It seems to me that our society values children as a demographic only, and markets to them as if they were miniature adults. In a way, it's a step back in time to the days when children as young as three were put to work on the farm, given tools, chores and responsibilities and were preferably seen and not heard. This explains why, in all those old-fashioned family photos, no one is ever smiling.
But that was before television and newspapers, before Sunday comics and Cartoon Network. In today's comics pages alone, which my children love to read, there were two strips that raised my eyebrows. One talked about their child asking questions about sex, and the other used the word "damned." Ironically, I read them and thought, WTF?
When I occasionally stroll by the television when the boys are watching, I sometimes catch them viewing a cartoon that has a scantily clad, big-boobed female character who is not a superhero. And since when did cartoon characters start using words like 'stupid,' 'crap,' and 'moron'? One of my favorite cartoons as a kid was The Pink Panther, and that had NO DIALOGUE AT ALL.
I used to love to watch PBS with my kids when they were small. Their spongy, SpongeBob-less little minds would soak in all those songs about colors and numbers--heck, I could still sing most of them because I learned them when I was a kid. At what point does educational television become too babyish, forcing kids to other channels that push sex, bad language and poor manners under the guise of "entertainment"?
At least, I comforted myself, they both love to read. And now the comics are following suit with television. As publishing continues to tank, it's as if everyone is grasping at straws to sell, sell, sell (and everyone knows, sex sells). But to children?
That, then, is the point. When it's animated, kids assume it's for them. Sadly, so do many harried parents. School-age children are now viewed as 'tweens- and teenagers-to-be, ready to learn life lessons before they hit second grade, as long as those lessons are couched in animation to soften the blow. Cartoonists see kids as mini-adults, turning today's cartoons into the kind of 'educational' television that I'd rather my kids not learn from.
I may have grown up in the oh-so-dangerous 70s, before technology, but I turned out OK. So I'm revoking the brain candy this summer and encouraging my kids to eat sugary Good Humor ice cream instead. I've shipped my oldest off to the Adirondacks with his dad for a week of sleep away camp, and my youngest and I are off to the lake with friends.
Call it "roughing it," but we're going to spend as much time outside as possible this summer, bugs and UV rays be damned. I mean darned.