The dangers of kids TV (for parents)

Children’s television should come with a health warning, for any parent who gets stuck watching it.

Looking favorite cartoons

There have been plenty of studies (which I’ve ignored) about the effects of television on children.

Less explored but just as important is the effect children’s television has on the adults subjected to it. My study, based on a sample size of one, suggests that it drives them batshit crazy.

It feels like most of the shows are designed to punish any parent who dares to park their kids in front of the idiot box.

The most painful is Thomas & Friends, starring a crew of supposedly “really useful engines” who couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery – Henry would be upset people wanted to enjoy themselves, James would dump the drinkers in the wrong place, then Gordon would crash through the brewery walls.

In the original stop-motion animation the trains had maniacal grins that’d give Pennywise from It nightmares. In the latest version they have slick digital effects that would only make sense if you were watching Matrix: Sodor.

Now Thomas & Friends has an international cast, including Shane from Australia, but the show hasn’t tackled its central problem: Thomas. He’s a smug steamy who’ll dog his best mate Percy for the latest engine unloaded at Brendam Docks. The sooner Diesel 10 turns him to scrap, the better.

Another mainstay of kids’ telly, The Wiggles, has a revamped cast and it’s a big letdown watching as a parent. Lachy fits the purple skivvy fine, but seeing him in ‘Wake Up Jeff’ (the song’s real title) is like watching Queen sing ‘We Are the Champions’ without Freddy Mercury. Nobody can snooze through that tune like Jeff Fatt.

“Watch too much television with your children, and you end up asking yourself stupid questions: Can anyone get fire insurance in Pontypandy?”

It’s also a shame Emma joined the crew only to be treated with less respect than Dorothy the Dinosaur. She’s stuck behind the wheel of the Big Red Car while Simon sings in the backseat, Lachy’s fast asleep and Anthony is “eating so much food”. It’s pretty clear who’s off their chops and who’s been shafted as the designated driver.

If Emma isn’t the perfect role model for young girls, she’s a lot better than Peppa Pig. One of the biggest names in kids’ television, Peppa has three main hobbies: trash-talking her old man, making George cry and whinging. It might be considered low-grade whinging for an English audience, but it’s not something I want my kids mimicking.

It’s a good thing there are a lot of more admirable female characters on kids’ TV. Strangely, they’re usually paired with a kooky creature: Sarah and Duck, Wanda and the Alien, Rita and Crocodile, Peg and Cat – whoever started the trend should look at making a copyright claim. Even Justine Clark has Dash the Dog as a sidekick.

(As an aside, have you ever been to a Justine Clarke concert? It’s amazing how many dads will elbow people aside to score a spot in the front row. For their kids, of course.)

Watch too much television with your children, and you end up asking yourself stupid questions: Can anyone get fire insurance in Pontypandy? If Andy can time travel why won’t he kill Hitler rather than pick berries for the muttaburrasaurus? And will Captain Barnacles, a polar bear, lose his cool one day and eat his penguin shipmate, Peso?

Please Barnacles, promise you’ll never eat Peso.

Even stranger, you’ll find yourself talking about your favourite shows. For me, it’s always the Australian productions (except for Bananas in Pyjamas – whoever writes that is on drugs).

It’s great to see kids’ TV with an Australian sense of humour and hear Australian accents. Play School will always be a winner, and I don’t even care that they’ve added a diamond window.

Then there’s Bluey, about a family of cattle dogs. There’s nothing too out there in the series: it’s simply about two kids (okay, pups) growing up in the suburbs, and the imaginative games they play.

The whimsical show is as much about the parents as their kids, Bluey and Bingo. Bandit and Chilli will join in with the children’s games, sometimes leading but often letting the kids show the way. It’s a welcome reminder that parenting gives you a chance to unleash your inner child – and it’s inspiration to turn the TV off altogether.

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