January 29, 2004
Gay Teen Show Airs on Noggin
by Stuart Shepard, correspondent
What most people think of as TV channels for kids may not be a truly safe harbor.
“Degrassi: The Next Generation” is a high school drama on a Nickelodeon-spinoff cable channel called Noggin and this season, it’s breaking new ground. One of the main characters has announced he’s gay and is in love with a male classmate.
Dave Haverty, who tracks and reviews kids’ TV channels for Preview Family Movie & TV Review, said that “Degrassi” has the first completely “out” gay relationship on any of the channels he’s aware of.
And that should be of great concern to parents.
“Parents tend to use TV as a baby sitter,” he said, “and they think because it’s a cartoon or a kids channel that it’s acceptable and that’s anything but true.”
Melissa Fryrear, gender issues analyst at Focus on the Family, said the show’s young audience is especially vulnerable to such confusing messages.
“It’s not uncommon for young people in that age group around 12, 13, 14 to be questioning, to some degree, their sexuality,” she explained. “On average, it was 25 percent.”
If kids take in the pro-gay messages without parents providing context, she said the result could be disastrous.
“If you have a show like this, that is portraying homosexuality so positively,” she said, “it may influence them where they might assume that they’re gay, when in reality that is not an issue for them.”
Noggin, by the way, describes itself as the “only commercial-free educational channel dedicated to preschoolers.” At 6 p.m. each day, however, the channel’s airtime switches to a block of teen programs called “The N” which operates alongside an interactive Web site.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Focus on the Family’s “Plugged In” offers parents help in guiding their children through today’s entertainment choices.