Mixed Messages About Criminal Behavior

What are children to make of mixed messages about criminal behavior in the media?

I’m not a sports fan, but I have been aware of the recent controversy about the behavior of an athlete named Arenas who brought guns to his team locker room and later, in public, pretended to shoot at his team mates with his finger. Judging from a widely circulated photo of the latter episode, his team mates also think that pretending to shoot people is funny.

Arenas was suspended without pay for his behavior, yet AT&T markets its U-verse television service with an ad that shows a family pointing remotes like guns. The mother, father and two children threaten one another with the remotes and then join forces to turn them all on the grandmother.

My granddaughter loves to watch Dora the Explorer. Much about this children’s franchise is educational and entertaining, but it features a character called Swiper, a fox who wears a burglar’s bandana and gloves. He “swipes,”( a softer word for “steals”). Dora and her friends are able to stop him from stealing by shouting “Swiper, no swiping!” Usually, though not always, this is enough to prevent the intended theft.

One episode on a DVD, called Dora’s Christmas Carol Adventure, features Swiper. Dora’s goal is to have him taken off Santa’s naughty list. The upshot is that Swiper learns that “there’s no swiping on Christmas.” What’s the message? –“Thieves are our friends”? “It’s all right to steal during the rest of the year”?

Another AT&T ad shows the character Gus from the USA series Pysche. Gus programs his television as he lies on the floor of a bank during the execution of a robbery. When one of the robbers steps on his cell phone, Gus doesn’t mind because he has already set his TV to record. The armed robbery of a bank is depicted as a more or less normal occurence.

What are children to make of such mixed messages about criminal behavior? Teachers and parents might want to discuss such moral disconnects with the children in their care.


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