Why You Should Watch Cartoons with Your Kids

"Jump City Diner Teen Titans" | Art by OtisFrampton. Used with permission.

I’m routinely told by other adults, “I don’t watch cartoons anymore.” Their loss, I say!  Cartoons are some of my favourite entertainment, and I love kids’ cartoons. In fact, when the kids wander off and I still have them on, I get a pleading look and a semi-desperate question from my husband, “Do we have to keep watching this? The kids are in bed…”

Yes, yes we do.

Cartoons Are Awesome

The first cartoons were made for adults. Naturally, they had appeal for all ages, but the jokes, references, and subject matter were pretty grown up. Even now, cartoon movies consistently add jokes “for parents” that are just plain messed up. My eldest son recently warned me that there were some very inappropriate things in the Disney movie, Cars (apparently, he thinks his mom is as innocent as the BVM). He was shocked at what he now understood.

Besides the fact that cartoons are some of the best stuff on TV, I’m at a particular advantage for liking them. Many parents, trusting that “it’s a kids’ show,” will let their children watch cartoons without giving any thought to their message or content. Time and time again, I have been surprised, disappointed and, at times, horrified by some of the stuff marketed directly to children.

An Opportunity for Discussion

My kids aren’t very young—they’re 12 and 15—so we aren’t watching pre-k shows. The shows that are directed at their ages include themes and issues that older kids are likely dealing with in school and social settings, like dating, relationships, attraction to others, parties, moral dilemmas, and problem solving. Except that some of the ways these themes are presented are not what I want modeled for my children (especially since one is getting to an age when dating is an actual possibility). I’m always glad for the opportunity to have a chat about what they are seeing, what we believe, how they feel about it and how they might deal with it if they find themselves in this situation.

I’m always glad for the opportunity to have a chat about what they are seeing, what we believe, and how they feel about it.

A Case Study: Teen Titans

Teen Titans is about superheroes. It’s aimed at an older audience, and the art is gorgeous. I love it.

Then, there’s Teen Titans Go. The art is brightly coloured and babyish, it’s fast paced, loud, and has a lot of physical comedy—it’s clearly intended for little guys. It’s hilarious (particularly the episode “40% 40% 20%”). It’s also super inappropriate at times. The Titans, who are supposed to be heroes, behave in very unheroic ways; in fact, there are several episodes where they are more the bad guys than the villains are.

The Value of Watching Along

When we were just beginning to watch the show, my 12-year-old commented about how oversexualized it was (naturally, he didn’t use those words). I agreed and we talked about why the writers might have put that in, what effect it might have on kids, and whether it was a good show for us to watch.

Sometimes my husband and I are conflicted (even with one another) about which shows we would not like the kids to watch—some of them are on the edge of being unsavory, but don’t quite hit the mark. Others are blatantly immoral and have been banned (others were banned for just being stupid). We have always been selective about what media enters our house, and we still are, but as the kids grow, and ride the school bus, and are in the locker room (proverbial and literal), I can’t keep their little ears and eyes as protected as my son seems to think mine are.

Does that mean we chuck all of our standards? Certainly not. But when we come across something that isn’t in line with the values our family tries to live, we are sure as heck going to talk about it.


The original version of this article was posted on Peanut Butter and Grace.

Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

Contributing Writer at Area of Effect
Jen is a pastoral minister, wife, mother, ninja and writer. She loves sci-fi, superheroes, and classic literature, and prefers to share her Catholic faith through such lenses. Her book, "Comic Con Christianity" is available from Paulist Press.
Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

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