Statement by L. Brent Bozell
President of the Parents Television Council
Wolves in Sheep's
Clothing: A content Analysis of Children's Television
Good morning, thank you for coming. My name is Brent Bozell, and I am
the Founder and President of the Parents Television Council.
In its ten year history, the PTC has released dozens of studies looking
at topics broad and narrow, from the content of all of prime time
broadcast television to the reliability of the TV ratings system to the
treatment of religion on television. But until now we have never
undertaken a study of children's television programming exclusively.
Why look at children's television now?
today are bombarded by intensely violent images in the movies they watch
and the video games they play. Even prime time TV is loaded with
violent imagery. We wanted to know exactly what children are seeing on
programs designed uniquely for them.
We chose to
focus on entertainment programming for school-aged children aged 5-10 on
broadcast television and expanded basic cable. Eight networks – four
broadcast and four cable – offer programming matching that criteria:
ABC, Fox, NBC, WB, ABC Family, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and
Nickelodeon. The PTC focused its analysis on before-school,
after-school, and Saturday morning programming. The analysis covered a
three week period from the summer of 2005 for a total of 443.5 hours of
were frankly staggering. In the 443.5 hours of children's programming
analyzed by the PTC there were 3488 instances of violence -- an average
of 7.86 violent incidents per hour. Even when the innocent, "cartoony"
violence most of us grew-up with (i.e. an anvil falling on
Wile E. Coyote's head) is extracted, there were still 2794 instances of
violence for an average of 6.30 violent incidents per hour. To put
this figure in perspective, consider that in 2002 the six broadcast
networks combined averaged only 4.71 instances of violence per hour of
prime time programming. Thus there is more violence aimed directly
at young children than at adults on television today.
But it is
not only violence that is present in today's programming for children.
Sexual innuendo is present. Adult language is present. Trash talking,
bullying, and disrespect are present. In its analysis of children's
television the PTC also found:
incidents of verbal aggression (i.e. abusive yelling,
mean-spirited insults and put-downs) for an average of 1.93
instances per hour
incidents of offensive language (such as excretory references or
euphemisms for obscene language) for an average of 0.56 instances
incidents of disruptive, disrespectful or otherwise problematic
attitudes and behaviors for an average of 1.49 instances per hour
those, 53 were disrespect for authority – either parents or
incidents of sexual content for an average of 0.62 instances per
the individual networks:
Although Cartoon Network had the highest total number of violent
incidents, ABC Family Channel turned out to pack the most
punch-per-program, with 318 instances of violence (only 11 of these
could be considered "cartoon" violence) for an average of 10.96
violent incidents per episode.
Disney Channel had the least-violent children's programming (0.95
incidents per episode).
had the highest levels of offensive language, verbal abuse, sexual
content and offensive/excretory references.
the lowest frequency of this content.
we dismiss violence in children's programming as inconsequential.
"After all," the argument goes, "I grew up watching Road Runner
cartoons and I turned out okay." Violence in cartoons, of course, is
nothing new. What has changed is that violence today is ubiquitous,
often sinister, and in many cases, frighteningly realistic.
have shown exposure to TV violence to be positively associated with
aggressive behavior in some children and exposure to sexual content
increases the likelihood that children will become sexually active
earlier in life. The extended argument implies that exposure to coarse
language and disrespectful attitudes will also negatively affect
often take it for granted that children's programs are always, by
definition, child-friendly. This clearly is not the case. Unfortunately
this faulty assumption has led many parents to let their guard down and
allow their children to spend hours watching television unsupervised.
Young children are especially impressionable, and they learn social
norms and behaviors as readily from television as from their peers or
parents. The "Wolves in Sheep's Clothing" report documents that
"children's television" is no safe haven for children and parents must
be extremely vigilant as to what their children are watching, perhaps
more so in this arena than in any other.