Popular television shows have obviously evolved over the last several decades since broadcast TV came on the scene. The general storylines of those shows have run the spectrum too, but there is an eye-catching shift in the messages that are being sent to some of the most impressionable viewers. According to a recent study by the Children’s Digital Media Center at U.C.L.A. that shift pushes the concept of how to get famous front and center for preteens to hear.
The research took a look at 16 personal values that were communicated through popular TV shows aimed at children 9-12 years old. The shows were picked from one year each decade from 1967 to 2007. It ranked the values like achievement, financial success, benevolence and community feeling according to how prominent the concepts were in each of the shows. The biggest change coming from 1997 to 2007. The value of fame flip-flopped from being number 15 in 1997 to the very top in ‘07. Values like community feeling were near the top in each decade of the previous decades, but dropped to the bottom in ’07. Some of the shows that were used in the study by researchers Yalda T. Uhls and Patricia Greenfield were “The Andy Griffith Show” and “The Lucy Show” from the 60s, “Happy Days” and “Laverne and Shirley” from the 70s and “Hannah Montana” and “American Idol” from 2007. Just by that abbreviated lineup you can see the progression…especially from 1997 to 2007. You put that along with the advent of Facebook and Utube and you have a perfect storm for adolescent narcissism.
This new report brings back a longstanding question about the media. Does the media reflect the culture or does it influence it? While I think it’s a two way street, I think the larger role it plays is a force of influence. Reality shows and the talent shows of today like “Idol” and “America’s Got Talent” encourage the tinsel laden lifestyle with the emphasis on self-fulfillment and how to get famous as quickly as possible. It shows the huge role parents still have in their kids’ lives as they find their stride at a very critical time.