid-grade audience into the young adult world is actually quite troubling. A child raised on television would have endured hundreds of hours of programming. I’ve met teens and even adults fresh out of their teens years express their disappointment in their parents. “They don’t understand me. They just don’t get what I’m going through.” It’s hard not to believe that the shows of today play a part in this disconnect in the family. When a child for many years grows up believe parents are incompetent. And to be honest, if my friends don’t have the answer then I sure enough don’t expect my parents to know.
Now, I do understand that there are parents who remain aloof as to the well being of their children’s mental and spiritual well being. I understand that a parent is the first line of defense and many of the issues can be nipped in the bud with a mildly attentive parent. All too often, parents leave it up to the child to find their way. They want to allow the child to quote and quote, “FIND THEMSELVES.”
Shows like “13 Reason’s Why,” and others tell our kids how to feel, think, and behave. How will they find their way? Parents need to know that their wisdom is valuable. Parents, you have something to give. Even if it’s a different perspective. Even if it’s undying love and support when you’re feeling especially speechlessness. Your input into your child’s life from an early age into adulthood is sorely needed. The teen suicide rate is proof of this. Lead them and don’t just leave your child, new to the trickery of the world, to fend for themselves. I guarantee there are many mediums out their vying for their attention. No…not only their attention, vying for their identity.
This article was inspired by this Fox News report on Teen Suicide.