Effects of Cartoons on Children
By: C.J. Choma
Dr. Louisa Ha
November 15, 2004
Introduction: Effects of Cartoons on Children
Children have become much more
interested in cartoons over many years and it has become a primary action to
some lives. Typically, children begin
watching cartoons on television at an early age of six months, and by the age
two or three children become enthusiastic viewers. This has become a problem because too many
children are watching too much television and the shows that they are watching
(even if they are cartoons) have become violent and addictive. The marketing of cartoons has become
overpowering in the
Mental and Psychological Effects of Children’s Cartoons
By: Stevie Hossler
Children have become much more interested in cartoons over many years and it has become a primary action to some lives. Typically, children begin watching cartoons on television at an early age of six months, and by the age two or three children become enthusiastic viewers. This has become a problem because too many children are watching too much television and the shows that they are watching (even if they are cartoons) have become violent and addictive. The marketing of cartoons has become overpowering in the United States and so has the subliminal messaging. The marketing is targeted toward the children to cause them to want to view the cartoons on a regular basis, but the subliminal messaging is for the adults’ to target them into enjoying the “cartoons”. This is unfortunate because children watch the cartoons on the television and they see material that is not appropriate for their age group. The Children who watch too much cartoons on
television are more likely to have mental and emotional problems, along with brain and eye injuries and unexpectedly the risk of a physical problem increases.
Mental and Psychological Effects on Children who Watch Cartoons From the time children start school to the time that they graduate they are averaged to spend around 13,000 hours in school. This may seem like an awful lot of hours to attend
school unless it is compared to the hours a child watches television, which is nearly 18,000 hours (from the time school is started to the time of graduation). This comparison is an outrage because of the amount of television that is watched by a child will have an effect on their brain, emotions and their sense to feel pain. In a 2000 report on adolescent violence, the U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher stated that more aggressive behavior in a young child’s life is caused by frequently watched entertainment that incorporates violence in it. This has become a public health issue and because of the research findings; the American Psychological Association passed a resolution in February of 1985,informing broadcasters and the public about the dangers violence on the television has on children. Three major effects have been proven by psychological research caused by children seeing violence on television are that the child may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others; children who watch violence do not fear violence nor are they bothered by violence in general and the children are more likely to become aggressive or use harmful actions towards others. When we are born we have the capacity
for motivation, experience, and training, and because of this our minds are very impressionable. Therefore, our brains’ development is a dynamic mix of nature and nurture, so it is important to choose a healthy environment for all children. This means cartoons with violence will be unhealthy for a child because in general, being interactive with any environment enhances the development of a successful brain. As a result, a
tremendous amount of childhood involvement with electronic media can limit social interaction and may obstruct the development of a brain’s social systems.
In December 1997, an episode of the Japanese cartoon “Pocket Monster” (later renamed “Pokémon” for international distribution) drew worldwide attention after multiple cases of children suffering seizures after watching the episode were reported (Warner, 2004). Parents began to wonder how the cartoons their children watched affected their mental development. While no former study specifically relating to cartoons has taken place, multiple studies over the years have charted the impact of television on the minds and eyes of developing children.
Most eye specialists agree that watching television is not a danger to the eyes, as long as children watch in the right conditions. The room should not be pitch black, and children should not sit closer than five feet away from the screen. Sitting in a dark room or closer than five feet will not damage the eyes, but will result in eye fatigue. (Adams, 1992).
As for the brain, there is scientific evidence that too much television can be detrimental to children. The April 2004 issue of the medical journal Pediatrics published a study done by Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center of Seattle, Washington. The study revealed that children who watched three to four hours of television daily had a 30 to 40 percent greater risk of developing attention deficit disorder than children who did not watch television. While no specific program is directly responsible, Dr. Dimitri Christakis, leader of the study, speculates that the speed of the images displayed could affect children’s brains (Today’s Chiropractic, 2004).
But does watching television give young children seizures? Yes, and no. A study released by The New England Journal of Medicine in July 2004 found that most children who suffered seizures from that December 1997 episode of “Pocket Monsters” had epilepsy, or some other underlying condition that would have caused development of seizures, regardless of whether or not they saw that program (Warner, 2004).
