Some of you may remember phrases such as “Ya nasty,” “Sweet niblets” and “Ya boob,” from That’s So Raven, Hannah Montana and Drake and Josh. These were just a few of the shows I grew up on.
Anything from Wizards of Waverly Place to iCarly or Suite Life of Zack and Cody, populated my childhood free time. They were funny and creative, and we all wished for a life full of magic, from having an elevator in our apartment or living in a hotel, but all of these shows in some way promoted bullying.
Disney+ seemed like such a good way to re-live all my favorite kids shows from my childhood. However, after a trip down memory lane, I thought, “No wonder there is so much bullying in school; everything you watch as a kid shows kids being mean to each other, to parents and to teachers.”
I was shocked that I missed these signs as a kid. All of the media I consumed as a child berated me with scenes of bullying and even violence.
According to webmd.com, “On average, there were about 14 incidents an hour of social aggression in the 50 most-watched television shows among 2- to 11-year-olds, and about nine out of 10 shows contained the bad behavior.”
Even older shows that my parents or older siblings watched growing up such as Popeye, Tom and Jerry and Looney Tunes depict bullying and violence. A cat and mouse beating each other up and a hunter trying to shoot a rabbit maybe aren’t the best things for kids to be watching.
With the mass amounts of TV shows on multiple networks, how are parents supposed to filter through the good and the bad and teach their children about right and wrong behavior?
According to webmd.com, researcher Nicole Martins, Ph.D., said that younger kids do not recognize the moral of the story when bad behavior is depicted. She added that when humor masks bad behavior, young kids may imitate it, not recognizing it as bad because they can’t pick up on the subtle hints that show how that behavior impacted someone else.
“In 2017, about 20 percent of students ages 12–18 reported being bullied at school during the school year,” according to the National Center for Education Statistics. “Of students ages 12–18, about 13 percent reported being the subject of rumors; 13 percent reported being made fun of, called names, or insulted.”
TV shows for kids are at the heart of bullying problems in schools across the country. The TV show bullies are the cool and popular kids. If a child sees these shows, they may think treating others poorly will make them popular or they will have more friends. They may also think this is acceptable behavior because everyone on TV is doing it—monkey see, monkey do.
According to stopbullying.gov, “Approximately 30% of young people admit to bullying others in surveys,” and “when bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time.”
Not all TV shows promote bullying though, and especially not on purpose. There are some that actively support anti-bullying campaigns. Stars speak out against bullying, and many networks such as PBS and Disney Channel show anti-bullying commercials.
Children’s television networks need to be more aware of its shows’ content. The message of showing how to resolve problems is often missed by young viewers, so instead of learning problem-solving skills they see bad behaviors. Instead of focusing on the bullying aspect, they need to show how to be nice, caring and respectful human beings in all situations and how to avoid bullying, discrimination and disrespect.
Growing up surrounded by TV shows with violence, bad behaviors and crude or vulgar content through bombarding media, there is no wonder why we see so much violence and anger problems today. As adults, we gradually became immune to the abusive content we see everywhere.
We may have started out watching Scooby-Doo and superhero shows when we were young now we have gotten to the point where we binge-watch true crime and murder mystery shows detailing the most gruesome violence of all. We need to be aware of what we are watching because, as the old phrase goes, “monkey see, monkey do.” I believe filtering what we watch and choosing to view positive and wholesome media will help us to become more kind and respectful individuals doing good and spreading love over hate and kindness over violence.