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Condescension in kids programming

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

TV talking down to kids

I'm fairly careful about what the kids watch on television. Particularly when they were small, I tried to limit television in general, and what they did watch was typically PBS. Alfs for years didn't know there were such channels as Nickelodeon and wasn't sure what a commercial was. Ah, what an innocent time.

TV talking down to kids
I've always felt fairly safe with PBS shows, and for the most part I think they are just fine. But there have been a few along the way that grate on my nerves or are just plain weird. I banned the purple dinosaur altogether, and there is another show with dragons that has a couple annoying characters - and a couple story lines were just illogical. There's a new show that's taking it's place with that duo. And it's Sunshine's new favorite show. Great.

What's so bad about it?

The content of this show is science based, and although I have no problem with the content so far, it's the characterizations and the voices that are making me crazy. The voices used to animate a couple of the characters are so....affected. To the point of distraction from what the character is saying. Even Sunshine has noticed and asked why the character is talking funny. I can't even think about these character's voices without cringing.

Maybe it's to be expected that I would feel this way. We've never gone in for baby talk at our house and make an effort to speak normally to the kids. Woody has a habit of talking to Sunshine in kind of a sing-songy voice and we stop him every time. Talking to anyone like they are a baby -  even if they are a baby -  feels like talking down to us, and we don't do it. Period.

I expect better from PBS

When I hear these characters on these shows, I can't help but feel the characters are talking down to the kids in their audience, condescending to them. What is so wrong with talking to kids clearly and normally? And I expect better from PBS! Other "kids" channels have their own issues with appropriate tone and such, but PBS was always the safe place (save that purple dinosaur and the weird dragons). I would never like to be talked to in that way, nor would I think the shows creators and producers want to be talked to in that way, so why should it be okay to talk to kids that way?

After hearing the show just twice, I emailed PBS and told them what I thought. I haven't heard back. I have no idea if it will make any difference, and they probably have the entire season of shows done already, but I figured saying something was better than stewing. While I don't want to discourage Sunshine from watching a science show necessarily, I may have to learn the schedule well and either be in another room or conveniently make sure we have something else going on at that time.

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