Every now and then something happens that reminds me why we're working so hard to launch something new for kids. It can be something big and dramatic, or something small and seemingly innocuous. Last night it was something small.
My 11 year-old daughter was singing a song from Disney's Hannah Montana (aka Miley Cyrus). She sang the line, "Life's what you make it, so let's make it…"
Before she finished the line, I'm thinking that's a decent sentiment. Borderline educational and moderately empowering. Sort of like the Switchfoot line, "This is your life – are you who you want to be?" Let's make the most of our lives, kids!
Then my daughter finishes singing the line: "Life's what you make it, so let's make it ROCK!"
What? Huh? "Let's make it rock?" What does that even mean? Like the old Kiss song – "I wanna rock and roll all night – and party every day?" The reality is, that line doesn't mean anything. It is meaningless. It sounds like it almost means something – like Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus or the Disney Company almost had something to say to my daughter about what her life could mean. But then you actually hear the words and you realize, at the end of the day, they don't mean anything.
The problem with kids media today isn't that it is evil, it is that it is vapid. Empty. Pointless. It is empty calories. Frosting. Creme filling. Glaze. It has nothing to say to our kids about life on this earth or the God that made them special and loves them very much. And our kids consume it endlessly, on average, three hours per day.
We can do better.
Kids media can inform and shape while it entertains. Heck, Sesame Street figured that out. Mr. Rogers figured that out. But that was forty years ago. Kids media today lacks the will to teach kids anything. Yes, the shows on Nick and Disney are racially diverse. The characters recycle. But beyond that, they are mute.
We can do better. We can show kids the real world – a world where God exists and has something to say to us, if we will just stop and listen. A world where amazing people commit their lives to the work of the church and the benefit of others. A world where celebrity pales in comparison to generosity.
That's why we're doing this. No, JellyTelly isn't all that impressive yet. Compared to Nick or Disney, it's ridiculously small. It isn't much, but it's a start.
And we aren't going to stop.
I agree completely and it is time that Christians take hold of their future and the future of their children. If we do not things will continue to get stinkier and stinkier. On TV, radio, and the internet. Fight on Jellytelly!!!!
Well, I agree with you Phil that most of the kid’s media today is vapid – but I’m not so sure about it not being evil. I was just watching a show the other day on cartoon network’s website. The show had a mom teaching her teenage son how to hold an occult symbol, and channel his own power through it to accomplish something. I could not believe what I was watching. We don’t watch too much TV (Jelly Telly being the biggest exception), so maybe I should have not been so surprised, or maybe this was an isolated exception – but it was a lot worse than anything I remembered seeing. We’re still praying for ya Phil!
Amen. That’s why I started Booples – at a b-day party, a mom said “My son repeats the songs from his videos over and over” I thought – let’s get some Bible verses in those songs!
Christians have abdicated the entertainment “throne” to the secular and we, the children of the great Creator, the author of creativity, need to show the world how it can be done.
Kinda like you mentioned in our book about Mr. Rogers seeing guys throwing pies at each other and then spending the rest of his life showing what use TV cd really be.
Quick note for Phil – you don’t actually have a link to JellyTelly anywhere in your site navigation here (the “Jellyfish” link under your “Links” section goes to jellyfishland.com, which also doesn’t have any links to JellyTelly). According to Google, you’ve linked to JellyTelly in a few blog posts, but that’s about it. Considering how much you’ve been talking about JellyTelly lately, I’m kind of surprised to not see it featured more prominently in the navigation.
It’s a challenge, isn’t it?
I think we need to find a way back into the mainstream if we can though – We’re preservatives, but not just for us… For the world too.
Hard though to do that, with all the blackballing. But I think we should try.
I love JellyTelly though – It’s really great to have an alternative… Hopefully we’ll be able to mix in a bit more though, and keep this culture afloat as long as we can!
I guess we’ll have to let God do that part, eh?
I wonder if it’s age based.
NickJr isn’t vapid. Dora doesn’t talk about loving her enemies, but when Swiper needs help she gets him out of the bottle. Diego never talks about charity, but he spends every show saving this or that animal, as do the WonderPets. The Backyardigans show that good wins, but only with persistence. However, NickJr also depends on parents to turn it on, buy the DVDs, etc. It needs to appeal to parents as well as children.
The shows for older kids can rely on the kids themselves looking for them, so they don’t need to appeal to parents. I assume that’s the reason JellyTelly seems to be pitched for older kids than VeggieTales.
