What Are They Watching? The Impact Potential of Children Programs and the Need for Parental Control
A week and a half ago, I was working at my desk, having finished watching an episode of Cold Case Files. After changing the channel, a commercial for a children’s cartoon aired. On any other day, I might have ignored the narrative were it not for me being unsettled by a killer’s confession in in a 1977 murder case.
In this particular case, a mother, after some persuasion, allowed her son and daughter to visit a nearby fair. At some point, the daughter returned home to get more money, only never to be seen alive again. Sadly, the little girl’s remains were discovered approximately two months later. And, while there were a range of possible suspects, the case wouldn’t be solved for 20 years when forensic science had advanced significantly.
Investigators learned that victim’s killer was a sexual predator (dating back to 1969) who had abducted and molested two young girls. When the killer was taken into custody as the probable suspect in the case I speak of, he disclosed something disturbing. He would lure his victims into close proximity before abducting them.
I think of this little girl and her mother and wonder whether there was a missed opportunity to educate about safety with regard to strangers. How are parents are educating their children about the importance of not engaging strangers on any level? Are our children even sensitized to the potential dangers within their surrounding environment? What are the messages that adults communicate face-to-face and digitally to kids today?
This cartoon commercial narrated the line: “Love is love,” while displaying two characters in a rather intense lip-locked embrace. My initial thought, cringey. Children should not be bombarded with images of characters whether of the same or opposite sex, engaged in various stages of intimacy.
What Does Intimacy Have To Do With Children Programs?
Explain what love (or "Love is Love" more importantly) has to do with kissing at a child’s age. Mature adults know that love does not connotate intimacy nor does intimacy connotate love. These interactions are not interchangeable. Besides, intimacy should not be on the list of knowledge to acquire that children should be learning until they're teenagers. Even then, discretion should be used because boundaries between children and adults are distinct.
When such boundaries are blurred, problems begin and lead to a range of outcomes. Instances of sexual misconduct occur in part, because adults who should be exemplars or immature youths, have crossed the line regarding acceptable and moral behavior as it pertains to minors. Without boundaries, nonexistent are these standards.
Healthy child development encompasses helping children acquire age-appropriate behaviors and teaching them why these behaviors are important.
Generally, there is nothing wrong with promoting love through publication and entertainment. The concern is the manner in which love is being scripted on television. Kids do not need to read or see characters in intimate displays of love. They should not be presented with narratives or characters with suggestive dialogue, descriptions, and features.
For the sake of healthy child development, the concept of love should be demonstrated through the construction of positive and high-quality interpersonal relationships between family members and friends. Where child-appropriate scripting is concerned, illustrations of love can portray:
children helping each other complete an assignment or task;
children defending each other, such as in a hero-based narrative;
children emotionally supporting each other.
Not the First Time I Questioned Children Programs
I have viewed and heard suspect content on this cable television channel that is supposedly for kids before. About two years ago, at the top of the pandemic, I was working from home when an episode of another popular cartoon aired. This cartoon features a protagonist who is a young male adventurer and an antagonist who is an old male wizard. In this particular episode, the old wizard fantasizes about marrying the alternate-reality female version of the male protagonist. And you probably reached this conclusion, the cartoon hints at gender-swapping. Creepy.
How about narrating a story for kids about the potential dangers of solicited by adults?
Major Concerns for lack of Parental Control in Child Learning
There is ample research that children learn through social interactions, observations, and modeling. Both emotions and perception of rewards factor into the development and persistence of related behaviors.
Based on scripting, children may assume that the expression of sexual affections from adults is appropriate. Children may also become desensitized to the advances of strangers. These misunderstandings can potentially make them more susceptible targets of a serial killer, rapist and/or pedophile.
In the case of Lisa Bonham, the killer posed as a fisherman, lured Lisa into abduction, ultimately raping and murdering her. According to the killer’s testimony, he often posed as a fisherman to lure young girls, pretending to be congenial. Once the child’s defenses were down, he attacked.
It is not okay for adults to look at children in a romantic or sexualized manner.
Disturbing, right? This is the type of content that children are being exposed to without many parents being consciously aware. Before our very eyes, children are being targeted and conditioned by sinister and corruptible agendas.
When you think about why more children are identifying as fluid, could it be that this prevailing mentality stems from what they’re observing within their environment? After all, many programs of decades past didn’t promote these controversial themes. Cartoons often showcased conflicts between protagonist and antagonist and ended with a summary on moral behavior or safety.
The Call for Engagement and Parental Control
Here is the value of active listening. Viewers consciously pick up the subliminal messages ordinarily missed when watching/hearing passively.
Writers typically write with a specific purpose in mind. Many of us write to either convey a message for the purpose of raising awareness regarding a person, issue or phenomenon, making an impact in particular area, or accomplishing both objectives. I can only wonder about the intent of the writers and producers on the children’s cable television channel.
If parental/guardian engagement and support are lacking in many school systems, we can only imagine what family engagement and support look like at home. However, parents and guardians have the power to control and filter what their children are exposed to within the home. Engaged parents are able to buffer harmful programming and conditioning.
Parents/guardians who are disconnected from their children allow psychological damage to come right through the television screen. Here are some reasons “why” such disconnect exist:
Some households are led by single parents/guardians; or
Some households are characterized with parents who are psychologically and/or physiologically absent; or
Some households are inhabited with adults who are uneducated and/or language-deficient, which create communication barriers; or
Some children are subject to various types of abuse and neglect; or
Some parents/guardians are ignorant with regards to what their children are exposed to in and outside the home.
What you can do as an engaged parent/guardian when your children began to exhibit odd behaviors:
Set aside time to discover where the children learned the odd behaviors or language and implement strategies to modify/correct the behavior.
Spend more quality time with the children and watch the same programs they view regularly, actively listening to the scripting while paying attention to the onscreen portrayals and interactions. If such programs are found disturbing or inappropriate, discontinue the child’s access to such contain and carefully explain the reason for your decision. These actions will help the child be more receptive and adjust to the change. Additionally, replace the program with one that is more suitable or implement a constructive activity.
Seek out a counselor for therapeutic interventions where behaviors continue to persist.
Start being proactive and read up on these so-called children’s programs to determine their suitability for your kids. Enable parent controls where possible.
Thanks for reading.
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