Bob Keeshan knows children.
First as Clarabell the Clown on Howdy Doody in 1948, then as Captain Kangaroo, Keeshan has had his gentle finger on the pulse of the youth of America for more than 40 years.
"I don't think children have changed," he said in his quiet voice. "The way we nurture them has."
And the biggest testimony to the decline of parental nurturing is the medium that made Bob Keeshan a hero to generations of Americans.
It's not that television is bad; it's the people who make the shows, says Keeshan, himself a producer.
"The majority of TV shows today are created to make money for the producers," Keeshan said Wednesday in a press interview at Honeywell Space Systems.
Keeshan noted that the biggest children's show on television last year, The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, made $1-billion for its producers.
Shows like that teach children to respond to their troubles physically, rather than verbally. Children should be taught to use their words when confronting problems, Keeshan said.
"A lot of children don't learn that lesson from shows like the Power Rangers, where the good guys solve problems with a karate chop," he said.
Keeshan thinks Barney, the huge purple dinosaur who loves everyone, is "a little one-dimensional."
"I would take some of the money the show makes and put it back into the program, and bring in other characters," he said.
There are some good children's shows on TV, such as Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, Sesame Street and Reading Rainbow, Keeshan said.
Not coincidentally, those programs all are on public television, not commercial TV.
But, ultimately, it doesn't matter how many quality children's shows there are on TV if parents don't guide their children's viewing, Keeshan said.
"As long as we use television as babysitter, children are watching adult programs," he said.