Television habits that began years ago develop the context that relate to the media today. My parents socialized me to enjoy television for its informative and entertainment purposes, but to do so after my homework and daily tasks have been completed.
Most people would agree that the methods ofwatching television has shaped the context of understanding and relating to the media. Habits that began years ago developed the context that we relate to the media today. Our parents socialized us to enjoy television for its informative and entertainment purposes, but to do so after my homework and daily tasks have been completed. This taught us that television has a place and time. We also learned early on that the powerful nature of mass communications is something to be respected. This included an understanding that I did not have to own every toy that was marketed to me as a young viewer. Receiving faulty toys that I saw on television also introduced me to the smoking mirrors and unrealistic representations that are commonplace in so many television programs. My parents taught me from an early age that there is a clear distinction between the events on our home screen and real life.
Aside from my first several months of life, I only resided in one home during my childhood. Our house had two televisions. One set was a fourteen inch RCA color set was in my parents’ bedroom that was manufactured in the early 1990’s. Our main set was a twenty-eight inch RCA television with a wooden frame that was manufactured circa 1978. When I was ten, my grandmother bought me a thirteen inch Magnavox for my room. From the time I was born we have always had cable on our sets. My mother recounts that the monthly bill for basic cable was $24.95 when I was four years old. We now pay over $50 per month for roughly the same package. When I was thirteen I tried to convince the family to switch to Dish Network to save money, but failed to convince my dad that dish receivers are not a threat to personal privacy.
I watched most of my television on the main set that was centrally placed against the south wall of the family room. On the occasion when my parents wanted to watch a movie I was allowed to watch in their bedroom. We also had one VCR in the front room. We did not purchase a DVD player until I was age fourteen. For us the VCR was a means of recording the occasional special program, but mostly for playback of VHS films and home movies. I recall having a small collection of favorites including Mickey Mouse Cartoons, The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, and the Berenstein Bears. Even as a child I did not enjoy watching movies multiple times. Today I rarely watch films multiple times. Even in childhood I didn’t like seeing the same things over and over.
In my early years I watched little television. My parents agreed that less than an hour of each day was spent watching television from birth to age three. My mom said this was partly due to the lack of programming for that age at that time. I was able to watch about one additional hour per day through most of grade school.
I have always been a multi-tasking individual. My mom said that I would never sit still and watch what was on screen. I would buzz around the room, play with several toys, flip over the couch upside down, and be a general storm of activity. Just like I am today, it is hard for me to sit and just watch television, I feel like I want to be achieving something or making some sort of progress.
The purchase of my own personal TV at age ten gave me the freedom to relax in my room and enjoying broadcast network presentations. No cable in my room meant sometimes static filled combinations of primetime sitcoms. I liked having this little bit of freedom that provided choices in what I could watch in my room. This was the beginning of my development of personal taste in choosing television programming. This was probably also the beginning of using television as a background to whatever I was doing in my room. I can remember times of listening to the television while I cleaned my room or got ready for school. Using television as a background for domestic activities is a regular occurrence in my day to day life. This habit might be a result of having the television on to glance at when I was a child. When I come home from work or school the television gets turned on right away, though it usually receives very little of my attention until later in the evening.
While I enjoyed watching in bed I turned off the set far before I would plan on sleeping. I liked having the sound but could not relax with the flashing bulbs and changing decibel levels between programming and commercials. After age ten was probably the first time I began to set appointments for watching programs. Aside from Saturday morning cartoons, I began to regularly view Seinfeld and Friends and tailor my evening plans to being able to watch. This meant that I would diligently work to finish my homework and chores to give me ample time to watch whatever interested me. I discovered early I was a fan of comedy. I knew I did not enjoy dramas, action, or any type of scary programming. I liked to laugh, and television seemed to carry that role on a regular basis.
