A media driven childhood

By: Victoria Greco

Throughout my childhood, I have experienced so many things that made it so memorable, and so forgettable. Running outside, pretending we were in a magical forest in the woods surrounding our home was a favorite. On rainy days when my grandmother forbade me to play outside in the puddles that called to me to splash around in them, I watched TV. Although I would watch “The Price is Right” and be very confused, but drawn in by “Plinko” and Bob Barker’s manner of speaking, what I recall most are the children’s shows of my time. Scripted media, through video games, television and books served as an imaginative get-a-way from the reality of my childhood. There were a plethora of shows on many networks, Nickelodeon and PBS at certain times being the top choice on a rainy afternoon. I recall my science lessons not from school but from “Bill Nye the Science Guy”. Geography was taught by the children’s game show “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego”, with Greg Lee and Lynn Thigpen as my fellow gumshoe and chief respectively, as I would shout at the TV with glee what the answers were.

The lessons of my youth were taught by my grandparents and my father, yes, but they were also taught to me by Mr. Rodgers, and catchy songs about how to avoid strangers by many other shows, including G.I. Joe. When the weather would grow cold and afternoons could not be spent outdoors, I spent them inside, watching TV or playing video games with friends or by myself. I read quite a lot as well, and as time progressed, friends became few and my books became many.

When I was in my later years in Catholic elementary school, I was a social outcast. My curiosity for the world around me, my creativity and passion for reading and drawing were seen as weird, so I hid behind the literary world of Brian Jaques’ Redwall series, helped Mario save the Princess from the evil but cool Bowser, and became introduced to the world of anime. A couple American favorites were replaced with the Tenchi Muyo series on Cartoon Network. I gained some friends at a day camp over the summer, and in those days we would make our own characters and pretend to be from the Redwall or Tenchi universe, running around the woods, battling with our swords made of heavy tree branches, our armor made from our imaginations. We played video games together and I became enthralled with classic video games I did not have when I was younger, such as Final Fantasy and Zelda. Soon I was escaping my troubled youth and a new threat, emerged my father’s new wife, who would verbally abuse me. Phrases like “God Tori, you’re so stupid,” “You’re ugly Tori, no boy will like you if you don’t wear makeup”, and “Only BOYS play video games, so are YOU a boy?!” echo through my mind, even to this day. My imagination was my only means of escape, as my brother left for college, my grandparents now resided in New Jersey, and my father wouldn’t believe me when I would tell him what happened when he was at work. He is a good father to me, but he never listened to my stories of what she would say to me. He assumed my active imagination was fueling my words to him, as if I were merely jealous of her presence.

My only outlet became my imagination and the worlds my books my television shows and my video games could take me. Many people believe television is the bane of childhood. They blame it for obesity in children. While I agree if a child does nothing but watch TV or play video games, it can be detrimental to their health. But if parents encourage their kids to go play outside, to express themselves with drawing or something else creative or supplement TV with entertaining books, I feel kids’ imaginations could soar beyond their wildest dreams. The world of children’s television has changed, yes. But the same standard applies. Too much media is bad for anyone, but not enough can hinder a child’s creative side as well. As Sonia Livingstone puts it, “…new media can be seen as productive, inviting us as a society to rethink widespread assumptions or challenge long-held beliefs or give recognition to submerged problems” (Livingstone, 2002, pg.5).

Edited by: Kevin Gold

Citations: Livingstone, S. (2002). Young people and new media. London, England.