A new kind of childhood

Opposite sides of the world once again teeter into balance and it’s horribly ironic.

The BBC has announced a £25 million boost to children’s television to accompany the entourage of first rate comedians hosting recent shows. We are assured that this investment in UK children’s television will result in good quality programming by these performers otherwise known for racial, sexual and class jeering, amongst other things.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Agency for International Development pulls funding for the Palestinians’ Sesame Street sister show, Sharaa Simsim.

Sharaa Simsim is heralded as an “educational tool to foster diversity appreciation” by Danny Labin, TV executive for the Israeli TV channel. In such a pluralistic, war torn country it is both a disgrace to think that children may only see exemplary behaviour in the form of puppets and a travesty that this asylum is no longer available.

Despite maintaining what seems an evidently inappropriate image, David Baddiel, James Corden, Harry Hill, and others have been recruited by the BBC to stimulate children’s programming. Presumably the funding is a necessity to boost dwindling popularity or ratings – the possibility of a motive not grounded on financial gain is too baffling to consider.

In fact, it seems comedians have been drawn to children’s programmes because surveys show that children are in fact the larger proportion of their fan base. Such findings have served as a financial incentive for the BBC and the comedians involved – nothing excites more than an uncultivated niche market.

There is a dark side to this discovery that children watch a significant amount of adult comedy. Although not apparently any cause for concern, controlling the exposure of inappropriate material to children ought to be the responsibility of the BBC. No one has any expectations for parents any more. After all, in the words of Philip Larkin, they fuck you up your mum and dad, they may not mean to but they do.

This arrangement is, however, very comic. David Baddiel, guest starring in the BBC’s Horrible Histories series, boasts a stand up set that includes wisecracks about his porn collection. I suppose that’s adult humour.

It is also laughable that the BBC feels the need to invest funding in what is arguably a thriving industry. Children interact with digital media excessively. Studies show that 10 per cent of babies less than 12 months old,and 52 per cent of children aged five to eight use mobile media regularly.

There are, of course, advantages to mobile, interactive, and digital media and technology. The cost of an iPad 2 costs £399 from the Apple website. In addition, the device, its rechargeable battery, and all accessories come with a one year warranty as standard. A babysitter costs roughly £5 per hour and therefore over the course of one year is far less economical. It is also worthwhile to bear in mind that whilst being significantly less reliable than an Apple product, the babysitter also requires a lift home at the end of the evening.

It also goes without saying that a Wii Fit induced simulation of a ski slope is a far superior form of exercise than actually kicking a ball; and as for this overrated “fresh air” we hear so much about, the less said about that the better.

The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) discourages the use of  all media for children less than two years of age. This follows research that found inhibited brain growth in infants who lack direct interaction with parents and caregivers. For older children, the AAP recommends less than two hours of screen time per day.

Increasingly illusive television shows are now broadcast for children who expect, demand and depend upon regular media stimulation. Few seem to consider the implications of our children’s addiction. After all, the computer geek stereotype, as with all stereotypes, founds itself on fact. “It’s funny ‘cause it’s true”, any comedian would say.

Comedians’ careers are spent satirising and criticising human errors that will never be corrected. In much the same way, the force of technology and media is a rolling stone that no one has the power to slow. Perhaps the BBC has the right idea. If technology is the future it is our responsibility to embrace it and prepare our children for it.

As Bob Holness the host of Blockbuster dies aged 83, we mourn both the man and the simpler technological past his naff trivia game show represented. In response to the news, senior Labour frontbencher Ed Milliband tweeted: “Sad to hear that Bob Holness has died. A generation will remember him fondly from Blackbuster”. I don’t think that many children today would make such a tech boo boo.


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