It’s Such a Good Feeling!

Ah, the famous ending/closing song from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” (and more recently, the spin-off “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”). When I think of this song, I think of good mental health. I think of general well-being. I think of, well, “a good feeling.”

I’m sure most of the world is asking, “why is she so obsessed with Fred Rogers? With a children’s show when she’s been ‘too old’ for it for at least 15 years?” Well, in order to understand that, you have to understand my mental health. My mental health has always been a mystery, and it really went downhill when I was a teenager. Eventually, when I entered college, I developed more specific mental illnesses like Borderline Personality Disorder and panic disorder. When my mental health became questionable, I found old Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood episodes–the combination of the calming format and the mixed-in social/emotional life lessons did wonderful things for my mood.

I have done a lot of research on the benefits of children’s television–Fred Rogers said television a powerful and great medium to reach children. Television channels usually have a great lineup of educational shows for younger audiences, but due to the simplicity of storylines they are often dismissed as “low quality.” I can understand that older people will not be interested in simple storylines portrayed in children’s television, but the lessons taught are always going to be relevant an important. By the time children are older/tweens, the shows targeted at them are reduced to maybe one moral per episode (with something like “don’t cheat,” “be nice to classmates,” or “respect your parents”). When you eventually make it to the teen/adult shows, those life lessons are basically gone (but sometimes there’s a subtle moral behind a plot). Older-targeted shows are basically entertainment-driven, believing that everyone knows what they need to know about life and that all they need is to be entertained now.

Being in several group therapies, I can assure you that people still need to learn life lessons at every point of their life. Even if they already know them somewhere in the back of their life, they need to be repeated to be more effective. Important life skills such as emotion regulation and detailed social concepts are not taught in schools and are lacking in the entertainment industry targeted at older audiences. Plus, these skills need to expanded on from simple in children’s media to more detailed and relevant to mature life in other media.

I want to create media for older audiences that can be as helpful and educational as preschool shows are to younger audiences. I want to create media with storylines that are more “age appropriate” and relevant to the lives of older people, with more detailed social/emotional skills to really help out those who need the support. I already am running a picture story series on a message board for a product called “Webkinz” (virtual pet/stuffed animal hybrids), detailing the adventures my Webkinz pets go on and the situations they get themselves into. I have already taught so many kids about issues such as those of the kids who are growing up transgender/different from other people. I have also given a little information about certain special needs/disabilities through some of my characters. I try to embrace diversity as much as I can in a child-friendly way with animals.

As I am moving this picture stories (as well as some other content I’ve created about virtual pets) onto a brand new blog on Blogger to have more creative freedom and a more organized platform, I am thinking of new stories to develop featuring my characters that have more life lessons incorporated. For my semester project, I’m going to create a “demo blog” featuring some stories I believe are valuable to people, featuring a good amount of life lessons. I’m going to upload some of my old stories with lessons regarding identity, self-esteem, and emotion regulation. I also plan to write about more life situations.

Although many people may think that the social/emotional themes in the media are too obvious and basically useless as content, there is a lot of people that need to be told what may seem “obvious” to others. There are a ton of people who don’t even realize they need to be taught these lessons. Plus, there have been a ton of studies done that show that kids who watched shows such as “Barney” and “Sesame Street” were more well-behaved and socially appropriate compared to those who didn’t.

I would love anyone’s feedback of how to make this project more relevant to my older children target audience and ideas for life lessons I could throw into my stories.

-Katie Leiper

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