Love the new network, Phil. We are proud of you guys up there!
As for the emptiness in children’s media, you are right! I don’t know exactly when that changed from the stuff we enjoyed as kids. Somewhere when we were all grown up and not looking, the values we were all taught as kids stopped being talked about in media. Since values have to first be introduced at home, maybe our generation lost the desire to teach something we were not already living. I know that I have to constantly use and teach critical thinking skills with my kids when stuff is on TV. Like, “Why do you think what she did is inappropriate behavior?” “What would you do in that situation?” It’s a backwards way of teaching values, I guess.
We are so happy you felt called to make this dream a reality!
Yep. And if you look closely, you see some of the shows teach a bit more than that. My middle son happened upon an episode of “The Backyardigans”, and asked me what I thought of those guys worshiping other gods. Generally, they’re nice little shows; but every once in a while, I see them slip something in that gets me aggravated.
I am excited to have an alternative I can trust. 🙂
We can do better and we will do better. These aren’t just our kids, they’re God’s kids and we’re the ones responsible for their growth and their views on God.
I’m tired of the adults looking like fools on every show, and making kids look like they know better than their parents and often disrespecting and disobeying them.
We HAVE to do better.
I agree that most TV is pointless, and evil. But, even if they do good things, they don’t give the reason for doing good, or for not doing bad. They don’t aknowledge God as the reason we should do this or that. Morality without God is pointless.
We are really enjoying Jelly telly, my favorite till now are the Bentley Brothers and the books of the Bible.
I also appreciated the segment about Abigail Adams.
Keep up the good work! We thank you.
Moose: My middle son happened upon an episode of â€œThe Backyardigansâ€, and asked me what I thought of those guys worshiping other gods. Generally, theyâ€™re nice little shows; but every once in a while, I see them slip something in that gets me aggravated.
Ori: I just tell my son that people used to think there were multiple gods, and that they were wrong. It’s the same thing I say when I teach the weekly Torah portion in the synagogue and we come across a portion that involves idolatry.
I have no problem with my children being introduced to it. It’s part of their history, and they can’t understand the scripture without knowing about it.
Rhonda: Morality without God is pointless.
Ori: It’s still a good habit to get into. And I suspect an immoral person would find it a lot harder to reform, and a lot easier to ignore God’s promptings than a moral one.
My family loves Jelly Telly! Is it o.k. to tell our friends about it yet?
well ive been telling everyone in my church about it and we even watched an episode in my class and i have seen every episode from day one and i love it …give it a bit and it will catch on im sure of it …just like veggietales did teenagers brought it up because they thought it was funny God will work something crazy again to get the word out he always does ….By the way i love jellytelly i watch it everyday at work
So I’ve become “that parent”…My husband and I married very young and then waited 7 years to even CONSIDER kids…and so we’ve had a lot of those “when WE become parents…” conversations that inevitably lead to pride, arrogance, etc etc. The big one was the t.v. consumption. We have never been t.v. watchers (with the exception of Veggietales of course). In fact, for the first 5 years of our marriage, our t.v. set was one my husband pulled out of a dumpster and only worked with a vcr. It was about a 14 in. screen. We actually don’t have a t.v. now, either. But it’s not noble: we just watch whatever or do whatever on the computer (and we have one on each floor) and so, t.v. or not, we spend every bit as much time in front of a screen as the family next door.
Jelly Telly is JUST long enough to occupy my son when I try to cook dinner, and to keep him from killing his baby brother. Now, if only I had something to distract baby brother from eating the dog’s food when I’m trying to cook dinner 🙂
I learned a lot from your book about media’s morality (de)emphasis on our children, and I thought the most telling was when you quoted some bigwig at some fancy event who said that his goal was to have NickJr. watchers become Nick watchers, and then eventually MTV watchers, and so it’s all geared to transition them.
Christians in the 80’s and 90’s were very lacsidaisical about allowing t.v. to “christianize” their kids. You might not remember it, but the big SHOCK OF ALL SHOCKS was when Disney did the gay pride thing and we all had to boycott 🙂 The shock came because it was more than too easy to just trust whatever Disney put out (why, I have no idea, because even their earliest movies have witchcraft). It was assumed that such “wholesome” entertainment as Nickelodian and Disney were “moral enough”. Since when did “moral enough” become enough???? It’s the quickest road to Hell. It leads to self-sufficiency and contrasting self against others for that whole “I’ll go to Heaven because I’m….moral enough” lie.