Today in many children’s cartoon’s you see cartoon characters jumping, diving, and falling from very high heights, then landing without being harmed. Parents seem to be happy with this as along as the cartoon doesn’t promote sex or any kind of violence. But, are these type of cartoon really ok for your children to watch? On every episode of Loony Tunes you will probably see a short clip of Wile E. Coyote trying to catch the Road Runner. And in every clip Wile E. Coyote in some shape or form seems to fall off a cliff or simple have one of his inventions back fire and cause a mass explosion. Yet, he manages to collect his teeth, dust him self off and get up for another attempt to catch the Road Runner. Another example of this sort of cartoon would have to be Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. In these cartoons it always seems to be rabbit hunting season and Elmer Fudd can never seem to shoot that “dang ol’ rabbit.” When he tries, Bugs usually finds a way to either bend the gun to aim at Elmer or to plug it up with some kind of object. But, either way the guns always fire into Elmer’s face. I could go on about numerous cartoons that display these kinds of characteristics. But, what I’m trying to get at is that these sorts of cartoons are displaying false sense of reality upon children. Being able to fall off a tall cliff or being shot with a gun in the face and walking from these incidents with barely a scratch. At a young age, this false sense of reality can really affect them. It has been proving that children on average watch 4 hours or television a day. And because of this false sense of reality “for every hour of TV viewed per day, the risk of injury rose by about 34% in the children studied.” (Website) As a child growing up I know I looked up to and wanted to be like the super heroes in the cartoons I watched. I would imagine that it would be the same today. That’s why the false sense of reality that cartoons show may in encourage children to try things that they see their favorite super hero do. In some cases TV has also been linked to causing seizures. “Either high-speed flashes of light or rapid color changes are thought able to induce seizures in vulnerable individuals.” (Website) They found this to be the reason for so many seizures in Japan. “Rapid changing stimuli can play havoc with the special cells in the retina called rods and cones that help the eye transmit visual information to the brain.” (Website) So just because the cartoons your children are watching don’t show sex or violence doesn’t mean that they are innocent. Because of this false sense of reality children at a young age can’t tell the difference between cartoons and realism. An increase of 34% isn’t a small jump when talking about injuries to children.
TV’s Effect on Children’s Behavior
By: Ben Wilcox
Television has long been criticized for influencing our children. People complain that certain TV shows are having negative effects on their children. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) both feel that TV does influence the behavior of children as young as one year old.
From their studies, the AACAP states, “Children who view shows in which violence is very realistic, frequently repeated or unpunished, are more likely to imitate what they see.” This speaks to the impressionable mindsets of young children, who are still learning control of their minds and bodies, and are likely to mimic what they see, as it seems quite normal to them. The AACAP also stresses the need for parents to keep a close eye on what their children watch. They must be there, the AACAP says, to explain that the cartoon character or actor that was shot has not been harmed, but would actually be seriously injured, or die in real life. They should also work to tell their children that violent behavior is not the best course of action to resolve a conflict.
The AAP states “Neuroscientists have shown that environmental experiences significantly shape the developing brain.” This again adds to the idea that young children are very impressionable. They paid more attention to the effect of TV on children in their daily lives. “Higher levels” the AAP states, “of television viewing correlate with lowered academic performance, especially reading scores. This may be because television substitutes for reading practice, partially because the compellingly visual nature of the stimulus blocks development of left-hemisphere language circuitry. A young brain manipulated by jazzy visual effects cannot divide attention to listen carefully to language.” TV is a very quick medium. Messages are shot at the viewer as if by an automatic rifle. Their minds must be equally as quick to interpret the messages, and with such a “two-minute mind”, many messages are misinterpreted, or confused. When the child becomes used to receiving information at so fast a rate, they lose interest in information that is more detailed and methodical, such as the information received in day-to-day schooling.
Television certainly does affect our children, who find themselves mesmerized by the bright flashing objects, and rapid assault of messages. It is good to know that the leaders of our medical professions feel that parents and supervisors of children are able to help slow the information down, and explain what the messages really mean, so as to have a more positive effect on our children.
Children’s cartoons are packed with many controversial topics such as violence and sexuality. These messages are not always purposely placed in the cartoon, but instead are sometimes the result of an oversensitive parent or a misunderstanding. However, many parents would be shocked to learn that cartoon makers are intentionally brainwashing their children by secretly placing messages never to be deciphered by the conscious mind, but instead propagating the subconscious, into behaving a certain way.
