Dr Linda Papadopoulos Interview: Wake Up World

October 6, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Features

Everyone knows that a television is the most effective child-minder that a parent can get, but Nick Jr is planning to take that concept to a new level.

The channel has unveiled its new interactive breakfast block for kids, Wake up World this week, and it could help de-stress those hectic mornings for gibbering parents everywhere.

Dr Linda Papadopoulos – who has psychologised (Official OTB Word™) on Big Brother and Celebrity Fit Club – is the spokesperson for the introduction, and she was delighted to talk to OTB about it.

So, about that skateboarding nun from BB1….

We’ve heard quite a bit about Wake up World, the new breakfast block on Nick Jr. How important is it for children to watch educational television that they can interact with?

Firstly, routine is very important for kids, as it helps to give them boundaries. Any parent will know the awful feeling when their child wants to watch a video for the 50th time. For the child, it’s about a sense of familiarity and knowing what to expect, these things are a big part of their emotional development. What’s great about ‘Wake up World’ is that it comes in small manageable blocks – you’re not simply dumping your child in front of the TV. It’s fun, predictable and includes them, which is important.

Obviously, television is now a very important factor in the lives of young people. I’m sure you agree that it’s a good thing that TV is being used in this way.

Absolutely, TV can be extremely damaging and extremely helpful for kids – it all depends on what they’re watching. To label TV as bad or good is simply too easy. My little girl adored Dora (the Explorer), and I was amazed by how quickly she picked things up. But then I remember growing up with Sesame Street, and being very proud when I learned to count to ten in a different language. There’s been a lot of research behind this and it’s very important to know that these programmes come from a place of knowledge, not conjecture.

As a mother and a professional psychologist it must be great to be involved in something new like this. I expect parents will be very glad when the television encourages their child to get ready in the morning?

You’re right, hopefully this kind of television is going to reinforce parents messages, whether they are about brushing their teeth or just being polite. But it deals with many other discussion points as well. They looked at what life is like in the morning, all the stresses of getting your child to eat a healthy breakfast, get dressed by themselves etc, and asked, how can we make that into something interactive? Wake up World should teach them that life is about what you choose to do, and how you choose to behave which again is really important.

You have previously worked for Big Brother, which is coming to an end next year. How have you seen the contestants change between the first series – which you worked on – and the most recent ones?

It’s been amazing. The producers came to me in 2000 and told me they were doing a really revolutionary new show, which was partly a social experiment. It was fascinating because they would send me tapes of people who were sitting around saying. “Oh dude. No-one’s watching this.? They had no idea of their celebrity. When they told me they were doing another series, I thought: “That’ll never work!?

I’m very glad that I did the first series, but since then I think they’ve pushed it a bit too far, and now it kind of misses the whole point of its creation. People are asked to form relationships just to destroy them a week later, which is very counter-intuitive – in real life we don’t do that at all. I think later on it becomes a caricature of itself. It’s still interesting, but for behavioural scientists it’s not as interesting as the purer first series.

You must have had a favourite housemate, was there someone you thought was more interesting than the rest?

I did – Anna, the skateboarding, lesbian nun from the original series. Nice person, interesting and against the grain but in a thoughtful way. I really liked her.

You’ve done Celebrity Fit Club in the States, the contestants must have been under more pressure doing that than in Big Brother. How did you find doing that?

Many people in Hollywood are pandered to so much that their sense of entitlement is very high. But they were also a much more therapy-minded group. I always say that in England I have to work harder to get my clients to open up, but in America they are more used to it. It was fascinating and very surreal. On one occasion we were filming at a location connected with the Charles Manson murders and everyone was convinced the place was haunted. We had Chastity Bono and Kelly LeBrock saying, “come into this room, it’s freezing compared to the rest of the house!? It was the most surreal experience of my life.

Going back to the new show, Do you think this concept is going to be something that will grow, and are you hoping to be involved for a while yet?

I really hope that Nick Jr does develop it. Because I’m a bit of a nerd at heart, I think its good that everything’s based on research, and I know that they will be taking a lot away from this. I agree with what you said about television becoming such a large part of our lives, and it really is our responsibility to make sure that it is being used for the good of our children as much as possible. I think at times our kids are being bombarded with images and influences that aren’t appropriate, the trolls for example used to be these cute little cuddly things and now they’re hyper-sexualised. I think we need to be aware of the messages we are giving to our kids. I’m all for any channel that takes some responsibility in this way.

One man that is dominating daytime schedules at the moment is Jeremy Kyle, have you ever seen his show?

I don’t usually watch his show, but I’m not really a fan of programmes which display the worst of human behaviour, and as far as I’ve heard it seems to be problem focused rather than solution focused. I’m not sure that’s healthy for the people involved.

Lastly, one of your most famous books is called ‘The Man Manual’. Have you got any plans to write a ‘Woman Manual’ to help us blokes out?

Yes it’s going to a 12 volume encyclopedia! I’ll try and get it to you in the next few decades…

Sean Marland

Wake up World begins on Monday 5 October on Nick Jr at 7.00am

For other kid-friendly shows, read our review of Yo Gabba Gabba. For far funnier (slightly more adult) takes on kids TV, watch these hilarious outtakes from Ricky Gervais’ appearance on Sesame Street or run through our list of the Top 9 Cartoons You Wouldn’t Want Your Kids Watching….