Jim Daly Christian Blog and Commentary

Are Cartoons Bad For Children?

  • Jim Daly Jim Daly is president and chief executive officer of Focus on the Family, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families thrive.
  • 2011 Sep 15

Posted by Jim_Daly Sep 14, 2011




There’s a new study out that suggests when compared to gentle and slower animated fare, “fast-paced” cartoons negatively (and immediately) impact a child’s ability to think creatively and regulate their behavior.

Are you surprised?

This would seem to fall into the “common sense” category, especially given the numerous studies through the years about the detrimental impact of television on children. For example, a highly respected study sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics several years ago recommended no television for children under the age of three. I think that’s wise. However, these most recent findings appear to break some new ground in this ongoing debate.

Researchers discovered that a four-year-old child is negatively impacted after viewing just nine minutes of over-stimulating animated content. (The average cartoon is actually 11 minutes long and packaged with another similar episode. And, as parents well know, television for kids is the equivalent of chips for adults – it’s difficult to stop at just one!)

As reported, the study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, would appear to throw cold water on cartoons in general. In many ways it does, but there’s an interesting element of the study that’s being overlooked by some outlets. 

Could there be room for – or value in – gentle, uplifting and redeeming animated content?

It appears so. Why?

The analysis in this study dealt not just with the pace of the programs, but with the essence of the storyline. In this particular instance, the fast-paced program was also “fantastical” in nature and had little relation to reality. In contrast, the slower-paced cartoon, although also animated, depicted familiar themes and routines of childhood life.  Researchers speculate that the fantastical elements present in the fast-paced cartoon further deteriorated a child’s cognitive resources. In other words, when a child is faced with interpreting a show that has absolutely nothing to do with anything in real life, they’re more likely to zone out and have a hard time getting the motor running again.

Like many of you, I grew up watching my share of cartoons, all of which were pretty tame and silly in comparison to what’s out there today. But with our own boys, Jean and I have made a deliberate decision to live without cable or satellite television in the house, and we’ve never looked back. But I’d really like to get a sense from all of you out there about a number of related things, including your reaction to this latest news and your overall take on children and television.

Do you let your kids watch? If so, what and how much?

And I’d be remiss in not introducing parents who are new to Focus to a wonderful alternative to television:  Adventures in Odyssey! For 25 years our award-winning radio series has been helping children (of all ages) paint pictures on the mirror of their minds – all the while deepening faith, developing Christian character and inspiring and encouraging along life’s way.  To check it out for the first time – or time and time again - please click here.

I look forward to hearing from you!

ALSO THIS WEEK:  Sunday: Get Well Soon, Dr. Dobson! Monday:  Is Hollywood Listening?  Tuesday:  Your "Federal Family"

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