Review: ‘Growing Up Scared: Giving Childhood Back to Our Kids’

Although well-intentioned, this spec, looking at how children have been forced to grow up faster than their parents as a result of street violence, pedophilic predators and the unraveling of the social fabric, is a cursory perusal at best and assumes viewers have little or no common sense.

Although well-intentioned, this spec, looking at how children have been forced to grow up faster than their parents as a result of street violence, pedophilic predators and the unraveling of the social fabric, is a cursory perusal at best and assumes viewers have little or no common sense.

This latest seg in the “Lifewatch” series is apparently intended as a primer on how parents can give youthful exuberance back to their children by not letting them become fearful of the unknowns that lurk beyond the schoolyard or playground.

However, it drops the ball on several fronts and instead focuses on recent abductions and tragedies to make its points.

A panel of experts espouse how life for kids has changed since the ’50s, and host Teri Garr frames their commentary by reminiscing about her joy-filled adolescent and teen years. “I even danced on ‘Shindig,’ ” she effusively offers.

But the hour bifurcates the issues of cause and solutions — and treads far too lightly on the latter, skewing toward easy targets and well-worn platitudes.

The result is a lengthy offering of paranoia-rich bromides telling viewers how dangerous the mean streets of Anytown U.S.A. have become, yet providing little constructive advice on avoiding victimization. To its credit, spec wisely challenges conventional wisdom that inner city youths are most often at risk by showing how no segment of society, no matter how seemingly benign the territory, is immune from violence.

But then spec resorts to blaming MTV, the media, violence on TV and videogames for kids’ aggression in their formative years. Shortfalls in parenting are glossed over.

Ironically, some of the most eloquent and meaningful testimony comes from an unlikely source, Stanley Williams, the co-founder of the Crips, an L.A-based gang that has parlayed its local power into a nationwide presence.

From death row at San Quentin, Williams in 15 seconds succinctly and credibly defines the problem that the show was unable to in its entirety: Parents need to set behavior boundaries for their kids.

By contrast, show’s opener with President Clinton providing a soundbite by calling children our “most valuable resource” is strictly been-there, done-that material.

The time could have been used more substantively to touch on solutions, instead of going for the press release hook of having the nation’s chief executive on its show.

Growing Up Scared: Giving Childhood Back to Our Kids

(Sat. (3), 12-1 p.m., KNBC)

Production

Taped in California, New York, Iowa and Missouri by Golden Gaters Prods. Executive producer, Ted Griggs; producer-director, Ken Ellis; segment producers, Kevin Furuichi, Matt Vande Voorde, Steve Bratman, Steve Davis; post-production

Crew

Editor, Steve Eagleton; editors, Aldo Divergilio, Scott A.C. Smith, Richard Serp , Drow Millar; camera, Kevin Courtney, George Leet, Todd Lewis, Michael Santy, Marc Goodwin, David Reddix, Brian Howe; music, Ed Bogus.

Cast

Host: Teri Garr.
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