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Muslims and Television Series Pt 4 | Cutting the cord- From Dora & Diego, Arthur to Hummers & Cruises

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Muslims and Television Series: Part 1 I Part 2 I Part3 I Part 4 I Part 5

I grew up in Khartoum, Sudan. There was no TV, except a poor excuse for a local channel that played old ABBA songs and grainy ‘iftah ya Simsim’ the Arabic version of Sesame Street.  My siblings and I spent many lazy afternoons biking, making zip lines and reading Enid Blyton. We baked mud pies and jumped over walls into our neighbors’ yards to catch our rabbits.  Treasure hunts and impromptu plays ruled the bougainville-covered house on 33rd Street.

If you ask my kids, their memories revolve around cartoon characters or Disney princesses. I have to prompt them to talk about vacations or fun trips, which they enjoy but come second to the GREAT TV moments. I find my self jealous of Diego.  It is also depressing to see the look of total absorption when the kids are watching and 1/2 an hour turns into two and soon the whole afternoon is gone.

Change doesn’t happen from the outside, it starts from the inside. Some people may mock me saying that this is not the greatest challenge to the Ummah right now but I do not have control over global issues, but I can take steps in my own life to purge my soul – whether it is the environment around me or the media that my children and I are exposed to while they are in my house. If I am serious about the tazkiyah of my soul, I have to make concrete changes in my life.

Last year I switched off cable, I lived in constant fear of inappropriate ads and uncensored language. Read here why we turned in the first place after four years of  being without it. My kids would wake up in the morning and switch it on and would want to watch something before being tucked into bed. It wasn’t that they were watching too much by ‘normal’ standards. I was following most of the tips suggested by parenting websites. The incessant asking for more and the whining was out of control and I felt it in every part of my soul. I was sick of saying, “NO no more, turn it off – Listen to ME.” They were wearing me down. I threatened to have the cable turned off and when the words came out of my mouth, I realized if I didn’t go through with it they would never take me seriously. It was my moment of truth. A message from Allah.

So far the biggest change is in my toddler. Since he can’t watch his favorite shows, i.e. Diego, he doesn’t want to watch TV all the time. He is no longer throwing hissy fits when we turn off the telly; his tantrums were one of the major reasons I ‘pulled the plug’.  It is amazing how he knows that those shows are no longer available and so he has stopped asking for them.  I let him watch one or two ‘educational’ shows, like Super Why or Words World on PBS, which doesn’t have too many direct ads. He wants to play with blocks and his train set.

Materialism: Raising the super-consumer

I live on the West Coast of the United States – Tinseltown, Hollywood are my backyard – here neighborhood kids compete on brand of clothing and vacations – I want to raise children who do NOT think that their worth is based on toy cars that cost over $300, even if everyone on the street has one. When Sister Hina’s article came out, I read of parents who raised such amazing children;  proactive parents who didn’t just read an article and then went their merry way – they did something about it. 

We need to think about the media saturated culture we live in and acknowledge it affects positively and negatively on our lives. We tend to lives in cocoons and pretend that these problems aren’t our problems, that these belong to others – who live a more hedonistic lifestyle than ours; wake up and unplug yourself from this illusion.  Our children are surrounded by media since they were born, dawah from the dark side, bombarded with ads.  “Ads on TV are so 20th century”, they are on the internet (fantage, webkinz), on cellphones.

According to the CEO of Prism Communications,

“they aren’t children so much as what I like to call ‘evolving consumers’.”

According to Direct Marketing magazine, by the age of eight children make most of their own buying decisions.[20] Modern children can often recognise brands and status items by the age of 3 or 4, before they can even read. One study found that 52 percent of 3 year olds and 73% of 4 year olds “often or almost always” asked their parents for specific brands.[21] Advertisers recognise that brand loyalties and consumer habits formed when children are young and vulnerable will be carried through to adulthood. Kids ‘R’ Us president, Mike Searles, says, “If you own this child at an early age… you can own this child for years to come.”

There are 15 conferences a year on how to reach youth through advertising/marketing campaigns. Child psychologists do massive, detailed research to help companies sell to your children through focus groups and ethnographic research.  The studies are so creepy: they film them eating breakfast, in the supermarket, at school, they even follow them into the bathroom – take showers, how they use shampoo – it is sickening! Nuero-marketing is a technique used- when they do MRI’s on children to detect what part of the brain light up when an ad is shown, when the color of the background is changed. Blink tests are done to hold the child’s gaze at long as possible. Every ad, every cartoon has been precisely manipulated to attract the attention of children.

Advertising to children is increasing and it is not fair – everyone is trying to make them into consumers from the minute that their pure souls come to this earth. We see  ads in which children decide which car the parent should buy, where they should eat, where they should go on vacation. Children are the future market. Buzz words like 360 degree immersive marketing where they get to the child from every aspect. Can you blame your children? How can they resist? We, as adults, can’t resist (read Amatullah’s post); we easily spend an hour just looking at the ads that come in with the newspaper, making us want to run to the mall just because there is sale at Macy’s or a new iPhone is on the market or they have convinced us that our cushions aren’t the color of spring. So how can we expect our children to resist?  There are ad songs, ad games, ad books.  I have noticed that even the Scholastic book order forms are progressively getting more commercialized, constantly promoting brands, selling toys and jewelry in the guise of books.

According to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, children aged 2-11 view at least 25,000 advertisements a year on TV alone, and that doesn’t include product placements (like the Twilight series ring that Edward gave Bella, available now at price points ranging from $35 to $2,000). More often than not, these ads teach children that the route to happiness is through consumption and robust participation in the world of commodities.


