Cartoons are the most frequent and easily accessible source of entertainment which we provide to our children. With the vastness of media and extension of channels, it has become easier for children to watch their favourite cartoons on a single click and at the same time it has become more convenient for parents to provide children with this all-time favourite activity of theirs. Time which was previously spent by children in outdoor activities is now replaced, as now they can be found glued to the TV sets for long hours, peering at all sorts of cartoons, mostly without the supervision of elders who are completely unaware that this might have certain effects on their psychological development later on displayed in their behaviour patterns.
There is a wide range of cartoons from fairy tales like ‘Beauty and the Beast’ to action-based cartoons like ‘Ben Ten’ and ‘Pokémon’. Children between the ages of 6-8 have different preferences; girls are usually into fairy tales and animated ‘Barbie’ series whereas boys and some girls even usually have their favourite super hero cartoons like ‘Spiderman’ or ‘Batman’ or action flicks like ‘Bay Blade’ or ‘Dragon Ball-z’. Children are at a stage when their minds are developing and forms impressions easily so parents need to be careful what they expose them with.
At such an early stage children consider the things they watch in cartoons to be real, they are unable to differentiate between fantasy and reality and often believe that if Elmer Fudd remains unharmed even after being bashed by Bugs Bunny with a hammer a number of times so can they. Mukarram, 8, studying in class 2 received a warning from his school after he got caught for beating up a fellow student. When asked for explanation the child replied innocently, “I was just showing my friend one of the moves I saw in a cartoon the night before.” His family members admitted the fact that they never kept an eye on his TV activities.
According to a research carried out by The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), “Children who view shows in which violence is very realistic, frequently repeated or unpunished, are more likely to imitate what they see.” Hassan, father of two sons said, “There was a time when one of my sons began to play pranks on his little brother quite frequently, and I failed to understand the reason behind this sudden change in his behaviour, one day however I found him watching ‘The Cramp Twins’, and understood the reason for all this bullying.” Hassan also said that he has become conscious of the cartoons that his sons watch since that time.
A junior wing school teacher when asked about children’s behaviors regarding violence and physical actions commented “Some students are always picking up fights in the class, one of the reasons behind this aggressive behaviour could be that they are too much influenced by violence based cartoons or other programmes which parents without any concern let them watch in excess.”
Children watching too much cartoons often fantasize about the kind of life that various characters are living. Huma, an exasperated mother of 7-year-old daughter shared her experiences about her daughter’s fixation with her favourite cartoon, ‘Winx Club,’ “She creates a lot of fuss every time we go for shopping as she insists on having the same wardrobe as the characters in the ‘Winx Club’.” College going girl Ayesha, elder sister of a young kid Rumaiza says, “My youngest sister is really under the influence of these glamorous tales and she assumes herself to be princess who is interested in wearing strapless frocks and wants to do ball dance.” She believes that such programmes are putting a negative impression on the innocent minds of children. Living in Pakistan these impressions are not encouraged as our culture is conservative towards such activities.
On the other hand, there are lots of cartoons, which are not only the best source of entertainment for kids, but could also be used for educational purposes. For instance, cartoons like ‘Barney’ can be used to stop some toddler from crying whereas ‘Blues Clues’ or ‘Dora the Explorer’ can be used for some brain activity making children learning shapes or identify colours etc. One of the teachers at a local primary school said, “For mind building and constructive learning of children, students have a cartoon period once a week, and we try to show them standard cartoons after thorough selection so that they could derive something positive out of it.” A psychology student Amna Ejaz shared her views regarding this issue, “Give your children time to watch cartoons as it is the most common source for education, expose them with programmes which are appropriate as per parental guidance.”
The influence of cartoons can be made positive by a little effort on the part of parents or elders. They should make their kids realize that these fantasy things have no true value and identity, no such ‘Spiderman’ exists who will jump from top of one building to another with the help of his web, there is no such ‘Ben 10’ wristwatch which will start blinking and will alert Ben of every evil action before hand. If someone is killed or beaten up by cartoons it does not mean that kids should also start doing the same. Parents need to keep an eye on their children’s activities and should be observant of any peculiar changes in their behaviour. With intervals they should have an interrogation session with them and try to clear the reality of things and should answer the controversial and ambiguous questions they have in their mind. Thus, for making cartoons a healthy entertainment and a good and effective source of learning for children parents should pay a little heed towards providing selective cartoons to their children which could have a positive impact on them.
(The writers are students of the Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi)