Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The One in Which I Take a Serious Turn...

Because it's not all fun and games around here, people. Actually, it is, but today I'm going to pretend to put on my serious hat.

In the five years that I have been a parent, I like to fancy myself a relatively reasonable sort. Though I am admittedly overzealous about carseat safety (we're devotees of Baltimore's own Debbie Baer, The Carseat Lady), and try my best to avoid stuffing my kids with junk food, I have a kind of reflexive cringe for those parents who treat their children like delicate hothouse flowers, hovering and helicoptering and worrying about every single thing their kids ingest, or play with or experience. It's not surprising that many of the philosophies of free-range parenting resonate with me. Or that our playroom boasts a number of -- the horror! -- plastic toys.

But there's a situation afoot I simply have to take a stand on.

My kids watch tv. (See aforementioned plastic toys. So shoot me.) And when my kids watch tv, 99.9 percent of the time, they use Comcast's On Demand menu to choose a show. Their tastes, I am happy to report, are very very mild. They watch Thomas. And Sesame Street. Zoboomafoo and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. (As an aside, I made the mistake of telling my five year old that the Kratt brothers of Zoboomafoo fame had a new show on the National Geographic channel that he might like. As *I* cowered in fear watching a crocodile devour an unsuspecting wildebeest, it dawned on me that he might not yet be ready for real nature programming.)

Anyway, as anyone with children knows, getting two children to agree on what they want to watch is never an easy process. So we linger on that On Demand menu as the boys change their minds about eleventy billion times.

And there's the rub.

For some reason, in this era of scarily intrusive direct advertising -- my friend Allie wrote a blog post about how much she hates Uggs, only to have all the Google ads on her blog immediately turn to ads for Uggs -- Comcast has not yet gotten with the program. Because while we're going through our daily exercise in exasperation, changing our minds for the umpteenth time from Caillou to Diego, promos continue to play in the corner of the On Demand menu. And these ads are not directed at children. In fact, these ads continue to show my children snippets of truly frightening horror movies, or violent ones, or plain old-fashioned inappropriate ones. (Try to explain what's going on in The Hangover trailer to a toddler, will you?)

If you doubt me, just ask my kindergartener. Who continues to insist that the movie he most wants to see is Nine. You know, the Fellini-esque Rob Marshall movie starring Nicole Kidman and Kate Hudson. ("But Mom! It is NOT scary! It looks great!") Yesterday, my boys were treated to images of a wartime explosion and then, what appeared to be a dead soldier lying on the ground, courtesy of the promo for The Hurt Locker. Fine movie, I have no doubt. Just not for the Barney set.

I never thought I'd find myself in a position to *ask* that my children be marketed to, but there you have it. Comcast is missing a perfect opportunity to tailor the promos shown while perusing its Kids On Demand menu to, well, kids.

I have been in touch with Comcast -- specifically a woman named Kathy in the office of Rick Germano, Senior Vice President for Customer Operations -- and they are looking into the situation. If they are your provider, can you please take a moment and send a note asking for the same? It might just get it taken care of if I'm not a lone wolf on this. You can do that here.

And if you don't want to help, that's fine. I'm just going to make you take Ethan to see Nine.

Update: 4:50 p.m. Two things. One: I just learned from my friend Mindy that Ethan is more likely referring to this animated Tim Burton movie called 9. Fair enough. But as if to underscore my point, I just turned on Sesame Street. While choosing the episode, the boys were treated to the "Say hello to my little friend!" scene from Scarface. I couldn't make this stuff up, right? 'Nuf said.

Update: Saturday. So now they're saying the place to give feedback is here. Give it a shot? Thanks.


  1. Totally agree - one of my kids wants to see Big Love. :) I just sent my letter.

  2. OMG I completely agree with you! I have Time Warner (in Raleigh, NC) but I'm going to look into getting that "fixed" here as well. It's always bothered me and I assumed there was nothing to be done! Ha! So there!

  3. Thanks for being a fan of The Car Seat Lady! I think my mom (Debbi) is great - but it's always extra special to hear it from others.

  4. I checked but Comcast doesn't provide service in the Phoenix area. For what it's worth, I'll give you my emotional support. There's nothing more important than your children. Dani

  5. I can't count how many times we've called up On Demand, searching for something on the Kids menu, while promos for action and horror flicks run in the corner. Oddly enough, the night we were looking for a movie for ourselves (around 9 pm, both kids sound asleep), the promo in the corner was for some new Care Bears movie.

    Maybe this is Comcast's attempt at performance art?

  6. Don't have Comcast here - but I'll bet many others do - I tweeted :)

  7. Ahh, the vagaries of toddler TV taste: I know that Diego vs. Caillou debate all too well. Their theme songs are running through my head right now...

    I never thought I'd be thinking this, let alone writing it, but I think Time Warner is doing something right here in Ohio: the little screen in the corner when you're on the preschool on-demand page plays a constant stream of Noggin. Nothing disturbing, unless you count those weird dancing dudes on Yo Gabba Gabba.

  8. I feel so warm and fuzzy after reading your posts. Thank you so much for that gift! I will be checking into your site often.
    Our blogs are semi-similar; I'd love your feedback about mine, if you have a sec! Thanks!!