The Nag Factor– Companies study this particular children’s behavior. Why do you think cartoons are a certain color vs another – hours of research has gone into deciding what will catch your child eye. It is a trillion dollar market!! Purchasing influence on parents is what they are banking on.

Children will say on the average ‘can I? can I?’ nine times before the parents will give in.

Concepts such as “owning” children and “cradle-to-grave” brand loyalty are enthusiastically described in advertising industry publications. Parents should be especially outraged by advertisers promoting the “nag factor” – an ad industry term for children pestering parents to buy them things.  As part of the effort to get children and their parents to part with their money, advertising agencies routinely employ psychologists to improve the effectiveness of their ads. The success of this questionable partnership is evident in all aspects of children’s lives, including their health. Read the rest here.

Screen Free Week is also an opportunity to consider our relationship with media and the marketing activities that underlie them. Turning off our screens is just the first step to understanding how implicated technology is in every aspect of our lives and might allow us fresh eyes to separate the garbage from the good. Read the rest here.


Every parent who has a television, computer, smart-phone in the house should watch this. Every parent who takes their child to the mall, supermarket needs to watch this. Disclaimer: background music.

If you need more info, check out this e-book the Awful truth about TV. has some great info as does this great website filled with articles and resources to help you make the decision of turning of your TV. Unplug your kids has great alternative activities for TV free kids as does this site. For a Muslim perspective read Khalid Baig’s article and this khutbah by Brother Shareef on TV-The Third Parent.

I know my husband likes to unwind after a tough day of work in front of the television. It will not be easy and that is why I am first going screen free next week to see how life will be with out television. Many of you may have already made this decision and are living better – stay tuned for Umm Reem’s post about media effects despite a TV-free home, do comment on Brother Siraaj’s Reader’s Opinion post on how to live a balanced life and PLEASE take this challenge with me.  Insha’Allah my hope is that after this week, Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) will give my family the tawfique to cut the cord. Pray for us and give us suggestions. How did you do it? What were the challenges? Share your experiences.


Özlem Sensoy and Elizabeth Marshall are professors in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University. They are editors of the book, Rethinking Popular Culture and Media.

Sharon Beder, ‘A Community View’, Caring for Children in the Media Age, Papers from a national conference, edited by John Squires and Tracy Newlands, New College Institute for Values Research, Sydney, 1998, pp. 101-111.

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Hena Zuberi is the Editor in Chief of She leads the DC office of the human rights organization, Justice For All, focusing on stopping the genocide of the Rohingya under Burma Task Force, advocacy for the Uighur people with the Save Uighur Campaign and Free Kashmir Action. She was a Staff Reporter at the Muslim Link newspaper which serves the DC Metro. Hena has worked as a television news reporter and producer for CNBC Asia and World Television News. Active in her SoCal community, Hena served as the Youth Director for the Unity Center. Using her experience with Youth, she conducts Growing Up With God workshops. Follow her on Twitter @henazuberi.



  1. Avatar


    April 15, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    We are expecting soon iA – My wife and I frequently talk about the place of TV in the house hold. My opinion is that it should be completely removed, even for educational programs and cartoons.

    Is this extreme? Any advice would be helpful from this group of illustrious MM bloggers.

    May Allah reward you all and raise your places in jannah.

    • Amad


      April 15, 2011 at 11:10 AM

      We didn’t have a tv for first 12 yrs after marriage. Then we got one only attached to a DVD player and wii. So we can control what is watched. It’s rarely used and that’s just fine. Not having a tv will return a lot of quality time for other activities.

    • Avatar

      Sarah Ahmed

      April 15, 2011 at 11:13 AM

      I completely encourage you to get rid of it. Alhamdulilah since i’ve been married (9 years) we’ve never had a tv. When we had our son, I was even happier that we never had one. I have read so many articles stating that children are not creative anymore b/c they watch tv all day so they don’t have time to pretend on their own and learn to play with different materials. I even read that common toys take away this creativity b/c they don’t get to pretend for example that a spatula is a phone or that a piece of furntiure is an oven. instead the toys give them the real thing. also if you have the TV, it’ll be very tempting to let it “babysit” your child so you or your wife can get some things done. At first it’ll be “oh just this one time” but then it’ll become habit as your child also whines for it.

      Since we don’t really buy crazy toys nor does my son watch TV he (in my humble opinion) appears to be very creative and never tells me he’s bored. He can play all day long all by himself with his imaginery friends and his makeshift toys Barak Allahu feeh.

      Going back to the tv/computer, when i did let my son play some educational games on the computer, suddenly he didn’t want to play and be creative. He just wanted to be on the computer all the time. It worried us so we said NO COMPUTER games. That was a fight for a few days but now he knows he doesn’t get to go on the computer and he’s back to normal. As he gets older, my plan is to maybe let him on the computer for a timed 10 or 15 mins just so he develops the skills needed for a computer based soceity. But I would set an alarm that goes off so he knows when time is up. If he whines, then no more computer again.

      So my advice is go TV free and encourage your new baby to be a creative, active child.

  2. Avatar


    April 15, 2011 at 10:47 AM

    I would really encourage everyone to watch the film Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood

    We have a TV at home, but it has no channels, we only use it to watch movies. But now with so much on the Internet, so many videos and shows on YouTube etc, I am worried that when I do have children, whether not having a TV will be canceled out by having a computer, because I have seen with some children, that its almost becomes the same thing, and sometimes even worse

    May Allah SWT protect all our children from harm and help us all to be the best parents, Ameen

    • Avatar

      Umm Ibraheem

      April 15, 2011 at 2:11 PM

      So true what you say. We have never had a TV in 15 years of marriage, but the amount of time spent by myself, hubby and 4 kids in front of the computer is appalling.
      Its starts off by kidding yourselves that because you don’t have a TV you doing well, then you move on to educational websites and before you know it the kids are hooked.

