Do kids TV shows condone bullying?
Xav started pre-school in January at 2 ½ years old. Before his third birthday, he’d been exposed to two incidents of bullying. He wasn’t directly involved, but he was there.
It shocked me. It hadn’t occurred to me that this was something I’d have to deal with when we were yet to emerge from the toddler years.
It got me thinking about how we’ll handle this issue in years to come (or from now on, apparently) – both from the point of view of helping him to understand how he should treat others and what to do if he’s ever on the receiving end.
Now, I seem to have a heightened awareness to this sort of behaviour and I see it everywhere.
I’ve decided to write about the impact of kids TV in this post because I’ve started to wonder why the creators of kids TV shows think it’s ok to include scenes of teasing, intimidation, rudeness and unkind behaviour in programmes that very young children watch.
Obviously I realise that the onus is on us as parents to make sure that our little ones are watching stuff that’s ‘suitable’ for them, and everyone’s opinion of what that means is going to be different. But as Xav gets older and learns more about what’s out there I’m kind of surprised that I’ve needed to stop him watching stuff that is intended for his age group – and even younger kids too.
I can’t be the only one who cringes when Diesel teases the other engines because they’re different or they made a mistake, or when Peppa Pig mocks George and excludes him from games because he’s a baby only for her idiotic parents to laugh it off.
These are scenes of bullying.
Why is it ok that Naughty Norman treats James like an inferior being or that Peppa slams the phone down on Susie Sheep (you might have gathered that I have a bit of a thing about that damn pig)?
These are scenes of unkindness.
Back to Thomas the Tank Engine, how can it be ok for the Fat Controller to only be proud of the engines when they’re really useful? Surely this is sending the wrong message about the fact that it’s ok to make mistakes? OK….maybe my 3 year old won’t be thinking about that on such a deep level, but still – I dislike the subtext. I digress.
Surely I’m not alone in thinking that I’d much prefer he watched the trippy nonsense of the Night Garden or the benign fairyland of Ben and Holly?
These are just a few examples. But when bullying and harassment among our younger generation is such a prolific problem, shouldn’t these TV production companies be part of the movement to improve the situation by designing their content in responsible ways? Who can hold them to account on this?
How can we reasonably expect our children not to emulate these behaviours? I’m under no illusion that sibling rivalry, rudeness, sarcasm and backtalk are all normal, but that doesn’t mean this shouldn’t be challenged.
Maybe I’m being an idealist, and I know I risk being accused of sheltering him from the real world, but I don’t think it’s necessary or helpful for my son to be exposed to this sort of negativity – not while his innocence remains intact.
I won’t apologise for wanting my son to grow up with a strong set of values and a sense of what’s right and wrong, or for trying to protect him while he’s tiny. That’s my job as him mum as I see it.
The obvious answer is that I just shouldn’t let him watch TV, right? If I decide that I’d prefer it if his impressionable mind wasn’t exposed to these kinds of things all the while I’m still able to exert that parental prerogative, then I could just stop it.
But I don’t think that’s the answer.
Xav has learned so much through watching nursery rhymes and kids TV. He learns from every part of his day, of course, and TV is a minor aspect of his life. (But one which I could literally now not live without….I would NEVER get anything done without a little help from our animated friends.)
So I feel caught between a rock and a hard place, really.
For me, TV in moderation can be a great thing. It’s relaxing, it’s educational and fun.
But I think there’s an undeniable link between bullying and what our children see and hear, and when social torment is so prevalent I think it’s time that TV networks took responsibility for creating socially acceptable content for our children – in support of parents and educators.
What do you think?