January 23, 2007

Sarah: Do you need a Hope Coach?

Utah residents, I pose a question to you:
Have you ever listened to a certain radio station on Sunday nights? Say, from 10 pm to 12 am? If you have, you may have heard a certain Dawson McAllister.
I find this radio program upsetting. The premise of the show is something along these lines: teens troubled by life issues, ordinary or otherwise, need an outlet and support. Callers can vent to Mr. McAllister about how parents just don't understand, how dating sucks (it's true, kids, and it doesn't always get better), or anything else. Callers have an outlet, a sympathetic ear. Listeners either feel like they aren't alone, or like life could be so much worse. I don't have a problem with any of this in theory. No, I think I have more of a problem with Dawson McAllister (that's right, he's hip with the kids these days: he has a MySpace) in particular.
I'm willing to ignore the issue of someone believing that a two-minute session on a radio call-in show can significantly change someone's life. I'm more uncomfortable with the voyeuristic quality that the host of the show seems to exude. Unfortunately for him, this man walks a fine line. Perhaps his callers have a genuinely troubling problem in their lives that they are reluctant to admit out loud. Perhaps these callers need coaxing to admit the issues on their minds. Perhaps. Or perhaps the host pushes them to put more gravity into their situation than what actually exists. It goes something like this:

"Hi. [heavy breathing] Um. Um. I don't really get along with my parents, you know? And um. [more breathing] I sometimes fight with them."
"Uh huh. Is your dad mean to you?"
"... Yeah."
"Yeah, and sometimes he's violent, isn't he?"
"[breathing.] ... [more breathing] Yeah."


"So I've been dating my boyfriend for, like, a while. And lately he's been pressuring me."
"Ah, I see. Pressuring you to be more physical?"
"Yeah, sometimes."
"Well, are you uncomfortable with that? How does it make you feel?"

Now, I realize that this man is probably only trying to help, and his callers are on his show because they feel trapped and that they have no one in their life they can talk to. But I also realize that these shows have screeners, and a more frightening situation has a greater chance of getting on the air.
I'd like to think that teenagers are strong-minded, independent young adults. To some extent that is true. They are, in many cases, probably more capable than some may give them credit for. But many of the callers on this program are probably younger than 15 and quite suggestible. Not to mention that there is a certain amount of junior high celebrity attached to hearing oneself on the radio. On top of all this, is it really right to encourage young people to villanize their parents and peers? I'm not sure about any of that. And I now listen to my iTunes while in my Sunday night cleaning frenzy.

Posted by sarah at January 23, 2007 05:17 PM
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