      I feel the dangers of the internet are far greater then TV. The Internet gives them access to pornography 24hours a day, and an opportunity to access communication with the general public which can lead to all kinds of unimaginable sins.

      I am trying my best to restrict their access to the computer, especially before they hit their teens(only my eldest is 13yrs).

      In hindsight I would have restricted the Internet as much as the TV and never have allowed to get myself into a false sense of security.

      • Umm Reem

        Umm Reem

        April 16, 2011 at 1:42 AM

        I am trying my best to restrict their access to the computer, especially before they hit their teens(only my eldest is 13yrs).

        I strongly advice parents not to give their children an unrestricted access to the computer. Either keep the computer in an open area of your house, or install Parental Control softwares so you can monitor their activities.

  3. Avatar


    April 15, 2011 at 11:22 AM

    inshallah me and my children r going to try screen free for a week. Although we only watch islam channel, Peace tv and some Aljazeera programmes. We also use the internet for non–violent games and youtube for repeats of the Final Legacy and Salahadeen cartoon in arabic and one othereducational cartoon.


    My oh my! that seems like alot!

    Alarm bells ring in my head, when my son says “I never played a game today” or “I never watched any tv today”. I dont want it to part of our every daily routine.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      April 16, 2011 at 4:27 AM

      That is great- May Allah SWT assist you and make it easy for you.
      Aaww MashaAllah kids know what they want- I know the never sentence so well- I think all kids use it :)

      I refuse to let anyone call the living room a TV lounge- a whole room dedicated just to watch TV! Sure that can be an activity that happens there but so much more can happen in that space. I think labeling rooms properly can help remove expectations that it is a daily activity.
      What activities are you planning sister?

  4. Avatar


    April 15, 2011 at 11:26 AM

    May Allaah swt protect our children and keep them strong on the deen, ameen

  5. Avatar


    April 15, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    TV is the worst thing that can happen to a kid… alHamdulillaah we recently moved from one country to another, and when we were furnishing our apartment I made sure to say NO to getting a TV despite pressure from my husband’s relatives who were telling me it’d be “good for me” to watch everything in Arabic. I only hope that insha’Allah I can keep my daughter completely screen-free as she grows up…

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      April 16, 2011 at 4:45 AM

      AAh Mouse you remind me of my fervor when I had my first child, we lived so many years without- we just had this tiny set left from my hubbie’s dorm room that we hardly used. Then I left to visit my parents and my husband was alone and bored so he bought a flatscreen to play video games and cable guy came around, offered three months free and he thought okay the kids are away for three months- we will unhook it once they get back and so here are now!

      I think both parents have to be 100% committed to it- sometimes its not worth it to get into an argument- I had to pick my battles both with my children and husband.

      Normally we are so busy so the older kids follow the rules- but my little one I think I just ran out of energy by my fourth child. I can feel how the culture of my house has changed from when we didn’t have one to when we had a set with cable. Alhamdulillah all things happen at a time decreed by Allah.

  6. Avatar

    Yasir Qadhi

    April 15, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    Do not raise your kids on TV. That is the first advice I give to all parents. And the only way to do that is to not have a cable connection in the house.


    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      April 16, 2011 at 4:46 AM

      JazakAllah for the advice Shaykh Yasir- keep us in your duas.

    • Avatar


      April 16, 2011 at 4:49 AM

      Only way.the problem with the ummah is it’s failure to avoid d jalap skirting d edges of haram.ALlahu ALam.

      • Avatar


        April 16, 2011 at 4:49 AM

        Haram.not jalap.

  7. Avatar


    April 15, 2011 at 1:49 PM

    We keep a TV in the house, but no cable connection. I’m not really buying into the no-multimedia fad, or bringing it all in completely and letting it babysit our children either.

    What I’m for is a good balance of multiple experiences, experimenting and seeing where the benefit is for each child. An example – many of you have heard of, completely free, all learning is on a computer screen. Kids are learning faster and better when using this in conjunction with teacher than the previous teaching model (kids learn in school, do homework at home). Why?

    New teaching paradigm, had nothing to do with whether it was on a screen or not.

    My own take on all this is that the more important role parents play in all this is teaching children qualities of discipline, virtue, and responsibility, and proper decision-making capability because eventually, I do have to let their hands go, and if I’ve properly educated them, they already know what’s out there in the world, and they know how to deal with it.

    The medium for education is really not the issue, in my mind. Each has it’s advantage and disadvantage. I seem to recall in the past there was concern from simply learning Islam from a book vs having a teacher directly teaching, sometimes because books weren’t accurately copied, and in other instances when the printing press was available because the student wasn’t getting enough character training with the ‘ilm, which is true, but that doesn’t mean we toss out books as a learning medium, but that we maximize it’s use where appropriate and use the appropriate means to achieve the other goals we want.


    • Avatar

      Amman Abdul Adl

      April 15, 2011 at 3:56 PM

      Mash’allah Siraaj, you’ve made a good point.

      I think alot of muslims in general just think its easier not to keep a television in there houses so won’t get tempted to get a cable connection, but we live in an age all about mutimedia, so completely cutting ourselves off would be impractical…

      But overall, we should be objective and try to utilize it properly under Islamic guidelines…

      Allah Knows Best…

      • Hena Zuberi

        Hena Zuberi

        April 16, 2011 at 5:00 AM

        I agree with balencing your life-we simply can’t live in a vacuum- I love technology. That is a link to my post on 5 high-tech tools that help my deen.

