“I am not as good of a person because I play that game,” I confessed to a colleague earlier this week in reference to Grand Theft Auto V, the latest iteration of the boundary-pushing franchise which moral crusaders love to hate. Its release served as one of two recent events which prompted me to reevaluate the effect of media upon minds young and old.
The other event involved my four-year-old son, whose development has taken off over a summer at home with his mother on maternity leave. The previous year left us concerned, as he was slow to talk, reluctant to engage with other children, and prone to tantrums which defied our efforts at discipline. He now rattles on as if his life depended on it, communicating with increasing creativity and sophistication. That affords us a wider window into his developing mind which has revealed just how impressionable he — and presumably all children — can be.
The influence which media can have upon my son proved dramatic this week after he watched Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. A cartoon spin-off of the classic PBS series Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, the new show chronicles the adventures of preschooler Daniel Tiger in the world of Make-Believe. Utilizing techniques which have become standard operating procedure in children’s programming, such as speaking directly to children through the camera and soliciting response, the show takes kids on a tour of new experiences like going to school or visiting the doctor.
Understand that my son has always been terrified of the doctor’s office. A dual ear infection which occurred earlier this year was torturous for all of us. My son has required reassurance to get him into a drug store, let alone a clinic. So imagine my surprise when, after journeying through the magic of television to the doctor’s office with Daniel Tiger, my son was suddenly eager to submit to an exam. He’s been stomping around enthusiastically all week, talking about sitting in the waiting room, reading books until the doctor comes, and getting to listen to his own heart.
Daniel Tiger did in twenty-one minutes what his mother and I could not accomplish in four years. That’s the power of media.