In addition to being a babysitter, the TV is also a teacher. Over the years public service announcements have tried their best to make sure kids were armed with knowledge that prevented them from talking to strangers, burning down forests and gluing their eyelids together.
Here's a look at 16 classic PSAs from Canada and the U.S. -- what they taught us, and how they kind of scared the crap out of us.
Astar, star of this War Amps PSA, hails from a spooky Bladerunner-esque planet (that we learn in a later ad is called Danger). Lucky for him he can reattach his arm whenever it's severed by machines, which is apparently often.
The take away here? Your town sucks. Also, you can't put your arm back on.
Don't you put it in your mouth
Concerned Children's Advertisers came up with this memorable ditty to remind kids not to eat rocks, Windex or puppy chow.
For more in the "don't ingest poison" category, see Storytime a.k.a. "Some mushrooms are not for raccoons."
Stay Alert, Stay Safe
Bert and Gert were a neon-clad brother and sister bunny rabbit team who appeared in a series of Canadian PSAs with tips to keep kids safe. This one dealt with how to be cautious around strangers.
Like other ads of the era, it neglects to address that kids are most likely to be abused by people they know, which is kind of important info to have.
MADD's wine glasses
If you saw this ad as an adult you probably thought it creatively illustrated the effects of drinking on one's driving. If you first saw it when you were a kid, you probably thought, "Whoa, is that what being drunk is LIKE?"
This is your brain
Your brain is an egg, and when you're on drugs, it's a fried egg. That is to say, more delicious?
This PSA (circa 2000) encourages critical thinking and media literacy in kids -- and adults -- as they watch TV. It's very nicely done.
Every Canadian remembers those ParticipACTION Body Break ads, and if not, well, Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod's recent appearance on the Amazing Race Canada probably jogged a few memories.
For what seemed like decades, these two were on the airwaves encouraging Canadians to keep fit and have fun (and grow moustaches).
Smokey the bear
It's hard to say whether this Canadian Forestry Association's Smokey the Bear ad is aimed at kids or parents, because it's mostly a it's a parent's responsibility -- not a child's -- to make sure campfires are out.
Rehab a.k.a. 'He's My Brother'
This one from Concerned Children's Advertisers is a tear-jerker, and to those born post-1980, the Hollies' He ain't Heavy, He's My Brother is synonymous with this commercial.
This is where Concerned Children's Advertisers went all David Cronenberg on us. Two puppets hanging out in an sketchy alley are approached by a drug dealer who looks a lot like Christopher Walken.
They refuse to buy, and at the end the pusher lowers his sunglasses to reveal these freaky blank eyes surrounded by what looks like mutilated flesh.
Louie the Lightning Bug
Ah, electricity, the invisible threat. Louie the Lightning Bug was there to tell us the risks in song form.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles anti-drug PSA
The Turtles appeared in this anti-marijuana ad for Partnership for a Drug Free America. Kids learned that "I'm not a chicken; you're a turkey," is the worst possible comeback ever.
Drugs, drugs, drugs
Another catchy jam driving the anti-drug point home.
'The Crying Indian'
This Keep America Beautiful ad from '71 was so well known it was parodied on The Simpsons. Fun fact: Actor Iron Eyes Cody is actually of Italian heritage.
This seriously cheesy PSA demonstrated all of the techniques that pedophiles use to lure kids into their white cargo vans -- and that "safety is more important than good manners."
'I learned it by watching you'
This looked like it was going to be an anti-drug PSA for kids, but then BAM! it turns the tables onto the parents, who are reminded that they need to set a good example by not doing drugs.
These aren't commercials so they don't quite belong on this list, but here are two more super-long public service announcements that deserve mention:
Eugene Levy Discovers Home Safety
An accident-prone Eugene Levy teams up with the National Film Board to do a 40-minute PSA on being safe at home in 1987.
Strong Kids, Safe Kids
This 1984 feature-length PSA featured A-listers Henry Winkler (both as himself and the Fonz) and John Ritter.
Best quote: "Penis. Is what boys have down in front. Penis. Is the word though it seems blunt. All boys have a penis, so no matter what you've heard, remember that penis, is the proper word."