A number have people have asked me if I am writing another Super Bowl column this year highlighting some lessons for life that we can learn from the Super Bowl. This year, I have chosen to write a Super Bowl halftime column. This began when I first heard that a Yeshiva in Sderot was offering an alternative to the halftime show. They were asking that when people host their Super Bowl parties, they should ask their guests to bring some tzedakah money. They created a DVD to show at halftime about the Yeshiva to encourage donations. I then heard that Yeshiva University was offering a “Torah alternative” to watch during halftime. The YU Torah Halftime Show was a series of three 8 minute presentations on "Torah and Sports". Clearly there were enough people who felt that the halftime show was not “appropriate.”
That led me to thinking about the commercials during the Super Bowl. An organization called “Common Sense Media” writes about this issue. Common Sense Media is an organization which informs parents about the media they consume. (It's a great resource to check out the appropriateness of a movie!) “There's only one thing that can upstage Tom Brady throwing a 50-yard touchdown pass: a supermodel getting her naked body painted by Jillian Michaels. That's what Internet domain registrar GoDaddy.com will be treating audiences to in its Super Bowl ads this year,”- one example. The author continues on to quote a memorable commercial from a past Super Bowl. “As adults, we may be evaluating an ad's humor or creativity, but the impact on kids can be quite different. Remember the Budweiser frogs? So do kids. A study by the Center on Alcohol Advertising showed that 9- to 11-year-old kids had higher recall (73%) of the Budweiser frogs' slogan than the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers (39%). And kids knew what the frogs were selling: 81% identified beer as the product promoted by the frogs. " Whether glamorizing alcohol, featuring supermodels, advertising "junkfood," or promoting new television shows or movies that may not be appropriate, our children are exposed to commercials that may not relay the values of our families.
Common Sense Media recommends that if you are viewing the commercials with your children, use them as teachable moments. Ask them, what are they trying to sell? How are they manipulating us? What isn't the ad telling us? (i.e. Alcohol is illegal under the age of 21, or the item they are selling is very expensive). Help them distinguish fantasy from reality. Hit the mute button or change the channel when you feel a commercial does not reflect your values and you would rather present the concepts to your child before he sees the ad.
We actually had a discussion about this issue with our 7th grade boys in Advisory this past week. They recognized the inappropriateness of the ads for their "younger siblings," but thought they were old enough to handle it. It was interesting to see how passionate the students felt about the issue. What is appropriate? Who decides? Do we ever change the channel when faced by inappropriate images?
Last week, a decade long battle between the TV Networks and the Federal Communications Commission reached the Supreme Court. The Networks argue that the FCC regulations which ensure that children don't see obscenity and explicit sexual images during prime time is a violation of free speech. It is intuitive as parents to champion the FCC and and assert that it is the only way to shelter our children. Jacob Sullum in the New York Post states that young people are already exposed to all of that inappropriateness as the FCC guidelines date back to 1978 and today 90% of homes have cable television (not bound by the FCC regulations).
It is clear from the research that media influences our children's attitudes towards sexual intimacy, alcohol, violence, language, and family and peer interactions. They often pattern themselves after role models on television. That is the meaning of what we say each day in Shema from Bamidbar 15:39