Pop Culture and Your Kids

WebMD Live Events Transcript

In his book, "Your Children are Under Attack: How Popular Culture is Destroying Your Kids' Values, and How You Can Protect Them," Jim Taylor, PhD, argues that popular culture is teaching children unhealthy values that will do great harm to them, families, communities, and our country as a whole. How does pop culture affect our children? Is it all bad? What about the off button on the TV? Taylor was our guest on June 2, 2005.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

MODERATOR:
Welcome to WebMD Live Dr. Taylor. Thank you for joining us. Let's define "pop culture."

TAYLOR:
Pop culture is many of the things we are familiar with: movies, video games, TV, Internet, music and magazines. It's also advertising, sports and corporate influences.

I believe that popular culture has changed in the last 30 years. It used to reflect our values. Now it dictates our values and it has become the most dominant and destructive force in our society today because it is omnipresent, intense and unrelenting.

MODERATOR:
Why do you think it dictates rather than reflects our values? Doesn't it respond to our feedback? It can't exist in a vacuum.

TAYLOR:
Popular culture does respond to our feedback, but because popular culture has so many weapons to use against children, it has the power to tell kids what they should want. An example is reality television. The viewing public was not clamoring for reality television. Networks brought reality TV to us because it was cheap, and then people, yes, got hooked on it.

Popular culture existed 30, 40, 50 years ago, but back then when I was growing up, we had three TV channels and eight-track tapes. Now children are bombarded almost every moment of every day by popular culture.

Also popular culture is extremely smart. It taps into our most basic needs: self-esteem, social acceptance, and physical attractiveness. So popular culture manipulates and brainwashes kids by getting to their very deepest psychology.

"The fact is, popular culture has always sought out people's needs, whether it's soap operas or game shows, but it seems like we are on a slippery slope in which popular culture has to go lower and lower to attract attention."

MODERATOR:
But if the public didn't watch Fear Factor would it still be on? Let's be honest. It's all about the money, and the American public votes for what is popular with its wallet.

TAYLOR:
Popular culture only does things that make money. Popular culture tells kids and families that it cares about them, but it doesn't, all it cares about is making money.

The fact is, popular culture has always sought out people's needs, whether it's soap operas or game shows, but it seems like we are on a slippery slope in which popular culture has to go lower and lower to attract attention. And that's why you see increases in violence, sexuality, gross out factors and humiliation -- to get people's attention, and yes, people love it. That is the attraction of the shows, like The Apprentice or Desperate Housewives . Are they healthy? Probably not, but this is America and people can watch and play whatever they want.

Where I draw the line is when it hurts children, and when I say hurts children, I mean it teaches them destructive values, it hurts their physical health (we have an epidemic of obesity now) and it wastes kids' time. It keeps them from doing other healthier things. When it keeps kids from being human beings, that's the goal, that's what values are all about.

MODERATOR:
When does it tell us that it cares for us? Can you give an example?

TAYLOR:
It tells kids it cares about them, that if you wear these shoes, if you buy this electronic device, if you eat this food it will make you happy, it will make you popular, it will make you attractive.