        Screen-free week is a time to analyze our reliance on media not an anti-multimedia fad per se Brother Siraaj- it is about finding a balance as you have in your life. I know I can’t survive with the internet, I home school my eldest daughter, using a virtual academy, so all her school work is on the computer- we use Elluminate to attend class and well as interactive lessons -we use Khan Academy all the time.

        many many people do not have the balance you brothers have achieved in your lives, MashaAllah. An example of this was a recent mother/som event at a local bounce house-organized by my son’s school- so many moms were too busy tweeting, blogging or texting to actually have fun with their sons!!

        I just want control over what my children are exposed to-which is impossible outside the house but possible in the house- I needed to get in cockpit again and this partnership with Commercial-free Childhood’s screen-free campaign camat just the right time Alhamdulillah.

        Thanks for the great input.

        • Avatar

          Amman Abdul Adl

          April 16, 2011 at 11:14 PM

          Sister, the thing that will make a difference is to control exposure from the start. When our children are young, that is when we really prevent them from watching TV.

          While I was growing, television was part of my life. I couldn’t go a day without it. The whole family used to watch it. Now i’m regretting it because its like an addiction. You watch a show or a movie that you’ve watched a million times just for the sake of watching it. And not to even mention the fitna that comes with it. So weaning myself off of it is torture. Alhumdullilah im only watching 30 minutes of TV a day, and thats only the Food Network Channel! It’s a start…

          So we need prevent it from being a habit from the start. If our children want to watch something, then maybe an islamic children’s program occasionally would be beneficial.

          Allah Knows Best…

  8. Avatar


    April 15, 2011 at 2:59 PM


    For anyone looking to make the transition from TV to no TV I recommend viewing it as a positive move to choosing what you watch. If I’d said to myself ‘no tv’- it’s banned I probably would have wanted it more.
    Rather I prefer the idea of choosing to take control of what we watch and not being dictated to by other people’s agendas.

    Now I read a lot more and select quality news such as Democracy Now- it’s amazing how when you step away from BBC and ITV news how weak and ill informed it is when we watch it at a friend’s house.

    There is a world of knowledge out there in terms of You Tube videos, debates and talks that are a lot mote pleasurable an accompaniment to meals than trashy TV.

    The sooner you unplug the more effective a citizen you’ll be


    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      April 16, 2011 at 5:05 AM

      Jazakillah for your perspective- it is refreshing when we look at it that way. I have been discussing our plans with my kids for next week and the change after that and so far they are looking at the positives.
      My daughter made a deal with me that I can not use the computer except for essential emails/grading her schoolwork etc so I can go through the process with them, so no facebook for me :) I am scared ;)

  9. Avatar

    Syma Kashif

    April 16, 2011 at 4:09 AM

    We do have a TV at home, Alhamudulillah Allah gave us the strength that we did not switch it on even once!
    I have Masha’Allah four kids (the eldest being 7 yrs) and some times i feel like giving up and let the TV babysit them while i can do my household chores peacefully!
    My kids actually don’t cry for TV at home, problem is where when they are at a relatives house or at their grandparents home where TV is not discouraged at all and they don’t find anything wrong with it! :(
    when ever i try to convince them that TV is bad i get comments like ” you need to balance deen and duniya”
    “whats wrong with cartoons” ” if you’ll not give your kids TV they won’t be able to GO with the world” and so on………
    And as my son is getting older he wants to be with his elder cousins and friends who are addicted to TV and Play stations! (we’ve even tried talking to their parents on this)

    That is where my patience are being tested! All i can do is pray!

    I know i am not the only one in this situation. there are many who are facing the same or the similiar problem! I have faith in Allah that one day insha’Allah things will turn out better!

    • Avatar

      Syma Kashif

      April 16, 2011 at 5:14 AM

      One more thing …
      Don’t be selfish and let TV bring up your children! love your kids they’ll learn to love you! Your kids need u more than anyone else. Don’t let TV take your place. Imagine a suspicious person coming up to you and say ” you relax i’ll take care of yor children” would you ever hand over your kids to a person you don’t even know and you can’t even trust?!?!

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      April 16, 2011 at 5:24 AM

      Please watch the documentary above and ask all parents you know to watch it too- who think cartoons are so harmless. There are so many reasons why people who are not even Muslim or non-practicing Muslims still think that less/controlled exposure is better for over all mental, emotional, psychological health of the children.

      I feel you frustration- if you say something friends/relatives start thinking you are a goody two shoes or are fanatic. You have to walk a fine line in giving advise without making the person get defensive or start thinking that you think they are evil for watching TV.

      Kids do become more peer oriented as they grow older- I just attended a parenting workshop with Dr.Rida Bashir and he had some suggestions ie let them watch highlights of a sports game so they don’t feel extremely left out when they are with their peers. This way they don’t waste 3 hrs but are still in the know about aspects of the popular culture- they can follow the score on a internet site etc.

      Maybe you can allow him to play just when he is with his cousins as a reward as long as long as the games fit your rules- Wii Sports or Fit is a good alternative to violent games. May Allah make it easy for you-

      • Avatar

        Syma Kashif

        April 16, 2011 at 7:10 AM

        JazakAllah khairan!
        You are right sr. Hena You have to walk a fine line in giving advise without making the person get defensive or start thinking that you think they are evil for watching TV.
        Well i try my best not to be offensive or make them defensive when talking on such matters because i don’t want the doors to be closed!

        This is my experience, when i stay quiet and just make a simple request( no arguements or lectures) the response is very positive. At such times, it gives me a feeling that deep inside they even take it as wrong!:)

        (Well i shared the video right after i saw it myself.)

  10. Avatar

    abu Rumay-s.a.

