I don’t need to tell you that television is ubiquitous. According to a 2009 Kaiser Family Foundation survey, there is an average of 3.8 televisions in homes that have a least one child between the ages 8-18. For most families, this outnumbers the number of people in the home. Our family has just 2 sets- and one of these is in our guest room. How many television sets is in your home and what you view should be a personal decision. But recently, I found myself frustrated yet again by my inability to escape the plethora of screens in public places.
This past weekend, I decided to take Sparky (age 6) on a weekend mommy-son getaway. Peaches was at camp and Hubby was out of town, so it was a great opportunity for some one-on-one bonding time with my boy. After a day of fun that included a trip to an aquarium, scootering on the boardwalk, and skee-ball at an arcade, we headed to dinner. I was looking forward to being able to give Sparky my undivided attention and really talk to him about whatever he wanted to. His only request for dinner was french fries, so we headed into the first bar and grill we saw. We walked in, and saw giant televisions everywhere, all projecting a Budweiser commercial. Sparky’s eyes went directly to the screen and immediately glazed over. (His simultaneous fascination/repulsion with media will be the topic of another post….). I knew this was not the atmosphere we wanted, so we left and headed down the street. Our second attempt was no better. This restaurant had individual flat-screen television sets in every booth! At this point, we were both starving, our choices within walking distance were limited, and the menu fit the bill, so I figured I would make the best of it. I requested a table in the back, away from the rest of the customers, and turned our TV screen off (much to Sparky’s dismay). We ordered our food, but I was soon distracted by Sparky’s inattention as his eyes flitted back and forth between me and a screen across the room. When I mentioned it to him, he admitted he didn’t want to watch it because it was scaring him, but he was having a hard time looking away. So, we switched seats so that he couldn’t see any screens. Success! Well, only for a minute. Into the booth behind us slid a couple with a baby, who decided to watch South Park during their meal. Sigh. I spent the rest of dinner speaking as loudly as possible, in an attempt to prevent Sparky from hearing the highly inappropriate content that was clearly within earshot. He couldn’t take his eyes off the cute cartoon characters at the table next door. Fast forward to the next morning, when we headed downstairs to enjoy our free breakfast at the hotel. The breakfast room was crowded with families. A giant television mounted on the wall was tuned into the local morning news, announcing every horrific event happening locally and nationally. Most of the people in the room were staring at the screen, so asking that it be turned off didn’t feel like an option. When I suggested we eat our food elsewhere, Sparky looked noticeably relieved. So that is why there is maple syrup on the floor of room 326 in a small hotel on the Oregon coast.
This is not the first time I have been frustrated by an inability to escape media in public places. Almost every time we fly, there is an inflight movie (usually PG-13 or R) projected on the screen in plain sight of all the passengers, and most contain graphic images. “Just tell your children not to look”, says the flight attendant. Uh huh, and also don’t look at that car crash the next time you drive by, right?
Everyone should have the right to make their own media choices. But in today’s media-saturated world, it is very hard to leave home and do so. What a shame.