8 children’s cartoons that teach bad habits

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Did you know that not all cartoons are suitable for children and may actually do them more harm than good? We give you the breakdown of 10 children's cartoons and how they are harming your child by teaching them bad habits.

Now that the experts have given the green light for children to be exposed to screen time, parents everywhere are heaving sighs of relief and feeling less guilty about allowing their kids to be glued to mobile devices or watch TV while mum and dad get a few minutes to themselves.

However not all cartoons are suitable for children and may actually do them more harm than good.

Some animations such as Family Guy, The Simpsons, American Dad, South Park,and Beavis & Butthead, are examples of cartoons which are definitely not for children and actually targeted at a more mature audience, due to the coarse language, adult scenes and gory violence.

But did you know that some of the seemingly innocent children’s cartoons that your kids may be watching on a regular basis contain certain messages which may teach them some bad habits without you even realising it?

We give you the breakdown of these cartoons and how they are harming your child.

1. Pokémon – Makes children aggressive

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This wildly popular Japanese cartoon is a favourite amongst many children and adults alike. But how is that adorable little yellow Pikachu and his friends sending out the wrong message to kids, you may ask?

Well, psychologists have analysed the violence levels in a few TV programmes, including Pokémon, and they believe that watching such animated shows can make young people more aggressive.

Their studies show that children identify with cartoon characters just as much as real actors, and that a lot of the animated shows actually contain more violence than other TV programmes aimed at adolescents!

“Labelling certain types of media violence as 'fantasy' violence is misleading and may actually serve to increase children's access to harmful violent content by reducing parental concern", warns Professor Douglas Gentile, who led the study which was published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.

2. Cow and Chicken – Uses sexual innuendos

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With episode names such as, The Ugly Weenie, Squirt The Daisies, Tongue Sandwich, Grizzly Beaver Safari, Meet Lance Sackless, and Horn Envy, we’re surprised how much sexual connotation is squeezed into this cartoon about a curious pair of siblings.

Not only does Cow constantly rub and lick her own udders, she sometimes asks her brother, Chicken, to count her teats, and there is also a pantless red devil who walks around with his derriere in full display.

One episode in particular (Season 2, Episode 20) was deemed so controversial and aired only once before being canned, was when a tough all-female biker gang broke into Cow and Chicken’s house and began to eat the carpet.

For those who are unaware, “carpet munching” is actually a term used for cunnilingus (female oral sex).

Sure, this may fly over some kids’ heads (and even some adults), but the writers and animators of this cartoon knew very well what they were insinuating when they churned out this stuff for children to watch.

3. SpongeBob SquarePants – Fast pace affects short term memory

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This cheery yellow sponge and his best friend the starfish might be another crowd favourite, but child psychologists warn that watching fast-paced cartoons such as SpongeBob SquarePants, even for just a few minutes, will hinder abstract thinking, affect short-term memory and impulse control in young children.

Researchers conducted an experiment and found that young children who watched this fast-paced cartoon would perform significantly worse in tasks assigned to them and the study authors note that this show has an immediate negative effect on kids.

The frenzied pace of this popular cartoon which switches scene on average every 11 seconds, as compared to other cartoons which switch only twice a minute, make kids distracted and may kill their attention spans.

4. Calliou – Negative behaviour

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It is pretty common for toddlers to get a little whiny and have a tantrum every now and then, but this Calliou character really takes the cake.

His constant whining, temper tantrums and general spoiled behaviour is appalling yet his parents seem to always let him get away with everything.

He refuses to share with his friends or little sister, his eating skills are worrying for someone his age, he has no manners, he talks back to his parents, and thinks that the world revolves around him.

Children watching this show may be able to relate to the character, but it can also make them imitate him and make them feel that it is fine to treat others around them poorly or be rude to everyone.

Watching Calliou will make your kids take a big step back in their development and encourage them to display spoiled, bratty behaviour.

5. Winx Club – Inappropriate attire and behaviour

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Young children are very impressionable and tend to imitate what they see around them or watch on TV.

This cartoon which is about a bunch of fairies with special powers fighting to save the universe is sending out the wrong messages to their young viewers because of the characters’ skimpy attires.

The skirts and dresses that these fairies wear are incredibly short, some of them bare a large portion of their mid-riffs, and some online reviewers have pointed out the sexualised nature of the characters.

Marketed for tweens (youths between childhood and the teenage years), Winx Club also contains scenes where the characters can be seen passionately kissing their boyfriends.

Studies have shown that youths who watch a lot of sexual content on TV are more likely to initiate sexual intercourse or participate in other sexual activities earlier than their peers who don't watch such sexually explicit shows.

6. Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom – Calling others “stupid”

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A primary two student once nervously disclosed to me that he knew of a “bad word” beginning with the letter C. To my relief, he was actually referring to the word “crazy” (I know, kids are so innocent and sweet!).

This cute cartoon about fairies and elves living together in harmony is actually pretty clean and relatively harmless, but the only gripe we have is that some of the characters seem to use the word “stupid” a lot when describing other people or animals.

To young children, their equivalent of “the ‘S’ word” may actually be the word “stupid”, so for the adult characters in the story, such as Nanny Plum and The Wise Old Elf, to go around calling other animals stupid, makes us a little uncomfortable.

Other than that, this cartoon is actually pretty fun to watch but we wish that they’d just magic away that bad word!

7. Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers – Racial stereotyping

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If you look closely at the different Power Rangers, you will realise that the colours of their suit somehow reflect the colour of their skin.

The Yellow Ranger is an Asian girl who has trouble operating her vehicle; the Black Ranger is an African American guy whose fight sequence includes some smooth dance moves; the Red Ranger is a Native American with deep mystical wisdom; and the strongest member of the team is the White Ranger, who is, well, a Caucasian guy who vaguely looks like he’s dressed in the KKK garb at times.

Although this children’s television programme from the 90’s is supposed to portray a group of racially diverse teenagers, according to researchers, even young school-aged children are aware of and can be negatively affected by racial stereotypes.

Clark McKown, psychology faculty member of UC Berkeley says, “Being aware of racial dynamics can contribute to the gap in achievement between children from different ethnic groups.”

8. Pepe Le Pew – Perpetuating rape culture

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Pepe Le Pew’s persistent advances on his unwilling love interest has been argued to perpetuate rape culture, as his amorous behaviour is not mutually felt, yet he still pushes on.

Poor Penelope Pussycat on the other hand, is frightened out of her mind and does all she can to get away from this creepy stalker, sometimes risking her own life and in some episodes, she chooses situations where it appears like she has actually ended it!

When the skunk does manage to capture the cat, she is seen desperately struggling to get away from him, yet he still can’t take no for answer and refuses to leave her alone.

This show has normalised male sexual violence without parents realising it and the bad message that it sends out to boys is that it’s fine to hug and kiss a girl even when she’s clearly doing all she can to stop him.

It may seem cute and harmless now, but which parent would want their little boy to grow up thinking sexual assault is acceptable?