    April 16, 2011 at 8:13 AM

    How about Huda Tv, Peace Tv, Fajr, etc., National Geographic, etc.? Should we not offer alternatives to others?

    For most of those, there is really no time for TV anyway, but the option has to be there for people who watch TV daily (which I hope is less than 1-2 hrs). Thats is a good pole question, How many hours do you spend watching TV each day? What do you watch (i.e. enterainment, sports, documentary, news, movies, kids shows, religious)?

  11. Avatar

    Ismail Kamdar

    April 16, 2011 at 8:41 AM

    I had a TV at home, but controlled with just a DVD player and selection of approved DVDs. A few weeks ago, we made a decision to put the TV away as my toddlers were wanting to watch all day, were becoming difficult to control and would throw tantrums to watch.

    So now we do not have TV set, and the only other screen is the computer with which I work. The kids spend all day playing with each other and their toys and in the evening, when I finish work, if they were good I let them watch one or two hours on the computer.

    Life is so much more peaceful and we have so much more time on our hands without the distraction of a TV. Alhamdulillah

  12. Avatar


    April 16, 2011 at 10:16 PM

    I just tell my children that every advertisement has one purpose, to get the consumer’s money. I quiz them. When they are watching a commercial, I ask them what the advertiser is trying to sell them. They are getting better at guessing. Once they realize that it is about money, it makes sense to them. That is not to say that buying and selling is wrong, of course. Everyone has to make a living. But it is important to be a skeptical consumer. In other words, it is better to arm one’s child with knowledge than to try to shield him/her from the world.

    • Avatar

      Amman Abdul Adl

      April 16, 2011 at 11:19 PM

      “In other words, it is better to arm one’s child with knowledge than to try to shield him/her from the world.”

      Brother, you’re right. Sheltering your child will not benefit him in the long run. But we need to balance that out. Constant exposure can lead to negative consequences and sheltering him/her will not prepare them to deal with the rest of the world. It hard balance to achieve, but it does sound practical in theory…

      Allah Knows Best…

  13. Avatar


    April 17, 2011 at 9:51 AM

    as salaam ‘alaikum,

    In response to the CCFC complaint against YBCR:

    edited-this is post isn’t abt that campaign-
    * * *

    PEDIATRICS Vol. 107 No. 2 February 2001, pp. 423-426

    Children, Adolescents, and Television
    Committee on Public Education

    Pediatricians should recommend the following guidelines for parents:

    – Discourage [not forbid] television viewing for children younger than 2 years, and encourage more interactive activities that will promote proper brain development, such as talking, playing, singing, and reading together. [there is an erroneous assumption, that ANY screentime is going to replace any other activities, when that is clearly not the case.]

    – Monitor the shows children and adolescents are viewing. Most programs should be informational, educational, and nonviolent.

    – View television programs along with children, and discuss the content. Two recent surveys involving a total of nearly 1500 parents found that less than half of parents reported always watching television with their children.5,47

    – Use controversial programming as a stepping-off point to initiate discussions about family values, violence, sex and sexuality, and drugs.

    – Use the videocassette recorder wisely to show or record high-quality, educational programming for children.

    – Support efforts to establish comprehensive media-education programs in schools.

    – Encourage alternative entertainment for children, including reading, athletics, hobbies, and creative play.

    * * *

    The Actual AAP Policy Statement:


    PEDIATRICS Vol. 107 No. 2 February 2001, pp. 423-426

    Children, Adolescents, and Television
    Committee on Public Education


    This statement describes the possible negative health effects of television viewing on children and adolescents, such as violent or aggressive behavior, substance use, sexual activity, obesity, poor body image, and decreased school performance. In addition to the television ratings system and the v-chip (electronic device to block programming), media education is an effective approach to mitigating these potential problems. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers a list of recommendations on this issue for pediatricians and for parents, the federal government, and the entertainment industry.

    For the past 15 years, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has expressed its concerns about the amount of time children and adolescents spend viewing television and the content of what they view.1 According to recent Nielsen Media Research data, the average child or adolescent watches an average of nearly 3 hours of television per day.2 This figure does not include time spent watching videotapes or playing video games3 (a 1999 study found that children spend an average of 6 hours 32 minutes per day with various media combined).4 By the time the average person reaches age 70, he or she will have spent the equivalent of 7 to 10 years watching television.5 One recent study found that 32% of 2- to 7-year-olds and 65% of 8- to 18-year-olds have television sets in their bedrooms.4 Time spent with various media may displace other more active and meaningful pursuits, such as reading, exercising, or playing with friends.

    Although there are potential benefits from viewing some television shows, such as the promotion of positive aspects of social behavior (eg, sharing, manners, and cooperation), many negative health effects also can result. Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the messages conveyed through television, which influence their perceptions and behaviors.6 Many younger children cannot discriminate between what they see and what is real. Research has shown primary negative health effects on violence and aggressive behavior7-12; sexuality7,13-15; academic performance16; body concept and self-image17-19; nutrition, dieting, and obesity17,20,21; and substance use and abuse patterns.7

    [ more details at link below]

    The recommendations in this statement do not indicate an exclusive course of treatment or serve as a standard of medical care. Variations, taking into account individual circumstances, may be appropriate.;107/2/423

