ANGELES (August 16, 2011) – Today, the Parents Television Council®
released the results of its latest study, “Cartoons Are No Laughing
Matter,” documenting shocking levels of adult content on networks
with the highest-rated primetime animated cable shows among children
ages 12-17, according to Nielsen data. The networks included in the
study reflect where kids are consuming the most popular animated
shows during primetime: Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel
and Nick at Nite.
“Nielsen data told us where children ages 12-17 are watching
animated programming on basic cable. PTC analysts followed the
Nielsen data in order to see exactly what type of material kids are
consuming. 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.
“Adult content isn’t just creeping into the cartoons that kids today
are watching the most; it has overtaken much of that animated
programming. We’re not talking about cartoon characters slipping on
banana peels and ramming into doors. Our data demonstrates that
today’s norm is profanity-laden storylines involving everything from
rape and cocaine to STDs and crystal meth. There is now more sexual
content on these cartoons than violence – even when counting
traditional ‘light’ cartoon violence.
“Parents might not be surprised that there is an abundance of
adult-themed content on a cable network called Adult Swim; but those
same parents are likely to be very surprised at just how adult the
content is and how often teens and pre-teens are flocking to the
network. Many don’t even realize Adult Swim appears on the same
channel as the decidedly kid-centric Cartoon Network and begins
airing at 9:00 pm Eastern/8:00 pm Central.
“Just as shocking as the volume and degree of adult material in the
cartoons was the abysmal network failure rate in applying consistent
TV content rating standards. During the study period, harsh
profanity and graphic sexual depictions aired during programs rated
TV-PG. Cartoon Network failed to use the ratings system to warn
parents about sexual content, suggestive dialogue and explicit
language 100 percent of the time. 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 continued.
“Parents need to understand just how explicit these cartoons are so
they can make better viewing decisions for their family. They also
must be given the chance to unsubscribe to explicit cable networks.
As it stands now, every parent who subscribes to cable so their kids
can watch Disney or Nickelodeon is also forking over cash every
month to Adult Swim. Parents, not cable companies, should decide
which cable networks they want to pay for.
“In addition to cable choice and more responsible programming
decisions by the networks, the entire television content ratings
system needs to be overhauled. The current system fails parents and
families when it comes to accuracy, consistency, transparency and
accountability,” Winter concluded.
The Parents Television Council used Nielsen data to identify
networks with the highest-rated primetime animated cable shows for
ages 12-17. Based on the Nielsen findings, PTC examined 123 episodes
of animated programming that aired on Adult Swim, Cartoon Network,
Disney Channel and Nick at Nite for the presence of sexual content,
violence, drugs and explicit language between March 21, 2011 and
April 14, 2011.
PTC research analysts documented 1,487 incidents of explicit
language, drugs and sexual content during the four-week study
period. On average, young viewers were exposed to adult content once
every two minutes and 19 seconds. TV-PG rated animation featured
sex, drugs or profanity every two minutes and 31 seconds. Adult
Swim, which used to begin airing at 11:00 pm ET and now begins at
9:00 pm ET (8:00 pm CT), included some of the highest-rated animated
shows among ages 12-17 and the highest levels of explicit content.
(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
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.
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
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.
R-rated movies that aired during the study period were advertised
during TV-PG programs.
To access the full report and view video examples, please visit
with a representative from
the Parents Television
Council, please contact
Megan Franko at (703)
859-5054 or Liz Krieger at
(703) 683-5004 ext. 120.