This practice is known as subliminal messaging and it is certainly nothing new to mass media. Ever since the advent of television and radio, subliminal messaging has had a place in both advertising and programming. But what is subliminal messaging? It is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as, “Below the threshold of conscious perception; inadequate to produce conscious awareness but able to evoke a response” (AHD, 1352). What this means in the world of mass media is advertisers and programmers are slipping in messages that you act upon and don’t even realize that you are doing it. And they are also doing it to children. Although there is no official law that makes subliminal messages illegal, it is widely frowned upon by the Federal Communications Council (FCC). Stiff fines and penalties including revocation of a station’s broadcasting license can arise if a station knowingly airs anything containing a subliminal message. This is was not always the case as proven by the FCC in the 1950’s when legislation that was to forbid subliminal messages was overturned. The FCC referred to Section 326 of the Communications Act stating, “ The FCC is prohibited from censoring broadcast material, including advertising.” It wasn’t until 1958, when the National Association of Broadcasters pressured the FCC to make subliminal messages illegal, that the FCC finally complied by revising its policies on the matter. The new code states: Any technique whereby an attempt is made to convey information to the listener by transmitted messages below the threshold of normal awareness is prohibited (FCC Information Bulletin 7). This law, however, only limits the use of auditory subliminal messaging. There has never been any legislation passed restricting the use of visual coercement of the subconscious, which remains legal today.
Many acts of accused subliminal messaging are easily explained by a simple coincidence. Such as the infamous Disney stories, when in the 1990’s, conservative Christian groups such as the American Life League accused the children’s entertainment giant of placing subliminal messages of a sexual nature in its films. In the movie, The Lion King, the word S-E-X is spelled out by flying dust as Simba plops on the ground. There was also the incidence of a phallic symbol being placed on the cover of The Little Mermaid’s videotape box. While these can be explained as an accident or a coincidence that just slipped by, other acts of subliminal messaging are purely intentional.
Ken Sobel, a business man from New York, became aware of subliminal messages in cartoons in the 1980’s while viewing a videotaped episode of Alf, the animated series, he noticed a glitch in the middle of a battle scene. Upon further review, he was able freeze the tape on the exact frame that caused the glitch. He was instantly stunned at what he saw. There, on the screen, was the image of an American flag in the background, the statue of liberty in front of that, and diagonally across the screen in large block letters was the word A-M-E-R-I-C-A. This image was present for only one frame, or 1/30th of a second. This was brought to the attention of NBC Studios which originally aired the broadcast. Although NBC, as well as ABC and CBS, has a policy prohibiting the use of subliminal messages, it does not actively screen its shows for such content. NBC launched its own investigation on the incident and reported that while in production at Korumi Studios in Japan, where the cartoon was made, animators admitted to intentionally placing the image as well as others within their cartoons. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was also at the center of controversy after it was released on home video. In a scene where Jessica Rabbit is tossed out of the car, her legs spread and for about four frames, there is her exposed genitalia in full detail. The animator responsible for this scene admitted to what he had done, claiming: “I thought no one would notice.”
The use of subliminal messages such as these has been almost eliminated because technology has advanced to where home viewers are now able to search what they are watching frame by frame. Animators are now cautious not to put such blatant images in cartoons. Whether or not subliminal messages still exist is known only by those who put them there. Since we are not meant to know, will we ever know if we and our children are being brainwashed?
The lessons that the media conveys to those parts of the mind without conscious perception through the cartoons that people watch, are referred to as subliminal messages.
“If that’s the Democraitc way, I am voting Republican.” This was said by Meowth in an episode of “Pokemon” that aired on Monday, October 11th, 2004 at 4:00 p.m. When children watch cartoons, they always pay attention to what is being said. In a child’s subconscious mind, he or she is exposed to auditory subliminal messages that they may never discover, but they will eventually become a part of their lives. Not all auditory subliminal messaging is negative. However, most of these messages have a negative effect on children. The interesting thing about the situation is that these messages are most common in popular cartoons.
SpongeBob Squarepants has been on the air since 1999 on Nickelodeon. Today, it still remains popular and new episodes are still being created. It is now 2004 and people are speaking out against the messages that they found hidden in a number of episodes. The main allegation against SpongeBob Squarepants is its use of metaphors in place of profanity. When he is disappointed, SpongeBob will often yell out “Tartar Sauce”. To an adult ear, that phrase may sound like it is intended to represent a curse word.
Also belonging to the Nickelodeon station is “Rugrats”. It has been on the air since 1991. The show is often seen as prurient or “sex driven”. The last name of the main characters is “Pickles” which is a euphemism for the male genitalia. Lou Pickles usually calls his grandson, Tommy Pickles by the name “sprout”. It has been argued that this nickname is also a euphemism for the male genitalia as well. Angelica Pickles represents the S&M of “Rugrats” because constantly physically and verbally abuses the babies. Lesbianism is also portrayed in this cartoon. Phil and Lil’s mom, Betty Deville is what we would call a “Bull Dyke” because she wears a bandana, hangs out with feminine women, yells a lot, and loves sports.
