WHY Parents and Teachers Need to Watch the Same Television Shows as Students Do

As a parent or teacher (even outside of America, and regardless of your religion or lifestyle), have you tried to instill proper values and behavior in your own children or students, yet watched while the following values and behavior appeared instead?  Have you wondered where this has been coming from?

  • Requesting a bulldog
  • Popularity of sushi
  • Proliferation of fake ID’s and even younger high school students attempting to use them
  • Underage drinking, even at home parties, where parents leave and let children party alone
  • Obsession with champagne
  • A sudden interest in learning Burlesque dancing
  • Requesting or attempting underage driving
  • Obsession with Ivy League colleges
  • Teenage obsession with wearing only “designer” dresses
  • Thinking it’s not normal for parents to make a “curfew” time
  • The idea that even young teenagers “go where they want, and do what they want,” and that “their parents give them the freedom to do so just like adults;”  they TELL their parents what they are doing, rather than ASK them.
  • Girls (even young girls) acting in a sexually aggressive manner toward boys (girls insisting that they both take off clothes)
  • Girls thinking that it’s normal to date older men secretly without their parents knowing about it
  • Thinking that normal parents just go to bed, and “don’t wait up for their high school children who come home late.”
  • Sassy, angry attitude toward any parents who question any of the above assumptions!
  • The idea that “success” in life equates ONLY to how much money you have, and how “glamorous” you appear to others!
  • Honesty, dependability, responsibility, and/or service to humanity are unfashionable, boring, stupid, and undesirable
  • Kindness to others is “out;” while “one-upsmanship” and rude “put-downs” at the expense of others are “in”
  • An expectation that life is supposed to be one continuous “party”

Any parent or teacher who is having trouble understanding teenage values and behavior today should IMMEDIATELY watch the three television series Beverly Hills 90210 ; Gossip Girl; and 90210 (a different show than Beverly Hills 90210).   Even watching a couple of episodes of each show will give you an idea of where this culture is coming from.  (Click on these titles for direct links to the series which should work worldwide.  Make sure to start with Season 1, Episode 1.)    These new values are coming directly from television.

Unfortunately, teenagers are now watching these shows WORLDWIDE.  Some are watching on the internet, in English (especially with the global rise in study of English, it is now accessible).  But in most countries, these shows are now dubbed in local languages, and right on the television.  Not only is American culture changing, but world culture is assuming that these TV shows represent traditional American values (which they most assuredly do NOT).

The people who made these shows recognized that they are FANTASIES of how teenagers WISH their lives were.  That’s what makes them fun to watch.  However, unfortunately, the children who grew up watching these (without any input from their parents) grew up assuming that this is what they WOULD be able to do as teenagers, and now, the upper middle classes ARE DOING it. Some of the middle class parents don’t know that their children are behaving this way.  Among more conservative families, parents should BEWARE if their child asks to spend the night with another family, because they are often going out, or even sneaking out to nightclubs.  It doesn’t help that the full age of majority in many countries is 18, rather than 21.

I live in the Middle East, and throughout our region, this is exactly how most teenagers are behaving.  The emphasis in our region is all on appearances to create the impression with others that you are rich (even if you are not).  Most of those who are rich turn their children (even girls) loose with plenty of money and the family chauffeur (usually driving an expensive, black, four-wheel-drive vehicle) for the weekend.  They certainly don’t wait up for their children to come home at night.  Most of the kids have fake ID’s and go to night clubs (which don’t even open until 11).  Their age is clear, but they just slip $20 to the doorman, who lets them in.

Father Knows Best

In the past couple of years, I’ve read a number of articles where generations following the baby boomers are now criticizing the work ethic of baby-boomers (born 1946-1960) and wondering where this work ethic came from.  It’s very clear to me now.  It came directly from TELEVISION (as well as from our parents, and from society in general).

