Unsavory Content in Kids' Shows Does a Disservice to Youth ; Parents Should Not Assume That Children's Programming Is Child- Friendly

By Hughes, John | The Christian Science Monitor, March 8, 2006 | Go to article overview

Unsavory Content in Kids' Shows Does a Disservice to Youth ; Parents Should Not Assume That Children's Programming Is Child- Friendly


Hughes, John, The Christian Science Monitor


Well, the self-congratulatory glitter of Oscar night has come and gone, and I am not going to add to those moviegoers who have already shelled out more than $76 million to see "Brokeback Mountain," or $53 million to see "Crash."

I do not feel especially culturally deprived. At least I have not had to listen to the 92 profanities that the Family Media Guide says litter "Brokeback Mountain," or the 182 expletives in "Crash," 99 of which are utterances of the so-called "R-rated" curse word.

Hollywood excuses all the profanity, violence, and sex it routinely offers up because it says it must portray life as it actually is. To do less, say its producers and directors, would be a travesty and a prostitution of the cinematographers' art.

In many years in the newspaper business I've been exposed to a fair amount of bawdy language, but I can't remember an occasion on which anybody managed to infuse 90 minutes (the length of an average movie) with 182 expletives.

I suppose we should be grateful that none of this afflicts the eyes and ears of young children - say between ages 5 and 10 - who presumably are not being taken to see such movies. Alas we would be wrong and naive to come to such a conclusion. According to the Parents Television Council, children in that age group are getting a big dose of violence, bullying, name-calling, bathroom humor, and sexual innuendo on television, on cartoons, and on children's programming designed uniquely for them.

A PTC content analysis of children's television for the 5 through 10 years age group last year found that there were 3,488 instances of violence in 443 hours of children's programming surveyed. That is an average of 7.8 violent incidents an hour.

The survey released last week, called "Wolves in Sheep's Clothing," says that too often we dismiss violence in children's programming as inconsequential. "Violence in cartoons is nothing new, but what has changed is that violence has become ubiquitous, often sinister, and in many cases, frighteningly realistic."

Parents often take it for granted that children's programs are, by definition, child friendly. Unfortunately, says the PTC, this faulty assumption has led many parents to let their guard down and allow their children to spend hours watching television unsupervised.

The children's watchdog TV organization cites studies that show exposure to TV violence is "positively associated with aggressive behavior in some children. …

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