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Cartoons Gone Wild

Are children's TV shows helping or hurting kids' development?

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Some of the most popular broadcasted shows could be hindering the psychological and social development of children. One specific TV show, directed toward children 5 and under, seems to be deemed as educational as it helps make learning fun for children. "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse," which airs on Disney Junior and Univision, is a very engaging show designed to help children obtain mathematical and problem solving skills by helping Mickey and his friends complete tasks around their clubhouse.

Mickey Mouse is always on the screen asking his audience questions, getting them excited about counting, finding hidden objects, identifying shapes and so on. Throughout the show children are shown several different skills focusing on keeping the child’s brain active without them knowing. These skills include counting, sorting, size and distance comparisons, classifying and addition and subtraction. Along with these skills, Mickey and his friends teach safety such as wearing a helmet when riding a bike, not running with scissors and being mindful of hot and dangerous surfaces and cooking utensils in the kitchen.

While counting is super and gets the “Mom Approves” sticker, if you pay close attention, you will notice a few issues that should be addressed as they could subconsciously deceive the young’uns. Some of the characters in the show include Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, of course, Donald Duck and Daisy Duck, Goofy and Clarabelle Cow. Now wait, there is also Pluto, Professor Von Drake, Chip and Dale and Pete the Cat. Did you catch it? There seems to be eight male characters, while the females pull in a measly three characters. Why is Disney reaching for an audience of mainly boys? Not to mention they seem to reinforce the stereotypes that women belong in the kitchen and focus on their material possessions. In the show Minnie Mouse explains that her favorite hobby is baking and Daisy is clearly focused on her physical characteristics and all the bows she has for her hair. Although "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" encourages learning, there seems to be no adults at all on the show. Mickey Mouse and his friends run around without parental guidance, nor talk about their family. Also, what about school? For a children’s show, encouraging school seems to be a very important task for producers to include, yet they do not.

Another TV show, but targets an audience aged approximately 6 and older and airs on Disney Channel and Disney XD, is "Phineas and Ferb." "Phineas and Ferb" is a TV show where two brothers spend their entire summer vacation building and creating fun ways to make the most of their vacation. What I do find great about this show before I completely destroy someone’s childhood, is that it clearly encourages engineering as Phineas, Ferb and all their friends build rocket ships, rollercoasters, a time machine and so much more.

So here’s the first issue: bullying is a major problem around the world and it does not help when producers show the common stereotype of the bully and the nerd on a children’s TV show. Baljeet, the “nerd,” and Buford, the “bully,” have a sort of “frenemy” relationship although Buford is constantly bullying Baljeet, who allows this behavior every episode.

In "Phineas and Ferb," families are shown and encouraged. That’s great. Good job, Disney. Oh wait, the parents are not even aware that their children are building dangerous contraptions and putting their lives and others in danger. Their big sister, Candace, tries every episode to “bust” or tattle-tale on her brothers for building these insane contraptions. Because she fails on every episode at “busting” her brothers, at times Candace basically feels like she is going crazy. Not to mention, her mom especially thinks that Candace is confused and overreacting about her brothers. In one episode she becomes so exhausted from failing time after time that she actually becomes so depressed that she just gives up trying to show her parents what her brothers are doing. Although it is a terrible example of giving up on something, Disney shows their audience that it is OK to give up sometimes, which should not be the case.

Unlike "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse," school is somewhat addressed in this show, but in a more neutral way. Phineas and Ferb are on vacation and are excited to be out of school and want to spend their 104 days “building a rocket or fighting a mummy or climbing up the Eiffel Tower.” But on the other hand they never say anything bad about school or learning.

As much as it is great to just turn your brain off and watch TV, children’s TV shows should help children’s development. Although I am not a parent, doing research before letting my child watch a show would definitely be a no-brainer. The content of the show should not be violent or include any rude humor. They should celebrate different cultures and teach children to love one another, aside from our differences. I believe that having a show that engages their imagination and allows them to learn without knowing is a great aspect for any children’s show.

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