________________ CM . . . . Volume V Number 21 . . . . June 18, 1999

cover Strangers in the House: Television and Our Children.

Marke Slipp and Penny Ritco (Directors). Penny Ritco and Jerry Krepakevich (Producers).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1998.
52 min., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9197 157.

Subject Headings:
Violence in television.
Television and children.

Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up.
Review by Elizabeth Greenaway.

**** /4

Strangers in the House addresses the insidious influence television has over our (as a parent or society) children's lives. Most of us are familiar with the disturbing statistics that, by the time a North American child leaves school, he or she will have witnessed 8000 tv murders, 100 000 other acts of violence and 600 000 commercials. Besides the violence, there's the crass marketing directed at kids as young as preschoolers plus the simple fact that, if kids are watching tv, they're not doing something more active, like exploring, running, playing, all that great stuff of childhood. As well, there's the question of how to help kids handle the horrific images and news stories found on tv today.

      All these issues and more are adroitly dealt with in this excellent video. A co-production of Great North Productions and the NFB of Canada, the video draws on sources from around the globe and from all sides of the issues -- media critics, experts in tv violence, executives of YTV and Fox Children Worldwide. As well, concerned parents and kids, themselves, find a forum. The result is a very balanced, albeit disturbing, look at the role television plays in most children's lives. It is estimated that North American children spend more time in front of the tube than they do either at school or talking with their parents. As George Gebner, guru of tv violence studies, posits in the video, "We are mortgaging the socialization of our children to a handful of global conglomerates who don't know or care about their needs."

      So, what's the solution? Media literacy, namely teaching children to be "smarter than the tv." Media literacy programs have been implemented in schools globally, primarily in grade four, but in some countries as young as kindergarten. By having kids involved in activities such as producing their own programs, as well as commercials, they become savvy to the machinations behind the scenes and their role in it as potential consumers.

      Clearly, the onus is on parents to watch tv with their children to help them decipher the messages being thrown at them, as well as to mandate that media literacy be taught in schools and that educators be trained to do this. It will take some extra time on all of our parts, but there's too much at stake not to.

      Technically, the video is high quality and visually appealing. While it may seem to belabour some points, at 52 minutes, it's a video no parent or youth educator can afford to miss.

Highly Recommended.

Liz Greenaway is a former bookseller and concerned parent living in Kingston, ON, who will think twice before turning on "Teletubbies" for her two-year-old.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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