Every day since the first of December, our family has opened one of our little advent sacks and read the message inside, and have enjoyed completing the Christmassy activity or tasks each day. Yesterday's message read,
There are a lot of movies about Christmas. Today we are going to watch a Christmas movie.
In hindsight, I should have hired a Christmas movie from the video shop. Instead, we checked ahead to see what was showing on free-to-air TV and decided to watch 'The Grinch Who Stole Christmas' on commercial TV. (Also, in hindsight, I really should have picked a movie that I had seen ahead of time. I found The Grinch to be a little too 'old' for our kids.)
Our kids rarely watch TV, and when they do, the only watch ABC2 or DVDs that we have handpicked. We keep them very sheltered from the media, as far as we can, as we believe that there is plenty of time for them to be bombarded with the messages and pressure of the media and modern society, and their innocence and childhoods are a gift to be treasured, protected and nurtured.
Last night, I watched my girls watch TV. I watched them take in the ads, the suggestions that they should want this product or that, that this object or that one would make them happy. I watched them watch news headlines, and promotion clips for other TV shows.
I wondered why, in a G-rated family movie at a 7pm timeslot, the channel would feel the need to air news headlines about brawls and murders, complete with confronting images. I wondered why they would advertise M-rated TV shows, complete with clips that I feel were definitely not appropriate for children. Why would I want my young children to see that? If I, as a mother, make the choice to allow my children to watch something that has been deemed appropriate for young children, then shouldn't that child-appropriateness naturally extend to the commercial breaks as well?
Unfortunately, a little research told me that my stance is not shared by the governing bodies in charge of monitoring TV advertising standards and viewing safety. Apparently, it is allowable for TV stations to air promotion of M rated material during G or PG programs in an evening timeslot, as long as the promotional material meets the requirements of the G or PG rating. In other words, as long as the ad doesn't show too much, it's ok. A bit of online searching led me to a complaint made to the Australian Communications and Media Authority about an ad for a M rated show that was aired during an evening sporting telecast, which is legally assumed to be PG rated.The ACMA found in favour of the TV station saying that although the
"promotion does contain depictions of sexual behaviour and references to sexual activity... [it] is considered to be restrained, as the sexual activity is implied rather than explicitly depicted [and is] mild in impact."
Which leads me to question, were the images of a young girl involved in a violent brawl in Northbridge this weekend being roughly thrown into the back of a police van considered to be mild in impact? What about the news voice over detailing the discovery of a body in WA bushland, of a man presumed to be murdered? Even the news is a product to be sold these days - news images are chosen carefully for maximum impact as ratings are ruthlessly sought. Shock and sex sells, and our children are not immune to this.
How about the ads for fast food and alcohol? Should it not be a shared societal responsibility (media included) to protect our children from obesity, poor health and the normalisation of alcohol consumption? What about (and I fear I may not have as many supporters here) the messages that come through in product advertisement? The idea that Christmas is about getting lots of presents, that we should always want more? Or the ad that depicts two men competing with each other over who has the 'best' and 'biggest' camping gear?
Last night's foray into commercial 'family' TV reaffirmed for me the choice we have made to embrace a simpler, more mindful and definitely less commercial Christmas - or, indeed, any other time of the year.