Byline: AMY JOHNSON Local View
DISRESPECT, violence, profanity and callousness -- these are a few of the things TV producers are working overtime to teach children about. Parents already know they don't want MTV coming into their homes, but this wave of anti-social behavior is not from the usual suspects. Unfortunately, much of this is from children's entertainment programming, mostly cartoons.
When our youths are fed a steady diet of sex, violence and profanity, everyone needs to take notice. Whether you have children or not, you will be affected by the changes that will be apparent in schools, in the workplace and on the streets.
A recent study by the Parents Television Council, ``Wolves in Sheep's Clothing,'' examined what Hollywood is producing for children ages 5 to 10 on eight networks. In the 443.5 hours of programming, researchers documented a staggering 3,488 instances of violence. This isn't just an anvil falling on Wile E. Coyote. It is realistic, and often pits one child against another.
On Fox's ``Shaman King,'' a fight between two characters ends when one kicks the other in the head and knocks him unconscious. The victor picks up the loser by his hair, and reaches into his chest while the loser screams. The victor then takes out the loser's soul and puts it into his own body, silencing the other. What is this teaching the 6-year-olds in the audience?
The American Psychological Association weighed in on this debate with a 15-year longitudinal study of 329 youths. They found that children's viewing of violent TV shows, their identification with aggressive characters, and their views of TV violence as reality are all linked to aggression as young adults. Researchers went back to the participants years later and noted that men who were high TV-violence viewers as children had been convicted of crimes at over three times the rate of other men. Women had similarly alarming rates.
Without any help, children find terrible ways to put each other down. Many shows encourage this with new put-down ideas and comments. The adults are often worse than the children, on shows such as Disney's ``Proud Family.'' Adults regularly have exchanges such as when one told the volunteer baseball coach that ``we all have real jobs, you're the only loser with spare time.''
Disrespectful behavior is in style as well. The PTC study found 622 examples of disruptive, disrespectful or otherwise problematic attitudes. Out of these, 53 were aimed toward teachers or parents. Disrespect for authority takes much more time away from learning time in the classroom today than ever before, and with what children are watching on TV, it is no surprise.
Not so long ago, the promotion of sex started with teenagers, but now this isn't early enough for Hollywood. On Disney's ``Sister, Sister'' there are references to pornography, descriptions
of foreplay and discussions about a ``Gay Policeman's Ball.'' Are these topics appropriate for 8-year-olds to be discussing?
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In 2005, a University of North Carolina study found that adolescents who are exposed to more sexual content on TV, and who see it supporting sexual behavior, report more sexual activities and greater intentions to engage in intercourse in the future. We all pay for this eventually, with unwanted pregnancies, and children who contract sexually transmitted diseases.
The next time your child wants to watch cartoons or other child-targeted TV shows, take a long, hard look at what lessons they are being taught. You will likely find a lot you don't want them to learn.