  14. Avatar


    April 17, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    i made this post on an older thread, so i’m reposting here =)
    I think it is important to distinguish between television and cable. The two are being used synonymously, when it fact they are two very different things. One is a tool and the other is the material that is presented using the tool. The vast majority of the corruption mentioned in this article is actual the result of cable, not television. The only question raised by T.V. alone is that of attention span (although in my personal experience, this has not been the case, but perhaps our family is just an exception. my child who enjoys video games and T.V. the most has an amazing attention-span and started reading, with minimal assistance at the age of 3 and has amazing memory retention, motor skills, etc. loves worksheets, etc. actually he memorized the entire lineage of the Prophet faster than my 6 year old and recites it for me everyday). but anyways, many religious families have found a compromise in having a T.V. but with no cable, so the T.V. can be used for video games or DVDs. what is viewed and how much time is spent is at the parents’ discretion, and if the game system or DVD player is unplugged or removed, the T.V. is defunct.

    personally, i used to have a more puritanical attitude about T.V. but i no longer do, because i think that if the right restrictions are in place and parents have the will-power to enforce them, the T.V. can be used a source of education and halal fun, just as the computer. if attention span is the problem with T.V., then computers can take just as much blame. but i think what is truly problematic is cable, and in fact it is possible to have a T.V. and never take the slippery slope into cable.

  15. Avatar

    Umm Abdullah

    April 17, 2011 at 5:35 PM

    Assalamu alaikum,

    Masha Allah, its wonderful to read of so many families that can actually get rid of the TV. I hope this is something I can do Insha Allah.

    However, this is an issue im struggling with because I don`t have the support of my husband. Subhan Allah. When my husband comes home in the evening he wants to unwind and watches about 3-4 hrs TV – sometimes the news and a movie (mosty violent ones). His idea of parenting is to watch these violent movies with my 3 year old. The problem is if I say anything he gets upset and when I tried to take my 3 yr old away – but he makes a scence and cries and my husband gets mad at me. so he sits and watch with his dad and I cant do anything about it.

    When my son was 2, he used to love the Quran and sing nasheeds, but now all he wants is TV. Am I the only one? What advise can you give me? I tried talking to my husband about it but to no avail. Im am so worried for my kids. I pray that Allah give me the strength to overcome this fitna in our home. Ameen.

    Jazzak Allahu khairan for your advise.

    • Avatar


      April 18, 2011 at 8:49 PM

      That’s a really difficult position to be in. If I were you I would focus on myself and what I could do to better the situation. Watching violent TV with a 3 year old sounds like a bad idea. If it were me I would:

      1. Explain in a calm, rational way to my husband how you feel about it. I wouldn’t expect him to agree with me (actually I’d expect him to disagree). be honest, but try not to get emotional. talk more about your worries over his psyche rather than your personal feelings. if he has a response listen openly without judging or arguing.
      2. Tell him that if a violent program is on, you’d be more than willing to take him out of the room, even if he’s crying, so that your husband can watch in peace. tell him you’ll handle the tantrum.
      3. if you child is really hysterical or your husband wants him in the room and it starts a messy situation, offer to have your son watch a kids dvd on the computer with headphones.
      4. be calm and pleasant the entire time, and don’t try to retaliate later on by being snappy or withholding initmacy. be strong!
      5. if your husband was not receptive during your initial talk, once you’ve applied the “removal/distraction” method for you child a few times and kept your calm and your cool, try to readdress the issue when he’s softened up a bit and you two are sharing some private time in good spirits. try not to attack him, have a relaxed conversation.
      6. if hes still not receptive id tell him that that’s okay, he can watch what he wants on TV but you’re going to continue to remove the child for his own well-being, because a parent has make a rational decision on what is best for the child, not what emotionally feels like a quick-fix (giving into a tantrum). id also make it clear that i’m not bringing him back until those programs are off, so whatever other cleaning/cooking needs to get done will have to be on hold until the environment is suitable.

      by the way, this isn’t husband-coddling, i’d tell men to do the same thing if it was the other way around =) realistically speaking, you may never be able to get rid of the TV as long as your husband wants it. you can only focus on what you can do make the situation liveable for your family. focus on what positive changes you can make, and accept that not everything is in your control. thus is marriage. like me–i cant control siraaj whenever he leaves his protein shakes and peanuts out on the counter, but i not put them away if i don’t want to do the work. thus, we often have protein shakes and peanuts on the counter, bc siraaj may never change (and thats okay, we can live with it). =)

      • Avatar

        Umm Abdullah

        April 19, 2011 at 11:30 PM

        Assalamu alaikum sister Olivia,

        Jazzak Allahu khairan for your advise. Masha Allah, very good pointers and a good understanding of men too.

  16. Avatar


    April 17, 2011 at 9:35 PM


    I found a book a while ago at the bookstore that may be of help:

    365 TV-Free Activities You Can Do With Your Child: Plus 50 All-New Bonus Activities

    Everyone should be able to find a few things they like here.

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The Creation Of The Stereotypical Arab

stereotype Arabs
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Robert Entman, professor of media and public affairs, published an excellent study in  1993 in which he explained the inner workings of framing. Framing is a well-known concept within communication sciences and the study of mass communication, and concerns according to Entman both selection and promotion. He describes it as:

“The selection of some aspects of a perceived reality to make them more salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation and/or treatment recommendation for the item described”. (Entman 1993)

A typical frame consists therefore of four qualities. It selects a specific problem by considering and checking the related actors, with which resources they act and observed from their own cultural framework. Then, the greater forces behind the problem are identified, i.e. the broader context. Subsequently, ethical questions are raised that interpret and evaluate the effects and actions of what is taking place. Eventually, solutions and treatments are offered.

Entman illustrates this by giving the example of the Cold War. According to him, American media made during that time frame extensive use of the so-called “Cold War frame”. This frame selected for example the Vietnamese Civil War as a specific problem. It then identified the actors and greater forces behind that war, usually Communist rebels supported by the Soviet-Union and China. Subsequently, these media ethically appraised the whole situation, interpreting the war as instances of severe Atheist agression. This frame could then eventually lead to the promotion of specific solutions being presented to the common man, among which support of the United Stated to the opponents of Communism, and military intervention.

