Ritwiz Gaur and Ashi Gaur
Bothered and bewildered are we, just like any other sensitive adults, with increasing trend of young and immature children involved in serious offences or risky conduct viz – a seventh class girl stabbed a junior in Lucknow just for a school holiday; killing of yet another junior student in school toilet in Gurugram; or Noida teen brutally killing with pizza cutter the mother and sister for trivial reason; or gunshots in US school; or slapping junior inhumanely for sake of bet in Noida school; or beating, or bullying; or road rage; or experimenting with psychotropic substances; or irresponsible conduct on social website; or engaging in vicious trap of bluewhale; or raping; or mocking at parents, teachers, peers; or ….. seems to be endless.
After every such single incidence; regulations, researches and impositions are flooded far above its true need; that though pontificate but is identifiable by its feverish nature – an “irrational exuberance”- without taking into account the ground reality which subsequently burst, precipitously ‘fizzle’ out to its natural death in due course of time without much to any credit. Coffee houses contemplations and intellectual ‘Big fights’ portray relentless series of allegations and cross-allegations and onus-shifting syndrome; media and social network ‘sacrosanctly over-engrossed’ with “judgmental” breaking news; without taking into cognizance the passive role of complete society who are nurturing the present generation from their early childhood with toxic fantasies which is writ large today as a macabre.
Entire fraternity of educators, parents, intelligentsia and governance is concerned about such alarming situation without acknowledging the fact that “Aired cartoon shows” -a silent but integral part of every house hold- had seriously impacted the language, behavior, psychology, ethos, value-system and cultural shift of our young generation. Almost all types of cartoons and animated movies are the main factors which are playing a key role in ‘typical’ “enculturalisation” of our children against the basic family values “SAMSKARAS” of rich Indian heritage. With every passing day, world across children are becoming less sensitive, disobedient to all, impatient in life. As a ‘cool’ trend they are acquiring disrespectful or risky habits such as smoking, drinking, road-rage, rumor spreading, name calling, eye rolling, inappropriate attitude towards adults, racism, sexual context from cartoon like “Johnny Bravo”, “The Simpsons”, “Family Guy”. Along with this, some cartoon has some inappropriate language use such as “that sucks”, “stupid” that children are learning from the show. These languages they are practicing both in personal life and in school papers, furniture and hidden walls, without even knowing the consequences. “When you think no one is really watching, someone is watching, and it’s your child” (Brown). As a result they begin to practice those without even knowing consequences. “Influenced children” -who are still learning to control their minds and bodies- are likely to imitate what they see on the shows that they watch for they see it as normal. In addition, children are following the violence which is presented slightly in a funny way. Cartoons, such as “Tom & Jerry”, “Ben 10”, “Batman”, “Scooby doo”, “Oggy and The Cockroaches” etc, stands out for their violent scenes. These cartoons screen in a hilarious way gun fire, explosions, beating one other, jumping from high places, running in the streets etc. but later children tend to apply that in real life. Further, Chinchan, Doraemon had transformed the innocent expression of children into defiant and mocking behavior which is religiously simulated by young children at school and home.
Is innocence to be blamed?
Children are the closest reflection of the omnipotent creator of the world. Innocence and purity personified, they are unmarred by the corrupt thoughts and practices. They resemble wet clay, enthusiastic and ever ready to be signed in the manner the potter wants to mould them. When a child is born (s)he has the capacity for motivation, experience, and training and because of this his/her minds are very ‘impressionate’. A Chinese poem aptly defines them, “A Child’s life is like a piece of paper on which everyone who passes by leaves an impression”. Child’s brains development is a dynamic mix of nature and nurture. Children ranging from the age of 6 months to about 12 years of age go through various stages of emotional and physical development, during this age however they have extremely impeccable minds due to which external stimuli have a major role in shaping their personalities.
There is no iota of doubt to the fact that children are filled with tremendous energy, are the lifeline of any nation; being one third to our population. They are the crucial segment of a nation’s development, the ones who can nurture the legacy of love, peace and harmony and can even bring about change for better tomorrow and that augment the fact that the care survival and development of children are the responsibility and concern of “We-the Adult”.
Aired Cartoon – traversed a diversified trajectory!
Cartoons and animated films were once the favorite program of viewers of the different age groups in the society. These cartoons and films were enjoyed by almost every person, from different walks of life on their television sets and theatres. In the beginning when the animated movies and cartoons started their journey, the program contents of both contained humor and entertainment for all ages and “sophistication levels”; but unfortunately the present status portrays dismal affair. Cartoon Network is now no longer safe for kids due to its adult contents. In present scenario, cartoons have become violent and addictive to children and also how they have hidden adult subliminal messages to allow for parents to enjoy the cartoons along with their children. This is a major issue because the children that are watching these cartoons are not mature enough for the material, which may cause mental and emotional problems. Moreover, three major effects that have been proven by psychological research in regard to children seeing violence on television are – the child may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others; children who watch violence do not fear violence nor are they bothered by violence in general; the children are more likely to become aggressive or use harmful actions towards others. The results of the researches has shown that there are different variables having affects such as liking and disliking of cartoon characters, based on their gender, accessories and costumes they use, physical attractiveness, age, intelligence, anti and pro-social behaviors and over goodness and badness.