Got into your beta site for Jelly Telly and so far – its a home run. My kids are totally into it (todays show had 3 viewings by my kids) and I am thrilled to hear the enthusiasm in your voice on the introductory video and the november news blurb. I am really looking forward to the end of the year rollout and what God has in store for all of us through this ministry.
God Bless you and keep up the good work!
I agree with cowboy_k. I had a really hard time finding jellytelly. It would be nice if you could post a link!
Yep, most of the stuff on TV is not thrilling. So glad that we have Jellytelly.
Jelly on! We showed some friends and relatives and they liked it. They’ll probably sign up, and promote it at their Bible Study! I only have one compliant, is that I can’t access last weeks vids this week!
All things considered, this is nothing new. I mean, all popular music has had a certain amount of “vapid-ness” as far back as “Yankee Doodle” and “Oh, Suzanna” (and certainly before that – I just don’t know many lyrics any earlier). In the rock era, the trend continued, expect for the rare poets like Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, and Barry MacGuire (“Eve of Detruction” is the greatest protest song of the 60s) to say something with meaning… even if you don’t agree with it.
Popular music appeals to the emotions, not the intellect. It’s draw is built on sensory experiences like physical attraction, alcohol (from “Little Brown Jug” onward), etc.
My point is (I think) that this is an age-old problem. Voices (like yours) that break through the clutter with substance are all too rare. We can never stamp out vapid song writing and storytelling, just attempt to add more balance to the equation.
Not to be cheeky, but ditties like “Oh Where is My Hairbrush” and “The Water Buffalo Song” don’t carry a social or spiritual message. But they do entertain. Which certainly has value. especially when done in a positive manner.
Oh, and I got a real kick out of you comparing Hanna Montana to KISS. Hard to believe they are both considered “rock”.
JELLY TELLY! Yesterday my friend came over and one of the things we did was t.v. I wanted to things.Sponge bob and flapjack Were on. I WAS BORED! I tried to get Colby off. Nope.I wish jelly telly was on T.V.and computer someday. But it is great!I love jelly telly! We watch it every night in bed.
Just watched our first Sunday movie on JT as a family.
We laughed our bottoms off!
Thanks for getting this started- it’s going to be such a blessing to so many 🙂
Ditto what Brigitte said–LOVED the Sunday movie!!!!
Dear Mr. Vischer,
I have been telling everyone I know about Jelly Telly. I am involved w/ Children’s ministry at my church and was wondering what our church can do to help you? I want to be involved w/ expanding your exposure. Do you have clips or shorts you give out for advertising purposes that we could show to parents?
Please post something so we all can be useful for God’s work through Jelly Telly.
My husband, then I, and now our 15 y.o. son have read your amazing book. We are behind you 100% and we pray for you, your family, and JellyTelly.
In Christ’s love,
Hey Phil, are there going to be any new Jelly News videos on jellyfishland.com or have you stopped to do JellyTelly. It would be kind of ironic for the last video to be about the end of the writers strike. Also are you ever going to update the projects section. It still says that 47 Beavers on the Big Blue Sea is in the works but that was released more than a year ago.
I am so thrilled to find Jelly Telly via a friend’s blog!!! Please keep up the good work. I have 5 children under seven and I so appreciate the reinforcement of our Christian beliefs in the media they view. Please for all of us out here that want better for our kids keep it up, we are praising God for you and for all the work you have done to further his kingdom. We will be subscribers, we are your biggest fans!!!!!! I did a post about Jelly Telly on my blog today and I hope more people will hear about it via blogs. I am trying to help anyway I can : ) If you ever need a character in one of your shows who knows what it’s like to mother many young children with a strong Michigan accent call me up I’m available to take the part, HA! HA! God Bless you and Yours~ Crystal from MI
I greatly enjoy Jelly Telly as a college student without any children. It is much better than most of the shows that float around the campus.
I look forward to the “Top Ten Movies” as the segment is much like my little cousins.
Thank-you for all your hard work!
Now, I could launch a dissertation of what I think of the stuff from Disney, Nick and PBS, and how it’s morally dangerous (teaching relativism, using postmodern artistic devices to disrupt children’s psychological development, etc.) But I’d like to point out that it’s not just the moral content of these shows that is vapid (at best); it’s also the artistic and plot content.
