My dad was born in Flatbush, Brooklyn, in 1954, to a mother and father whose parents had all immigrated to the United States from Ireland and Wales. When he was five his parents and brothers moved to Seaford, Long Island, where they lived in a stereotypically sleepy, suburban neighborhood. My father grew up on a block of identical houses built right after World War II. Each house was a slightly different color, with a backyard, driveway, and front lawn. During his childhood he amused himself with sports and games he played with his three brothers.
My father remembers a television being an integral part of his childhood early on, from at least the age of eight. He was never allowed to watch it as much as he would have liked because my grandfather was very cynical and derisive of the device in general and referred to it as the “boob tube.” However, when my dad was allowed to watch it he recalls watching shows that he liked, such as “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Mod Squad.” When he was around my age, he remembers watching a lot of his favorite television show, “M*A*S*H.” Although he mostly listened to the radio as a child to hear his favorite baseball games, he later on watched TV more often to see his favorite baseball and football teams.
I can tell that the radio had a huge influence on my father’s life; he still listens to his favorite talk shows to this day, and falls asleep listening to the radio at night. My father said he clearly remembers what it was like to hear the Beatles first play when he was about nine or ten years old, but he also remembers watching them in black and white on television, playing a sold-out, frenzied concert at Shea Stadium in 1965. I grew up listening to the radio in the car, but unlike my father, the television played a much bigger role in my childhood than it did in his, and I rarely listen to the radio anymore, except for certain programs on National Public Radio. However, even those tend to be on podcasts and not when they are broadcasted on an actual radio.
My parents grew up in a very different setting than I. They both grew up in mainland China, whereas I was born and raised in New York City. During the 1970s and 1980s, my parents relied mostly on radio and print media to learn about what was going on in the world. Television was also a growing media at the time, but because it was not as easily accessible for my parents, it did not play much of a role in their lives. My father still, to this day, very rarely watches television.
My media usage both growing up and now, however, differs so enormously from my parents when they were my age. I grew up with the television being an important part of my life; I watched hours of cartoons every Saturday morning, and received much of my earlier education from shows such as Barney and Sesame Street. Having grown up in an electronic age, it is not surprising that I now rely mostly on the Internet and television for news. I do listen to the radio at times, but even then, I often stream it from the Internet or download podcasts through iTunes.
None of the media sources that I use now were available to my parents when they were my age, and I feel lucky to have such technologies. Although my parents both know how to use the Internet, neither of them use it to the extent that I do. They do not rely on online versions of newspapers like I do—my father reads Chinese print newspapers, and my mother watches the news on television or reads the free newspapers that are handed out on a daily basis in the New York City subway. My parents have an attachment to print newspapers because it is what they grew up with, even though to me, using the Internet seems so much more convenient.