Oh, the irony

Here’s something ironic for you:  when growing up, I would constantly roll my eyes and scoff at my parents for saying that cartoons were too violent, and that TV had a negative influence on my behavior.  Routinely, I snuck around to watch shows like Ren and Stimpy.  Why would they air those on kid’s channels if they weren’t OK for kids to watch, right?  Flash-forward to now, and the disturbing irony has unfolded, as with children around I now understand that the profound impact TV really does have on our kids.

But in this there is something very serious to think about, that being the values that are conveyed through children’s TV shows.  When I was growing up, it was the violence of Tom and Jerry and Ren and Stimpy that parents lashed out against.  Violence was the evil in the world that kids were learning from these anthropomorphic cartoon animals that thrashed, maimed, and demolished each other one, glorious episode after another.  And while violence is still a problem in children’s programming (particularly cartoons), what I find more disturbing now are the values being set forth by the sitcoms being aired on Disney, Nickelodeon, and the like.  Alex Russo in Wizards of Waverly Place teaches children to be snarky, negative, and outright disrespectful of authority (including her parents).  Sam in iCarly teaches children to be similar to Alex, and to take it a step further by asserting themselves through physically violent to get what they want.  This slap-stickesque humor is used as a means to entertain, but in doing so it is teaching our children that such behavior is OK, even admirable.

After decades of outcry from parents and action groups, the TV networks that air such controversial programming just continue to air it, despite concerns abroad.  This, I believe, is inexcusable.  Whereas when I was growing up, a general sense of violence was the problem parents saw on the television their children watched; now, it goes a step beyond the violence to our values that have become skewed for our children by the television programming we allow them to watch.  But who is worse?  The networks for producing and airing the shows?  Or us for watching them?


  1. mikehayward

    The responsibility for airing programs disrespectful to the moral standards we wish for our children belongs to the network programmers who put this kind of crap… excuse me, “show,” on the air.
    The responsibility for building and nurturing the morality we want to instill in our own children rests with the parents of those children.
    Both parties to this problem are sadly lacking in their judgment and supervision.
    Believe it or not, parental outrage DID rid the airwaves of violence in programs targeted for children. But the void has been filled with something just as reprehensible, just as disgusting, something that awaits new outrage and action from parents.

  2. Rellik

    I have always felt that it is the responsibility of the parents to know what shows their children are watching. Just as parents are supposed to know how their children are doing in school, who they’re hanging out with in the afternoons and where they’re going on the weekends, parents should be actively involved in their TV time as well. Movies and video games have ratings and many of them have gone as far as to list the reasons for their ratings (violence, language, etc). If one is not available or a parent is not satisfyed with that, they can take it a step further and look it up on the Internet…or…(and I know this is a crazy, radical idea that nobody’s ever thought up) the parents can sit down and watch the show before they allow their child to see it. A sort of “screening,” if you will. For those parents who are still too busy or lazy to to take an active part in their child’s TV watching, there is always the backyard and the park or a library.

    1. Heather Christena Schmidt

      Yes, it is definitely the responsibility of the parent(s) to manage and decipher for themselve(s) what is appropriate for their children. That said, not every person in this country/world is intelligent or savvy enough to pay attention to the ratings of television programming set forth by the rating system. There are other organizations (such as common sense.org) that strive to offer informative and more in-depth reviews of television programming for children, but then you have to rely on a faith that parents are seeking out such information. I am sorry, but I just don’t have that kind of faith.

      Here’s why:
      Shows like Wizards of Waverly Place and iCarly (the two that I cited in my posting) are very popular, the former showing on Disney and the latter showing on Nickelodeon. Quite obviously, if they are popular it is because children are being allowed to watch them – enough so that ratings beget popularity which begets a continuation of the show. But even commonsense.org points to some of the problems with these programs. Most notably, which I did not even touch on in my posting, iCarly sets an horrible example of bullying and cyberbullying – something that is an ever-growing, and in recent years deadly, problem in this country. So why are kids being allowed to watch these shows? The only reasonable conclusion is that parents either (1) aren’t smart enough to recognize the subtle nuances that are problematic in these shows, and/or blatantly contradictory to a healthy, functional set of societal values; or, (2) just don’t care.

      Ultimately the parents are to blame for allowing their children to watch programs that teach kids to question authority, adopt a general negativity towards others, bully, cyber-bully, and to use violence to get what they want; but the networks are equally as responsible for pandering to ratings and popularity, rather than what is morally right.

      1. Rellik

        Your idea of morality may be different from mine. While we both may agree that the innocent should live and murder is wrong, we may view “justifiable” killing differently. I may believe that someone who breaks into my house should be shot on sight. You may believe that it’s better to call the police and let them resolve it. And both decisions may be based on our ideas of morality (peace vs violence). I know this is an extreme example, but there are many grey areas, especially when dealing with the entertainment industry. Unless you bring in an exact code of conduct with no room for a margin of error, there will always be these grey areas. By what method would you dictate national morality without imposing religion?

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