I posted on Catholic Answers the other day that you can trace the degradation of our culture by the various “Muppet” Christmas shows for the past 30 years: from _Emmett Otter_ and the very overtly Christian _John Denver Special_ to Whoopi Goldberg as “God” in _A Very, Very Merry Muppet Movie_ or whatever it was called.
Look at any “new” cartoon involving “classic” cartoon characters. They’re all very “harmless”, plotless stories. Usually some pseudo-mystery. Most are unwatchable. Cartoons that were great because they incorporated satire, subtext, and a certain level of seriousness are resurrected as cloyingly sweet intellectual sugar. Tom and Jerry are a great example.
Conversely, most of the “new” cartoons have the satire and the slapstick, and perhaps the serious themes, but they don’t present them as subtext, so they are no longer appropriate to young children (or at least young children who have not yet been jaded by our culture).
Sorry for the abundance of alliteration; it just kind of came out that way.
Escuse, I still don’t know how to use these XHTML tricks yet. Only a little bit was to be quoted bout Yankee Doodle, and the rest is bumbling me.
Sorry about that.
Dana E. “The Madman” Hansen
I disagree slightly… I think it is teaching… it is teaching our kids to BE empty, pointless, and entertaining at most. I don’t think that pointless entertainment is nearly as big of a problem. If you listen to most of Hanna Montana’s theme song, it is about having massive amounts of material possessions and things like getting to ride in limos. Because so much of tv is driven by marketing, it points kids toward materialism and love of fame.
A few years ago I sat around a table with three young ladies whom I love very much listening to them debate which of three trendy stores was better based on the shirts they were wearing. It was a conversation that my 3 siblings and I would never have had. When some historical event was mentioned later in the adult conversation, the girls who should have been over said event in their history classes over the past 6-9 years of schooling asked us what that was. I remember being completely confused how these girls (raised by loving and conscientious parents) could be almost incapable of conversation that didn’t revolve around their stuff.
Now, with a 2 1/2 year old and a 1 year old, I am becoming aware of the world of “children’s entertainment.” Now I’m not so confused. Fame, fortune, and likability take center stage while anything remotely resembling a value has been scrubbed away. If a show has a “moral” at the end, it is to tell you that if you behave a certain way (let’s say showing kindness) that you will be rewarded (more friends). I know that this mentality is becoming prominent even in some Christian circles- the “because I’m a person of faith I am rewarded- monetarily, proffessionally, and in my personal relationships.” We need to get our kids back to the knowledge that when anything good happens, that it would not have without God- NOT our belief in Him, but God. They can’t learn that in a world that won’t mention His name. Thank you for inserting God back in the picture for our kids.
Oh, and thank you for the email back from the Jelly Telly site about the Catholic kids. My kids are so young that they will catch the God loves them message and we’ll work on the books of the bible in a few years. It will be educational for them to realize that not everyone’s beliefs are identical and may lay the groundwork for some church history lessons. I was so impressed for the thoughtful and prompt answer.
Hi Phil. I agree with you 100%. I don’t have kids (God forbid, I’m only 19), but I agree that we need to do something about the mess that kid’s networks are making. I just finished reading your book “Me, Myself, and Bob”, and was very happy that everything worked out so well. I think it’s awesome that you started “Jelly Telly” and I watch it evry time I get the chance! Good job man!
JellyTelly might not have been all that impressive back in November when you posted this, but it is now! We joined the JellyTelly bandwagon a few months ago and haven’t missed an episode since. My kids are always trying to think of questions to send to Buck Denver. As a grown-up, interested in my kid’s spiritual health, my favorite segments are Kidmo and Dr. Schniffenhauser (sorry, if I massacred the spelling). Kidmo takes kids where other “christian media” doesn’t, putting very practical feet on service to the Lord. The kids and I are constantly repeating those compass points…”I think of other before myself, because the world needs my help!” Dr. S, brings science back to where it should be, with God in the center. I am just a little ol’ mommy, and glad to be, and I will offer the only thing I can to keep your show going…my prayers. But would love to be of practical service, if ever possible or necessary! We love JellyTelly!
Phil it was a pleasure to shake your hand and say, Thanks! Thank you for sharing your heart and continuing to inspire us Christian artists, animators and video producers.
Hearing you speak today about Galations 2:20 (my life verse) brought it all home. JellyTelly is awesome, Brother Louis and the Sunday School Lady, Love ’em!
And that’s why I grew up watching VeggieTales.