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?