The caption of the Looney Tunes show Ali-Baba Bound reads: “Ali Baba, the mad dog of the desert.”

Framing is a means used by mass media to transmit specific messages to the audience. This is accomplished by using the classic transmission model, i.e. the sender who sends a message to the receiver through a channel/medium. However, Entman adds culture as an additional element for the transmission of a frame. Professor mass communication, writer and expert on racial and ethnical stereotypes in the media, Jack Shaheen, expands on this theory. After all, the framing phenomenon can not be completely understood when detached from the social and cultural context in which the message is transmitted to the audience. The era of Communism and the “Cold War frame” may be over, traditional mass media keep using frames to promote specific images among their audience.

Images that would certainly have a hard time to take root where it not for it adaption to existing and established cultural convictions. Convictions that were built up and developed through decades-long illustrations and representations within cultural productions, most notably in the movie industry.


Shaheen did some extensive research on the cultural depiction of Arabs in the Hollywood society. The results of his observations were brought together in the documentary Reel Bad Arabs (2006), one I’d recommend everyone interested in this subject. “Arabs are the most malign group in the history of Hollywood. They’re portrayed basically as sub-humans,” says Jack Shaheen to open his argument. “These images have been with us for more than a century.”

During no less than thirty years he watched thousands of movies, from the oldest ones to modern blockbusters, to observe and analyse the depiction of Arabs en Muslims in Western cinema. He subsequently discerns a dangerous and systematic pattern of hateful and racist stereotypes that strip a whole people of its humanity and depicts them as the embodiment of evil, fanaticism, and ignorance. According to Shaheen, this is an established fact from which filmmakers rarely deviate.

The land of the Arabs! An image Hollywood eagerly adopted from long-lost British and French explorers and writers that depicted the Arabs based on their own biased imagination of the Orient, the strange and exotic land that seemingly emanated stories like “One Thousand and One Nights”. The land with its eternal deserts, its threatening roughness, and ominous music. The desolate wilderness littered with palaces of rich and decadent pashas and their harem. The mysterious melodies that guide the movements of voluptuous belly dancers and snake charmers, watched by the all-seeing eyes of the scimitar wearing guards in movies like Invitation to the Dance from 1956.

Even today, such stereotypes are being used, even in children’s movies. Disney’s Alladin (1992) has been watched by millions of children all over the world but recycles nearly every stereotype that had been already used by the silent black-and-white Hollywood past to depict the so-called Arabland. A rough, unfriendly desert landscape where “they cut off your ear when they don’t like your face”, as stated in the opening song of the movie.

In the Looney Tunes animated cartoon Ali-Baba Bound (1940), we see the fairy tale character depicted as a cunning, insidiously grinning Arab with a beard, big nose and evil eye-brows who calls his companions by literally barking at them like a dog. The caption of the show reads: “Ali Baba, the mad dog of the desert.

Not only children, but adults as well see Arabs depicted in movies as hot-headed and impulsive simpletons who deliver some cheap and funny laughs. Take for example the India Jones movie Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), in which Indiana ends up face-to-face with a threatening and completely random armed Arab. The man tries to impress the American hero with his evil smile and some sword tricks, to which Indiana simply shoots him dead and runs off to continue his adventure.

The same Arab that prefers dogs over women. Indeed, an Arab states in The Happy Hooker goes to Washington from 1977 that “dogs are better than sheep. They’re cleaner, I know, I’ve tried dogs.” And if it isn’t dogs or sheep (think of the popular nickname “goatf*#ker” used by Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh to publicly denote Moroccans), than it is blond, American women.

The stereotype of the obtrusive Arab obsessed with white women appears so many times that it becomes ridiculous.Click To Tweet
Two Lebanese terrorists from “The Delta Force” (Cannon Film) – 1986


In the Bond movie Never Say Never Again (1983), Kim Bassinger is being undressed by a filthy  Arab businessman to be sold, with an unintelligible gurgling and crackling (Hollywood Arabic), to a bunch of miserable Bedouins. Arabs are being depicted as primitive and aggressive desert dwellers obsessed with American women as a welcome change to their usual covered and invisible womenfolk hidden in their palaces.

Those Arabs, on the other hand, that do effectively have access to modern society, technology and progress are being imagined as a faceless nuisance to Western society or death and destruction craving terrorists anxious to ruin the West.

Two businessmen in The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) jokingly state that Arabs “don’t go anywhere without their animals.” Note that they were talking about a recent trip by plane!

How was London?” the main character of the movie Chapter Two (1979) is being asked. “Full of Arabs,” he replies. Movies that are in no way related to Arabs or Muslims and aren’t connected to the Middle-East in any way still can’t resist to the urge of making racist and humiliating comments on screen.

Back To The Future

Even in the hugely popular Back to the Future from 1985, the above statement is sadly the case. The movie is a plain, American Sci-Fi picture for teenagers in which stereotypes about Arabs are nevertheless again introduced. Emmett Brown, scientist and the inventor of the time-traveling car is minding his own business when he suddenly gets shot at, without any motive or reason, by a bunch of Libyan terrorists. They shoot him and then focus on the main character Marty McFly. The shooter curses violently when his weapon jams and fails to kill McFly. When he finally resolves the issue with his machine gun, their car breaks down so they again fail in an almost cartoonish way to continue.

The reason for this sudden and random occurrence is completely unknown, and all throughout the rest of the story no reference is made to it. But the fact remains established, a group of inept Arabs killed the beloved professor.