When parents choose what cartoons to let their children watch, they want to make sure that these cartoons are appropriate for general audiences. If a parent was to find profane or sexual language in the content of a cartoon, they wouldn’t allow their children to watch that cartoon anymore. People who create popular cartoons are careful to not allow any vulgar content to be incorporated into their cartoons. However, every cartoon can’t be made perfectly safe for viewing by children and some of the verbal content may be mistaken for auditory subliminal messages.
Marketing Practices of Companies that produce Children’s Cartoons
By: Divia Nelson
Ask any company today what is one of the best ways to sell a product? Many will respond, make it accessible to children. Surprise by this response? Well, you shouldn’t be. “Nearly 2 billion dollars is roughly spent on advertising to young consumers in America alone. Nearly 30 billion dollars are racked in annually from children 4 to 12 years of age and the numbers get even higher with age”(Shah 1). Children are no longer viewed as vulnerable human beings that need to be nurtured. Nowadays, companies are increasingly viewing kids through an economic lens. This is because children are easy to take advantage of. A child will see an item that they want and will throw a complete tantrum until their parents give up and purchase it. This is a marketing company’s dream come true.
Children tend to trust adults even when they shouldn’t. So, when a spokesperson for a product encourages the child to purchase a product, they will. Marketers are fully aware of this piece of information and take complete advantage of it. “Advertising at its best is making people feel that without this product, you’re a loser” says Nancy Shalek, president of Shalek Agency. Kids are very sensitive to that. If you tell them to buy something, they are resistant. But if you tell them that they’ll be a dork if they don’t, you’ve got their attention.” Marketing Companies can open up emotional vulnerabilities, and it’s very easy to do with kids because they are emotionally vulnerable.
Cartoon companies are the most common companies that are tapping into this new trend. It is literally impossible to walk into any store today and not see any licensed cartoon merchandise. From playing cards to toothpaste, these companies have covered every angle possible. By doing this it makes it impossible for a child to walk into a store and not want a specific item. Cartoon companies are also known to advertise their object in between television shows. The commercials are designed to have the child infatuated with the object and wanting it as soon as possible. With such devises these companies are using today, it is quite understandable why these companies bring in billions of dollars a year.
Adams, Cecil (1992, July 24). Will sitting too close to the TV, reading with bad light,
etc., ruin your eyes? The Straight Dope. Retreived November 3, 2004 from
Author Unknown. SpongeBob SquarePants: You Wish ("Shanghaied")/Gary Takes A Bath - TV Tome. Retrieved Oct. 7, 2004, from
Author Unknown. Spongebob Squarepants. Retrieved Oct. 7, 2004 from
Author Unknown (2004, May/June). TV Linked to Attention Defecit in Youth. Today’s
Chiropractic, 33, 18. Retreived from Alt Healthwatch database.
Cohen, Karl F. (1997). Forbidden Animation: Censored Cartoons and Blacklisted Animators in America. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company.
Copeland, Jeff B. (1996, Sep 5). Lawsuit Says Disney Hid Sexy Messages in Cartoons. E! Online. Retrieved Sept 30, 2004, from http://www.eonline.com/News/Items/0,146,00.html?yhnws.
Josephson, Wendy, Ph. D (1995, February). Television Violence: A Review of the Effects on Children of Different Ages. Retrieved from
Kalin, Carla (1997, June). Television, Violence, and Children. Retrieved from
McIntyre, Selena. (2002). Is Subliminal Advertising Effective? Retrieved Oct 7, 2004 from http://bpsoutdoor.com/articles/subliminalads.htm.
Ruskin, G. Media Awareness
Network. (1999, December). Retrieved November
03, 2004, from http://www.media- awareness.ca/english/resources/articles/advertising_marketing/corp_pray.html
Shah, A. Behind Consumptions and Consumers. (2003, October 28). Retrieved
November 03, 2004, from
Sobel, Ken. (1989, Aug 12). Could That Alf Cartoon Be Flashing You A Hidden Message? TV Guide Magazine. Retrieved Sep 30, 2004, from http://www.geocities.com/geniac2/dirstar/news/subliminal_message_in_alf_carto on.txt.
Warner, Jennifer (2004, July 21). Pokemon Seizures Linked to Epilepsy, Not TV.
WebMD. Retreived November 3, 2004 from http://my.webmd.com/content/Article/91/100966.htm