Typically there was someone else present in the room while I watched television growing up. My choice of programming was usually monitored by someone in the room. When one or both of my parents were away at work, my sister was in charge of looking after me. Sally is nine years older than me. She was in high school when I was going through elementary grades. This often meant that after school viewing was not in my control. She would often put on Days of Our Lives, or the Rosie O’ Donnell Show. Usually I would complete my homework during her periods of what seemed to be incredibly boring television. After she had her fill of what seemed to be unwatchable afternoon garbage I would be free to watch a few half hour family comedies. These included syndicated programs like Full House, Step By Step, and Family Matters. This was a great period of programming that my sister and I could agree on watching together.
Sally provided the occasional commentary and explanation of what made the events on screen humorous or entertaining. We also shared a lot of the same sense of humor, which prevented fighting over the television. The afternoon of our television viewing was also the last part of the day before our parents returned home from work. Once mom and dad came home control of the television slipped away to dad and the evening news, followed by whatever suitable evening program that would be on that night. While my dad was home I certainly would not be allowed to watch The Simpsons, or other material deemed to be of an adult nature. I was also not allowed to watch anything on MTV, no South Park, and no pro wrestling. Excessive violence or sexuality would surely put a program out of reach for me while my parents were home.
My mom characterizes television as 50-50, half informative, half entertainment. She was more pleased when I watched informative television or nonfiction. She would occasionally watch some of my favorite programs with me. I enjoyed the time that the whole family would spend watching television. It seemed nice to all sit around and relax together. I fondly recall nights with blankets and pillows in the front room watching whatever would be on that night and having a snack with the family.
One way I was introduced to television that was not available at home was when I visited the homes of friends. Every friend of mine at school had to be on top of whatever current kids’ show that was hot at the time. Not being familiar with the latest episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles might mean being ostracized from the group at recess that day. It was important to be able to talk about the coolest parts of each show. This comradery through common time spent watching the show was a unifying experience. It might even grow to the point of not being invited to someone’s themed birthday part if you were not familiar enough with a particular programming. Some of the programs I can remember being tied to with friends were Rugrats, Doug, and Hey Arnold. I think this water cooler conversation is a major carrying point of some of these huge hits of American television. It may be a result of this childhood phenomena.
I was born and raised in Stockton, California. I was aware that Spanish television existed, but always watched television programs in English as a child. My mom speaks fluent Spanish, and regrets not speaking it to us more often when we were young.
Most of the shows I watched were centered on white main characters. Ethnicity was something I never thought about until it was so heavily discussed later in school and in society. I don’t think children think too much about things. I noticed some of my classmates looked different than I did, but it was something that was just accepted as reality. I thought it was normal, since Charlie Brown had friends of many shapes and sizes, Tommy Pickles did too. Doug Funnie’s best friend was colored blue. The television I watched as a small child didn’t seem to frame ethnicity very often.
I sought out television that related to my personally. I think I watched programming that was appropriate for me while I was growing up. According to my mom, “I think I liked what you were watching. You censored yourself well. Sally did too. I don’t think I ever had a problem with it.” Most of the shows I watched representative the average sentiments of children in America. Themes of friends, families, toys, and fun were something that my friends and I could relate to.
A little later in life I began to see shows like Family Matters and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. My family would rarely step in to add anything to the morals presented by the stories. I do remember my mom occasionally explaining that treating other people any differently because of what they look like was wrong. We had a somewhat diverse neighborhood growing up. I think helped by giving me realistic representations of different cultures when I would speak with them and see the way they celebrated holidays and other events.
I think the main reason that my television habits reflect the way I watched in my youth is that I have not undergone a huge amount of scenery change. I think the person I am now is largely reflective of my childhood personality. I lived in the same house for eighteen years, in a stable household, and attended private school. Fortunately for me I was able to have a television in the house with cable that was accessible. Stability allowed me to build television into the routine of my daily life. I still enjoy watching with other people and discussing what we are watching. I think that television helped me socialize with others at school, though it sometimes limited the types of programs that I watched as a kid. Overall I still relate to television the way I do now. It provides me laughter, background noise, and the occasional fact or talking point to share at school or work.