Cartoons no laughing matter for today's young audience


LOS ANGELES — The Parents Television Council released its latest study on cartoon programming which found that the cartoons watched by children between the ages of 12 and 17 are filled with sexual themes, drugs and profanity.

Analysts from the PTC viewed 123 episodes of programming that aired on Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and Nick at Nite which carry the highest rated prime-time animated shows watched, according to Nielson.

Research analysts documented 1,487 incidents of profanity, drugs and sexual content during the four-week study period.

"The findings of this report should be vexing for every parent. The term 'adult' not only describes the nature of the cartoon content itself, it also describes the products being marketed to kids," said PTC President Tim Winter.

Winter stated that the adult content is not just in the cartoons that children are watching but also in much of the animated programming.

 "Our data demonstrates that today's norm is profanity-laden storylines involving everything from rape and cocaine to STDs and crystal meth," said Winter. "There is now more sexual content on these cartoons than violence – even when counting traditional 'light' cartoon violence."

According to Winter, parents may be aware that shows like Cartoon Network's Adult Swim contain adult content, but are not aware at just how explicit the content really is.

The study also showed that the Cartoon Network failed to issue warning signals about sexual content, suggestive dialogue and profanity.

"We also discovered the networks are directly marketing adult entertainment products to kids during TV-PG programming, including R-rated movies and TV-MA shows and DVDs," Winter said.

Winter feels that the networks need to improve their rating system and that parents need to understand how explicit the cartoons can be and make better viewing choices for their family. 

"Parents, not cable companies, should decide which cable networks they want to pay for," said Winter. "The current system fails parents and families when it comes to accuracy, consistency, transparency and accountability."

Major findings in the Parent Television Council study:
• Sex (680 instances) surpassed every form of violence (674 instances) in animated primetime cable programming.
• Sexual depictions included simulations or obscured scenes of sexual intercourse, pornography, masturbation, pedophilia and prostitution.

• There were a total of 208 incidents relating to drugs, including cocaine, marijuana, crystal meth, psychedelics and alcohol. Eighty percent of the drug-related incidents were depictions rather than references.

• The study identified 565 incidents of explicit language on shows rated TV-PG and TV-14. Twenty-seven percent of the uses of "f**k" and "sh*t" occurred on TV-PG programs.

Content Ratings
• Eighty-five percent of the TV-PG shows and 64% of the TV-14 shows containing sexual content did not have an "S" descriptor warning parents.
• Cartoon Network failed to use the ratings system to warn parents about sexual situations (S), suggestive dialogue (D) and coarse or crude language (L) 100% of the time.

• TV-PG and TV-14 shows included advertisements for adult media, including TV-MA DVDs, TV-MA shows, and R-rated movies.

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