Shows during the 1950s and 1960s (and even into the 1970s) showed children working hard, being kind, taking responsibility, and most importantly, GETTING RESPECT FROM OTHERS FOR DOING SO.  Some of these shows were Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver, The Rifleman, The Waltons, and Little House on the Prairie.   In contrast, teenagers who behave this way today don’t get any respect from others.  Instead, they get “USED BY OTHERS” (in the words of a teenager I tutor).  Today, it’s showing-off and acting in accordance with the list above that gets a teenager respect from other teenagers.

–Lynne Diligent

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7 Responses to “WHY Parents and Teachers Need to Watch the Same Television Shows as Students Do”

  1. Abdelmjid Says:

    Thanks Lynne for this great and interesting post.
    I want to participate with some of my humble observations.

    I started working in a countryside last September. In this period of time, I discovered that teenagers are not the same everywhere. For example, teenagers here do not have that same amount of access to TV and to international shows. Therefore, they are not subjected to the same dangers as their peers in the city.
    Also, I think that social classes make a difference here. I believe that what is described in your article applies to middle and upper middle class teenagers (those with important financial abilities whose parents provide them with every and anything they want, from “designer” clothes to cars). Whereas most, if not all, of my students are very poor, and that’s also a determinant factor which elucidates the difference between teenagers.

    Most of my students in this countryside area are wear torn clothes and so on. So, Fashion isn’t in their top priorities, and they don’t even know what night clubs are. They don’t speak foreign languages and some of them can’t even write their own names! Consequently, their access to these series gets minimized even if they have TV sets.

    This however, does not make dealing with teenagers in the countryside any easier. They have issues, too.
    My biggest problem with them (as a teacher), is that involving them in the learning process is so difficult. Students in the countryside are distracted because of repeated failure experiences, inhibitions and because they don’t have the required level to excel or even be average students (They pass even if they get very low marks!). They don’t pay attention inside the classroom and don’t do their homeworks. They even fight in the schoolyard from time to another, and some of them even get involved in minor crimes.

    When I think of these problems, I come to the conclusion that parents responsible in all cases. They should pay more attention to how they bring up their kids and they should keep an eye on them as they grow up. Money doesn’t solve all problems, it actually creates many other. So, I can only affirm that while some have troubles because they don’t have enough money, others have problems because they have TOO much money!

    Thank you, Lynne 🙂

    • Lynne Diligent Says:

      Thank you for pointing out that everyone overseas has access yet to these programs, and that some families are still raising their children with traditional values in traditional ways.

  2. Judy Says:

    I remember having a discussion with my Russian teacher in Azerbaijan about her first encounters with North American women. She was shocked to see how casually they dressed (running shoes and jeans), how little make-up they wore and that many were overweight. When I asked her why this surprised her she said that they looking nothing like the women on The Bold and Beautiful (then a very popular daytime soap on Russian TV)!

  3. Lynne Diligent Says:

    Comment from MWD on Facebook: “This is a great piece, Lynne. I haven’t watched these shows, but I have sampled others such as Glee and agree with you. Movies and books all contribute to these attitudes and behaviors as well. I remember students in the 90’s telling me that they didn’t want to appear “scholarly” to their peers, so they dumbed down their school performance. We had some lengthy debates.”

  4. Lynne Diligent Says:

    Comment from JH on Facebook: “Very nice piece (and so is Abdelmjid’s comment). Those three shows, luckily, are exceptionally tired, cliche-ridden, and mean-spirited. Hopefully my daughter won’t be into those types of shows. Glee, on the other hand, and possibly unfortunately, was very well-done in its first two seasons and we got hooked. By the way, you don’t mention this in your list, but another irritating thing is how shows like Glee make bullying seem normal, like you’re almost expected to do it if your one of the ‘elite’ kids, and you just accept being bullied as normal if your one of the uncool kids. Pretty sure that’s not the reality in almost all U.S. high schools but maybe Glee is changing things in the wrong direction.”

    • Lynne Diligent Says:

      –Thankfully, Karen, teaching in an international school overseas, we haven’t yet become subject to all this testing! I agree it totally takes away from real learning time. –Lynne

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