A few months ago when visiting a friend, I was disturbed to see her eight-year old sister making one of her Barbie dolls, in her Barbie Ferrari, run over another Barbie. When I asked why she was making her doll hurt the other doll she replied, “Because it’s funny. The Coyote gets run over all the time, it’s funny. ” I then explained to her that when cars hit people, many times the get hurt very badly. Before one can understand how harmful cartoon violence can be to children, one must understand how easily children are exposed to cartoon violence.
The average child spends twenty-eight hours each week watching television, and fifty-four percent of children have televisions in their bedrooms (Huesmann and Eron 13). These facts alone set the stage for exposure. Also, almost half of all television violence is in cartoons (14). In fact, Saturday morning cartoons alone feature thirty-two acts of violence per hour. Considering that cartoons rarely show the long-term effects of violence and that two-thirds of cartoons portray violence in a humorous way, it is obvious that this cannot be beneficial to America’s youth (Kreig 32).
Psychological studies consistently prove that cartoon violence is detrimental to children. One study shows that by three years old, children willingly watch programs made for children, such as cartoons, and will imitate something they see on television, just as they will imitate a live person (Parke and Kavanaugh 46). Since children do not process information in the same manner as adults do, they do not have the experience to judge what they see. Because children watch a great deal of television, they are very susceptible to its negative effects (Kreig 41).
Another study concluded that by watching cartoons, children learn different ways of being violent, and also learn to use aggression to bring themselves rewards (Huesmann and Eron 15). Therefore, if children see cartoon characters getting what they want by hitting, they too will try to get what they want by hitting. Another study conducted by Huesmann showed that children who watch a great deal of violence on television tend to become very aggressive as adults, and also tend to have more trouble with the law as adults (16).
So, if so much of this television violence is in cartoons, and television violence is proven to have a negative effect on children, it is clear that cartoon violence is harmful to children. Other than making children act aggressively, cartoon violence has other negative effects. A study done in 1974 concluded that seeing violence on television, including in cartoons, might lead children to accept more aggressive behavior in others. So, a child may accept that the school bully beats him up every day because he saw a child get beat up by a bully in a cartoon.
Also, cartoon violence may make children fearful that the real world is as violent as it is in cartoons (15). Do we want America’s children growing up to believe that it is alright for the school bullies to beat them up or that things that happen in cartoons happen in the real world? The answer is no. It is just not healthy for children. Those who oppose this argument have a lot to say. They say that children’s programs and cartoons have been developed to teach academic and social skills and to help children to learn effectively.
They also say that the positive effects of children’s shows and cartoons probably outweigh the negative effects of exposure to cartoon violence, as seen in a study conducted in 1986. Cartoon supporters also claim that certain toys can be more harmful to children than cartoons (17). Violent toys are a separate subject from cartoon violence. Many people are also quick to blame parents for children’s reactions to cartoon violence. They say that parents are not spending enough time with their children, and that they are using the TV as an electronic baby-sitter, and that they are not explaining the concept of make-believe to their children.
However, studies prove that when there is an adult present who comments on the events of a TV show, children are more likely to imitate what they have seen (19). So, if a child is watching a cartoon with a parent, and the parent tries to discuss the bad portions of the cartoon with him, the parent may just be intensifying the negative effects of cartoon violence. It is obvious that the problem of cartoon violence is out of parents’ hands. When two children were put to the test to see if there is a negative impact from cartoons, the results were very expecting.
The children were asked to watch a cartoon and then were asked a series of questions. When they were asked what they liked about the cartoon one said that the cat running through the window was funny. The other child said that the cat shooting the gun and the other cat jumping through the window were the funniest parts. This proves that children find cartoon violence humorous. This may lead children to use violent acts because they do not understand it’s consequences and are being misled by cartoons.
One does not need to be a psychologist or a psychiatrist to realize that cartoons are making children’s eyes blind to the serious effects of violence. Children are like sponges; they will absorb anything they can. So, when children see violence in cartoons, they soak it up. Since violence is a learned behavior, cartoon violence must be put to an end before it totally corrupts children’s minds and causes violence to become an even greater “social disease of epidemic proportions” (Kreig 46).