Foreign Policy

Just like the above-mentioned Cold War frame, this frame on Arabs and Muslims is a perfectly suited tool of the mass media and the political establishment to help shape American foreign policy in the Middle-East and North Africa in the minds of the American citizens. Four different events caused Hollywood to radically increase its use of Arab and Muslim stereotypes. Before anything else, the creation and establishment of Israel in 1948 en the subsequent Arab-Israeli wars resulted in a clear positioning of the United States and Hollywood on the side of their Israeli ally. The Arab embargo that hit Europe and the USA during the 1970’s and the Iranian Revolution further contributed to the role of Arabs as thugs and greedy businessmen. The notorious War on Terror could count as the fourth reason for the establishment and representation of the Arab and Muslim as enemy of progress and freedom.

Take for example the plans of a rich Arab oil sheikh to buy his way up through the United States, conquering it in the process. In the movie Network from 1976, it’s insinuated that a group of Arab businessmen threat to almost run over the Unites States financially by buying up several companies and building plots. The character of Howard Beal than calls live on television to rise against these Arabs, that are planning to buy his TV network. A memorable and frightening scene than follows in which the audience can see a mob of angry citizens take to the streets to express their rage, an image of social hatred against a common enemy, the Arab.

The Ultimate Demon

If it’s not an evil, perverse, and decadent Arab businessman, the Arab gets the role of dangerous and hostile terrorist assigned. Reserved for Russians and Cubans during the days of the Cold War, Palestinians would later figure as the antagonists of the hero in American action movies. The terrorist antagonist stripped from any bit of motive and humanity, serving as fleshly embodiment of the ultimate evil.

This image is already used as early as 1960 in the movie Exodus, where the Palestinians are depicted as invisible enemies hiding in the desert who perform appalling acts against the innocent Jewish colonists because of their radical antisemitism. It’s no wonder that this movie was considered a major promotion for Zionist thought and a support for the Israeli cause.

Theologian and writer Roland Boer writes in his 2009 work on Biblical themes that the depiction of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in American cinema still influences American citizens to this day with regard to their opinion on the conflict.

Palestinian terrorists in “True Lies” – 1994

Over a decade later, we find the same old story in the movie Black Sunday (1977). A Palestinian female terrorist wished to detonate a blimp over a typical American sports stadium during the Super Bowl, with about 80.000 ordinary Americans present. The caption of the movie on its release poster reads: “It could be tomorrow!” Again, a decade later, Arnold Schwarzenegger faces a group of Palestinian terrorists that wishes to destroy American cities with nuclear missiles in True Lies from 1994. Again and again, Arabs and Muslims are being identified with hatred, terror and the ultimate failure of their plans due to the American action hero.

An image that, not unimportantly, was fed extensively by two Israeli producers, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, who created The Cannon Group company. For over twenty years, The Cannon Group produced at least thirty movies in which everything Arab is being mocked and demonized. Yes, the political relationship between the USA and Israel does indeed trickle in the world of cinema. What could be a more effective weapon than a seemingly unending source of full-length movies in which enmity and distrust against a certain people is promoted? A cultural alliance to dismiss these Arabs, “sand n#^*rs”, “goat f*^#rs” and “ragheads”, fed by a billion dollar business.

The most striking example of this would be the movie Rules of Engagement from 2000. The film leads the audience to Yemen, where a mob of dusty Yemenis are protesting loudly in front of the American embassy. American marines are being asked to evacuate the present staff, when they suddenly open fire and mow down every single protester, including women and children. As a result of this event, an investigation is started to examine the decision of the marines to open fire. Towards the end of the movie, however, the audience is revealed a whole other story than initially portrayed. Plot twist, the Arab protesters were armed themselves and they opened fire on the American soldiers.

“Rules of Engagement” (Paramount Pictures) – 2000

Men and woman wildly brandishing guns and even a little girl that aims her pistol on an American soldier. A little, Arab girl that wasn’t nearly as innocent as she looked. A whole bunch of Arabs that weren’t as innocent as initially thought. They deserved to die! It was their own fault they attacked the mighty American army of the free! The marines had the right to kill them, to protect themselves! Sure, it was a massacre, but a legitimate one against the enemies of the USA. Against faceless, unknown human beings killed like animals.

Debunking Cultural Practices

Such movies present complicated and nuanced conflicts as a caricatural fight between Good and Evil. They polarize the wars in the Middle-East and North Africa by presenting the American cause as the necessary and just fight against demonized and inhuman enemy, an intrinsic evil. A propaganda weapon arises on a massive scale because of popular cultural injections.

Entman also describes culture as the “stock of commonly invoked frames“. In fact, he defines culture as “the empirically demonstrable set of common frames exhibited in the discourse and thinking of most people in a social grouping.” The fact that framing is then used extensively in the mass media, which includes movies, soaps and news reporting, could be explained from this point of view.

Because of the prolonged cultural impact of Hollywood, the frame of the Arab and Muslim is undoubtedly established within those societies that lie within its sphere of influence. The frame is developed as a cultural element within that society and determines how people look at messages and images that fit within that frame. The Arab that appears in the news is usually no individual. He’s a terrorist, a religious extremist, a zealot, a Muslim, a Palestinian, Iraqi, Lebanese, Syrian or Iranian. These are all frames that evoke certain connotations among the traditional receiving audience, developed within a shared consciousness.

It’s a dangerous trend, but the best solution is the simplest one of all: look beyond the message alone. Don’t let popular culture or traditional news reporting decide how you see the world, because there’ll always be agendas being followed to guide and manipulate you. Common sense, an open mind, and sufficient dialogue can debunk the most stubborn cultural prejudices.

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