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PTC: More More Violence on Children’s TV than on Adult TV

Parents Television Council
Levels of Dark Violence, Sexual Innuendo, Offensive Language Show that Children’s Programs are “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing”

LOS ANGELES (March 2, 2006) – The Parents Television Council released its first study on children’s television titled, “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: A Content Analysis of Children’s Television,” which found that there is more violence on children’s entertainment programming than on adult-oriented television.

Children’s programming has been around as long as television itself, but until recently, it was limited to Saturday mornings or before school.  Today, thanks to a handful of cable channels, cartoons and child-targeted programming are available almost around the clock.  In fact, few broadcast networks are even offering original Saturday morning children’s programs.

“Parents often take it for granted that children’s programs are, by definition, child-friendly.  While a lot of entertainment programming for children is perfectly wholesome, parents nevertheless have to worry about the part of it that isn’t appropriate.  This disturbing trend signifies that parents can no longer be confident that their children will not have access to dark violence, sexual innuendo or offensive language on entertainment programming targeted toward children.  We do realize that this is probably not a deliberate effort to undermine the social fabric of young children, but this thoughtlessness still produces the same end result,” said L. Brent Bozell, president of the PTC. For this study, the PTC focused on entertainment programming for school-aged children aged 5-10 on broadcast television and expanded basic cable.  Eight networks – four broadcast and four cable – offer programming matching that criteria: ABC, Fox, NBC, WB, ABC Family, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.  The PTC focused its analysis on after-school and Saturday morning programming.  The analysis covered a three-week period during the summer of 2005 for a total of 443.5 hours of children’s programming.  The study did not include children’s educational programming.

The study found: 

  • 3,488 incidents of violence for an average of 7.86 instances per hour.  [Even when the innocent, “cartoony” violence (i.e. an anvil falling on Wile E. Coyote’s head) is extracted, there were still 2,794 instances of violence for an average of 6.30 instances per hour.  According to a 2002 PTC study, the six broadcast networks combined averaged only 4.71 instances of violence per hour during prime time programming.]

  • 858 incidents of verbal aggression for an average of 1.93 instances per hour
  • 662 incidents of disruptive, disrespectful or otherwise problematic attitudes and behaviors for an average of 1.49 instances per hour
  • 275 incidents of sexual content for an average of 0.62 instances per hour
  • 250 incidents of offensive language for an average of 0.56 instances per hour
    • Although the Cartoon Network had the highest total number of violent incidents,  the ABC Family Channel turned out to pack the most punch-per-program, with 318 instances of violence (only 11 of these could be considered “cartoon” violence) for an average of 10.96 violent incidents per episode. 
    • The Disney Channel had the least-violent children’s programming with 0.95 incidents per episode.
    • The WB had the highest levels of offensive language, verbal abuse, sexual content and offensive/excretory references.

    Examples of content on child-focused television programming:

    • VIOLENCE – The influence of Japanese anime on children’s cartoons is quite evident.  This very intense scene took place on Fox’s Shaman King

    :  Zeke and Yoh continue fighting.  Yoh is knocked down many times and is worn down. Finally, Zeke knocks Yoh’s sword away and then kicks him in the head, knocking him out.  Zeke then yanks Yoh off the ground by his hair then reaches into Yoh’s chest.  Yoh is screaming.  Zeke takes Yoh’s soul and puts it in his own body.  Yoh appears dead. [August 13, 2005]

  • PROFANE LANGUAGE – During the study period Nickelodeon aired an episode of Sponge Bob Square Pants entitled “Sailor Mouth,” the subject of which is foul language: Innocent Sponge Bob doesn’t understand the dirty word graffiti he sees on a dumpster but Patrick tells him it’s a “sentence enhancer” for when you want to talk fancy.  The rest of the episode features Sponge Bob and Patrick using bleeped foul language [“fuck,” “asshole,” etc].  The bleeps are made to sound like a dolphin which makes the whole thing seem humorous.  At the end Sponge Bob and Patrick realize the words are bad and promise to never use them again but the episode ends with them telling Momma Krabs the 13 bad words Mr. Krabs has just said.  All are punished by Momma Krabs for “talking like sailors.” [August 1, 2005]
  • SEXUAL CONTENT – Disney’s Sister, Sister had sexual content falling into a number of categories, from references to pornography to innuendo:
  • Lisa falls down and hurts her back while getting ready for her date.  When Terrence gets there, he starts rubbing her back and Lisa moans and groans.

                Lisa: “Have you ever done this before?”

                Terrence: “Not with anyone as pretty as you.”

                Lisa: “You have done this before!”

                He feeds her a melon and then talks about choosing the best melon.

    Terrence: “You gotta’ get real close (he moves closer) and feel it.  Then you gotta smell it.

                Lisa: “Mmmmm.”

                Terrence: “Of course, the skin should be firm but supple.”

                Lisa: “Just the way I like it.”

                Terrence: “And it should want to give…”

                Lisa: “Oh, it wants to give.”  [August 27, 2005]

    This new study has found that the violence aimed towards little children is almost double compared to the levels of violent content directed towards families and adults during prime time hours.  One might quickly dismiss violence in children’s programming as inconsequential, but what has changed is that the violence is ubiquitous, often sinister, and in many cases, frighteningly realistic,” continued Bozell.

    In addition, one of the more disturbing trends in this study was the amount of adult-oriented subtext that was laced throughout both the animated and live-action programs.  Sadly, producers must think that if they can entertain parents with double entendres and innuendo the parents will encourage the children to watch.

    The downward spiral of children’s television must stop.  Broadcast and cable networks must be held accountable for allowing such inappropriate content to corrupt our children.  We must also hold advertisers responsible for underwriting these messages,” Bozell concluded

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