After a good friend of mine took her kids to see Disney’s The Princess and the Frog and said, “It was soooo awesome. Your daughter will loooove it” – I thought How could you go wrong with a Disney, animated movie? Well, I took my going-on-5-year-old daughter to the matinée and was shocked to find that The Princess and the Frog was laden with evil and violence. The bad guy (I forgot his name already) wore a skull and crossbones on his hat. After reading Tarot cards, he sucked the Prince into witchcraft/voodoo which turned him into a frog. Throughout the movie, demons chased the main characters. Towards the end (spoiler alert) the bad guy killed one of the main characters (a little firefly) by squashing him on the ground with his foot. There were guns, knives and a voodoo doll to take down the main characters.
The blonde, cutsie Princess had double D you-know-whats. She repeatedly mentioned that she only wanted to marry the Prince for his money.
The one saving grace of this movie is the fact that the heroine, Tiana, is African-American – and she makes her dreams come true through work ethics and moral character. But what will young children remember most about this film, the good-girl-wins-in-the-end message, or the 60+ minutes of violence?
Chronicled in the best-seller Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, an intense study was conducted on why aggression in children is at an all-time high. Dr. Cynthia Scheibe studied 470 half-hour television programs commonly watched by children, recording every time a character insulted someone, called someone a mean name or put someone down.
Scheibe’s analysis revealed that 96% of all children’s programming includes verbal insults and put-downs, averaging 7.7 put-downs per half-hour. “Had the insult lines been said in real life, they would have been breathtaking in their cruelty” Bronson said. For example, a character from SpongeBob SquarePants said, “How do you sleep at night knowing you’re a compete failure?”
Parents might think that children’s programming might use an insult to teach a lesson about how insults are hurtful. But Schiebe found that of the 2,628 put-downs, in only 50 instances was the insulter reprimanded or corrected – and not once in an educational show. 84% of the time there was either laughter or no response at all.
My personal experience with children’s movies and television combined with professional research on how media tremendously affects children, I have found that SpongeBob, Dora or Mickey Mouse can never replace the quality time my children receive from a board game, puzzle, workbook, arts & crafts, bicycle riding, walking, gardening, piano playing, jump rope, water sprinkler, cooking or a card game. Instead of saying, “Go watch TV while mommy cooks dinner”, invite your children to help you cook. Not only do they learn how to cook and get to spend much-needed quality time with mommy, but it is one smart way to keep your children away from the dangerous messages cluttering their young minds.