Not all cartoons are suitable for children

By Clyde Davis: Local Columnist

I’ve always been, and still am, a strong believer that the key to censorship lies in your rights, my rights, as a parent, to turn off the TV set, radio or other offending instrument. I have recently, however, become more aware of some of the challenges facing us. I guess the summary is to pay close attention to what your kids, or grandkids, are watching.

Jason, our 6-year-old grandson, watched, for a while, a Cartoon Network show called “Naruto.” At a cursory glance, this seemed like a martial arts version of “Pokemon,” which is pretty harmless and even cute. Then, being 6, Jason told me one day one of the “bad guys” on this show got his “power” by killing his parents. “Naruto” quickly hit the banned list, in our house. Several weeks later, it came up by mistake.

We watched it for a few minutes, as I wanted to get a fix on what was going on. In this few minutes, there was a flashback scene involving one of the main “good guys.” This flashback took us back to the childhood of the character, whose father was a freedom fighter of some kind. In the flashback, the character watched as his dad was captured, then executed. This was followed by a soliloquy in which the character lamented the fact that his father had promised to protect him, and had “lied,” turning out to be no hero at all but simply a person.

I do not believe this is a bad show— for a 12-year-old. However, it is taking complex, pseudo-mythical plots and weaving them together into a complicated story line —far too complex and violent for a 6-year-old.

As an English teacher, I can recognize the value of this type of complexity, and its historic/mythic roots, if applied to junior highs —not, however, to first-graders.

Behavior examples, quite apart from complexity, have put some shows on the banned list in our house. “Ben Ten,” also found on Cartoon Network, hit the list when it precipitated an increase in smart mouth behavior and comments on the part of our favorite first-grader. The Ben character is a little boy who lives with his granddad, and is given to smart mouth comments. Doesn’t take a genius to see the connection, does it?

I’ve long had more faith in Nickelodian than I have Cartoon Network, but the recent advent of “Naked Brothers Band” reminds me nothing is fail-safe. This show features, among other issues, a 7-year-old who tells everyone what to do, and acts like an adult. Once again, it is humor appropriate for watching by a middle-school child, but not a first-grader who will emulate it.

I would much rather Jason be shooting baskets with me in the driveway, or kicking the soccer ball around, and as a rule, this is his preference too. When TV does poke its electric face into the living room, shows like “Drake and Josh” or “Jimmy Neutron” seem to be much better geared to the 6-year-old mindset.

Like the Harry Potter movies, the awareness that some things are geared to specific ages is part of our responsibility in rearing children. The J.K. Rowling fiction, both novel and movies, holds a wonderful story of adventure and magic, for a middle-school-age child. My rule of thumb might be, since Jason can’t yet read Harry Potter, he probably can’t understand Harry Potter yet. At an appropriate time, it will be great for him.

Many parents are busy, and the best way to close this is with a reminder. If you haven’t time or inclination to monitor what is on TV, instruments are available that will edit out entire networks, for a nominal cost. This may be the best solution for, well, let’s not name names. You discern which ones need to go.