In addition, cartoons set a false reality for children by cartoon characters being invincible. It talks about instances such as the how Wile E. Coyote in episodes of ‘Loony Toons’ can fall off a cliff and walk away without even a scratch. Incidents like this make children think that they too can do these things without being hurt, when in reality they cannot. Having this false sense of reality increases the risk of child safety. The gravity of state of affairs reminds us a quotation of cartoon character Winnie the Pooh, “Sometimes the smallest things can take up the most room in your heart.”
When society at large is at loss; who is the gainer?
Cartoon industry itself is of multibillion magnitudes. Animated programs and cartoons are playing a vital role in enhancing the profit of companies manufacturing toys as cartoons. Moreover, now cartoons are not only confined to toy industry rather it is on bedsheets; clothing; mugs; eatables and what not. Cartoons are source of advertisement for corporate companies. It can be said that cartoon are generally half -hour commercials for profit oriented companies. The last decade has seen an astronomical change in the genre of animated programs broadcasted on television. As Kellog rightly pointed out that we are in the midst of “toon-boom”
Wake-up call for Adults
In the present day life style, where joint families had shattered and replaced by nuclear families where both parents are working, Parents are always relying on cartoon for their child. Moreso, it is evident from present social pattern, that many parents especially working parents feel comfortable putting their children in front of TV set for cartoon so that they could finish their chores, while feeding their child or for making their children busy for a while so that they can relax for a bit. Gradually this makes children dependent on cartoons for their daily task like eating, sleeping, doing homework for school. For this reason, later parents as well as children finds themselves in a difficult situation to cope up the real contest of life. It is a common observation that now many children refuse to eat without watching cartoon. Parents at present days had to bribe their child to eat or to study in exchange of letting them watch cartoon. This condition has changed parents and children just like “Tom & Jerry” where both of them are continuously chasing. Even some parents are negotiating with their child to do homework or clean up in exchange of cartoon.
The psychological and physical development; parent-child relationship; peer-interaction; language and general behavior is badly influenced and impacted. It is ironic that despite all that visible and well-manifested severe effect; such a sensitive issue did not receive serious recognition, except coffee shop discussion or social media flying comments, and there is virtually no effective regulation and/or judicial/legislative and/or social intervention.
Is there a silver lining?
In 2003, American broadcasters had to cut quite a number of scenes in old American cartoons, which were considered socially acceptable at the time they were created, but had become harmful or offensive by the views of modern society. Censorship in the U.S. was applied to cigarettes and alcohol, as well as to politically incorrect indications of characters’ race, gender and nationality. In 2006, notorious scenes of “Tom and Jerry” featuring smoking were cut in the UK, as well. Turkey took broadcasters of detrimental cartoons off the air.
But ironically, it seems there are no effective regulations in India for auditory subliminal messages and visual subliminal messages vis-à-vis post 1985′ status of few other nations who regulated for visual subliminal messages by stating- “Any technique whereby an attempt is made to convey information to the listener by transmitted messages below the threshold of normal awareness is prohibited.” Moreso, looking at mighty stakes of powerful cartoon industry, we are reluctant to follow the example of Turkey and take broadcasters of detrimental cartoons off the air.
Beyond being mute spectator
In our trio capacity as a parent, educator and law scholar, we firmly believe that there is an urgent need to come out with effective regulation for “Censorship Classifications”, with some mandatory clause to be incorporated: Adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want; Minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them; Everyone should be protected from exposure to unsolicited material that they find offensive. There is dire need to take account community concerns about depictions that condone or incite violence, particularly sexual, and about the portrayal of persons in a demeaning manner which is counterproductive to parents and teachers’ reinforcement of Adolescent Social Attitudes and Learning.
To begin with we need to either come out with stringent regulation or must execute those regulation, if any exist, that must mandate: Provide parents and consumers with information about core programs being aired; Define the type of programs that qualify as core programs; Air at least three hours per week of core programs. Core programs are designed to serve the educational and informational needs of children (ages 16 and under)
With more of a focus on education, it will be intriguing to see how institutions, intelligentsia and governnence will respond when the basic right expressed so well in the classification code is presented as the other side of the coin of responsibility to those who need education and information in order to perform their “duty of care” to those who are in their charge.
Our future generations need to be free to grow up unabated from the tyrannical thumb of “cartoonic oppression”.
(The authors are educational activists and were previously associated with Mayo College, Ajmer and St Mary’s Convent, Ajmer for more than a decade and presently working with Apeejay Education Society).
Ritwiz Gaur and Ashi Gaur