The other day I went to pick up my children from school and was greeted with a note. Not a “Hi, How was your day,” kind of note. No it was more like” Your child committed an act of violence and slapped another child in the face,” Kind of note. Not good….I was horrified. My sweet little baby. Hit another kid? Why? What the heck? After determining that the other kids did nothing aggressive to warrant my son’s reaction, I had a long talk with my son and dolled out the appropriate punishment.
The next day he apologized to the child and everything seemed ok. However, I could not shake the feeling that my son learned this behavior from somewhere. Other than the occasional spanking (Yes, I spank my kids when necessary!) I could not think of where this behavior could be coming from.
Then it occurred to me. In recent weeks we have been watching a cartoon that shows a bit more violence then most of the other ones we watch. I questioned this at first, but figured he understood it was not real and I did not really think about it again. However, the uptick in his hands-on, aggressive behavior has coincided with the family watching this new show. Now I wonder how much has this cartoon violence really effected my son?
An article on the Psychology Today website refers to a study in Pediatics during 2013,
“The outcomes (of the study) are striking, though perhaps not surprising. Very young children immersed in pro-social and non-violent cartoons after six months are more sociable children. The kids left to watch violent cartoons manifest more often early signs of aggression,” writes George Drinka M.D
However, not everyone agrees that there is a direct correlation between violent behavior and violence in cartoons. Everyone remembers growing up watching Bugs Bunny. This did not cause an undue amount of violence in children back then. Many researcher believe that amount of violence and type of animation has changed how children are viewing cartoon violence today. In addition, other factors such as socio-economics, socialization and family influence mitigate the effects of violent cartoon images.
According to Australian parenting expert Michael Grose age of the child is also a big factor.
“Children younger than seven have trouble differentiating what’s real and what’s not,” says Michael Grose. “From eight to 10, they like the idea of scarier and more violent movies – zombies, for example – but physical harm and gore is still too much for them. Early teens however, “love to be scared out of their wits”, not so much with images but with tension and music. Older teens can handle suspense and dramatic build-up.” (Quote from article on Australian website SchoolAtoZ)
After considering this I do feel that my 5 year old doesn’t seem to understand that violence is a real thing and can hurt others. He sees it in a cartoon and thinks it is a game, something used for laughs.
It seems however, the research community does not have a consistent message regarding the results of TV violence but after a few weeks of switching to less violent program I can see a difference in my son. Maybe when he gains the maturity and better understanding of the results of violent, we can broaden our cartoon repertoire.
For now I feel I let things slip.We cannot depend on advisory ratings and cartoons made for adults but marketed for kids lul us into a false sense of security. When we let our guard down we expose our children to images they are not ready for. Just because it’s called “Cartoon Network” doesn’t mean it is for kids.
It is hard for me to admit I was not a vigilant as I should have been. I get it now. If we don’t teach our children, TV will force them to grow up before they are ready, turn them into consumers before they have understanding, and introduce them to themes they lack the maturity to comprehend.