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Desensitizing a new generation of children

Is anyone else concerned with the recent trend in reality TV? I’m not talking about Joe, Trista, Survivor or celebrities, either; I’m talking about the war. Specifically, the war coverage that has managed to ingratiate itself into our daily lives, whether we like it or not.

This has nothing to do with supporting or not supporting military operations in Iraq. It has to do with the images that are being flashed across our television screens: Endless coverage of troop movements, analysis by retired military officials and the constant bombardment of information and press conferences.

Even the sanctity of Saturday morning cartoons cannot be spared from the war. This past Saturday, as I tuned in to ABC for my usual dose of Recess, Lizzie McGuire and Kim Possible, I was treated to an exceedingly dull press conference given by Maj. Gen. Tommy Franks and other military officers who are part of the coalition in Iraq. Is this really what we want our children to see? Do we want them to be reminded day in and day out that we are dropping bombs on an enemy we can’t find and hitting civilians, as well?

The natural response is to turn off the television. Of course, this is a decent answer to the problem but, for some children, TV is their only form of entertainment. Heck, for most adults it’s also their only form of entertainment. Some things should remain constant throughout this military battle, like regularly scheduled programming.

The networks found themselves in the same dilemma following the Sept. 11 attacks. For days after the attacks, the only image to be seen on every station was the smoking picture of the Twin Towers collapsing or the planes flying into the buildings. It seemed to be on a continuous loop that ingrained itself so well into our national consciousness that many of us can probably close our eyes and replay the images in striking detail.

The question becomes, how detrimental is all this coverage? While people cite video games, movies and fictional TV shows as too violent, this is the real thing. Children who sit and watch TV unsupervised may be under the false impression that this is some movie, a fictional tale that is taking place half a world away. It is the duty of the networks and parents alike to shield their children from this conflict. Cartoons should be on the air, “Must See TV” should be on the air, I’d even take Celebrity Fear Factor at this point. But the bottom line is, the reality shows that have permeated the airwaves in the past three years cannot compare to the harsh reality of explosions and casualties piling up in the Middle East.

Do Americans have a right to know what is happening in Iraq? Of course. But when was the last time you listened to a press conference and actually got any real information? Franks was amazingly frank — pardon the pun — Saturday, as he avoided most of the reporter’s questions and only recapped what we had seen on TV, again replaying video of terrific explosions.

The war coverage belongs on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and the hundreds of other all-news channels that permeate cable. I’ll settle for a recap at the top of the hour on NBC, or even the stupid and distracting crawl along the bottom of the screen.

Just as long as it doesn’t prevent me from seeing what Jack and Karen are up to on Will & Grace or who gets detention on Recess.

Megan Sullivan is a USF alumnus.