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The Science Survey

We've got the news down to a science!

The Science Survey

We've got the news down to a science!

The Science Survey

The Problems of Overconsumption With Modern-Day Cartoons

How have the standards for media catered towards the young changed over the years?
The recommended screen time for children aged 5 and up is around two hours. (Photo Credit: Patricia Prudente / Unsplash)

What was your favorite cartoon growing up? When asked this question, many people may respond with staples such as The Amazing World of Gumball, Phineas and Ferb, or Avatar the Last Airbender, among others. The clever and witty aspect of the shows attracted many children during the 2000s, also luring in some parents with a few of their hidden jokes. You would think that over the span of almost two decades, video content catered to the youth would vastly improve and still be a fun, harmless way for a kid to relieve their boredom. Unfortunately, with the emergence of new trends within modern media, parents may want to turn back to old shows.

You might walk into a restaurant hoping to have a peaceful dinner with your family when, all of a sudden, you hear a nursery rhyme blaring from the next table over. You see a four-year-old gripping their device attentively watching a blinding, colorful screen. This experience has become so prevalent that a new term has emerged  to describe this: an “iPad kid.” An “iPad kid” is a child that always has a device with them, no matter the setting. Typically, parents permit excessive screen time because it gives them a much-needed break from the duties of parenthood. But why are children nowadays so obsessed with their screens?

With the fast-moving scenes and colorful graphics, it’s safe to say that cartoons can act as a “drug” to children, even experiencing what one might call withdrawal symptoms when they aren’t in front of a screen for an extended period. Regularly-paced activities become boring, and they rely on quick entertainment. Data shows that scenes in modern cartoons change every 5-11 seconds, which is much too fast for children and doesn’t give them a chance to process what they are watching. Unfortunately, this is the standard for many contemporary TV programs. Producers can send out mindless videos and easily earn money because their audience is almost entirely children. They don’t know anything better than the content they usually watch, so it’s an easy money grab because the audience is consistent.

A popular example is a YouTube channel called Cocomelon which has gained some traction in the past few years. Having around 175,000,000 subscribers, most of the viewers are young children. Their content consists of nursery rhymes and songs targeted toward 1 to 4-year-olds. At first, the colorful and childish atmosphere of the channel seemed like a safe way to keep toddlers busy. However, parents started to realize that it impacted their kids negatively. On average, the scenes in their videos change almost every 2-3 seconds, effectively making the viewer watch more intently so they don’t miss anything. Parents have reported that after watching Cocomelon, their kids would misbehave more often and would be more inclined to go to electronic devices for fun rather than participate in real-life activities. Sierra Ray, the parent of a 10 month old son, reported to Newsweek that after watching Cocomelon for up to 2 hours a day, her son would “…be in a daze while watching it. You could be waving your hand right in front of his face and he wouldn’t move. It was almost scary.”

Another example would be modern episodes of Spongebob Squarepants, where there is a complete scene change every 11 seconds. In contrast, Mister Rogers Neighborhood, an educational children’s show that aired from 1968-1976, typically had a complete scene change three times in one episode. During its run, the show taught viewers various emotional and social skills while still being entertaining to the youth.

Research has shown that watching one fast-paced episode can temporarily impair a child’s attention span and, in the long run, even stunt their speech development. A study was conducted in 2011 in which 60 four-year-olds were assigned to watch an educational TV program, a fast-paced show, or draw for 9 minutes. Afterward, the children were given tasks to complete so researchers could take note of their executive functions. The attention span and level of self-control of the children who watched a fast-paced cartoon were significantly worse than those who watched an educational show or drew. The effects on the children who watched the overstimulating show eventually wore off. Still, the experiment exposed that even just 9 minutes of watching can immediately leave a negative impact on how children function. 

So, how can the problem of children being overstimulated by modern-day media be solved? 

It’s a good idea for parents to limit their kids’ screen time. It’s recommended that children under the age of 2 do not have any screen time unless they talk to relatives, and children 5 and up should have around two to three hours. Children naturally want to imitate the behavior of people they look up to, so it would also be beneficial for parents to refrain from using their devices around their kids too often. Instead, they should engage in conversation or play with them, which can help them form a stronger bond. Of course, a parent can’t always be by their child’s side, so they should encourage them to take up a hobby such as sports or arts. This not only increases their physical activity but also gives them a source of entertainment that doesn’t involve staring at a screen all day. 

It’s recommended that if children do start watching television from a young age, they should watch educational yet enjoyable programs, such as Sesame Street, Blue’s Clues, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and more. It’s also important to note that not all modern media directed towards children are bad. Shows like Bluey, first aired in 2018, have taken the internet by storm. People of all ages have indulged in this cartoon, such as Nandini Bains ’25, who said, “The show Bluey is highly educational and of exceptional quality, offering valuable life lessons and engaging content that both children and parents can enjoy.” The program has an overall positive review from its viewers, no matter the age. Its ability to capture such a diverse audience can be an indication of high quality. Aside from the show’s overall creativity, a benefit that most people don’t consider is the fact that the children in the cartoon are voiced by real kids. The naturalness in their voices is less overwhelming to hear than adults straining and pitching their voices trying to imitate a character much younger than them. The creator of Bluey, Joe Brumm, has also decided not to list the child actors in the credits in order to protect their privacy. This indicates that the people working behind Bluey show a high regard for the mental health of not only their viewers, but also the children involved in making the show.

In a world full of overstimulating media catered towards the youth, it’s difficult to find educational content that the younger generation can enjoy. The risks outweigh the benefits if a child begins watching fast-paced shows at an age where they can’t comprehend them. As more parents are bringing attention to this matter, those who are passionate about overstimulation in children highly suggest revisiting some old, classic shows that we all know and love.

However, it’s important to note that not all recent cartoons are necessarily bad for children. They are just exceedingly hard to find when the standards of quality for youth have drastically changed in a matter of years. In fact, it may be more beneficial to limit children’s access to social media to promote creativity and give them other sources of entertainment.

It’s important to consider all aspects of a child’s health, whether those are physical or mental. The content that they consume plays a bigger role in their behavior and development than most people think. By educating others about the effects of fast-paced shows, we can change the development of the new generation for the better.

Shows like Bluey, first aired in 2018, have taken the internet by storm. People of all ages have indulged in this cartoon, such as Nandini Bains ’25, who said, “The show Bluey is highly educational and of exceptional quality, offering valuable life lessons and engaging content that both children and parents can enjoy.”

About the Contributor
Albiona Leka, Staff Reporter
Albiona Leka is a Graphic Designer and a People Section Editor for ‘The Observatory’ yearbook. She is also a Staff Reporter for 'The Science Survey.' She finds journalistic writing to be enjoyable because she recognizes that it can be used to inform the public about various topics in an enjoyable, yet informative way. Photography is another source of entertainment that Albiona indulges in, because it gives her a chance to tell a story without using any words. Outside of school, she loves to draw, listen to music, and play card games with her family and friends. It was always in her nature to help and educate others, so naturally, Albiona has become interested in the medical field and plans to pursue her dreams when she goes to college.