Cartoons, characters linked to kids’ bad behavior: Power Rangers again

Feb. 18, 2013 | 2:25 p.m.
The Power Rangers check out their 20th anniversary collectibles at the American International Toy Fair on Feb. 10, 2013, in New York. Saban Brands was celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Power Rangers franchise at the show. (Diane Bondareff / Invision for Saban Brands/Associated Press)

The Power Rangers check out their 20th anniversary collectibles at the American International Toy Fair on Feb. 10 in New York. Saban Brands was celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Power Rangers franchise at the show. (Diane Bondareff / Invision for Saban Brands/Associated Press)

A new study on children’s behavior has found that certain TV programming beats other programming when you’re trying to calm aggressive, violent behavior in preschoolers.

And once again, the Power Rangers were among the evildoers.  Power Rangers bad. Dora, and presumably her monkey Boots, good.

What it comes down to is, less violent programming equals less violent preschoolers.  Parents who are always in search of quality animated films and TV shows for their kids may be tempted to reply, “Duh.”  What’s different about this new study was the emphasis on switching channels rather than simply pulling the cord out of the wall.

As the Los Angeles Times’ Monte Morin reports, researchers are saying parents should steer children in the right direction.

“It is a variation on the ‘if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em’ idea,” Claire McCarthy, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, wrote.

“It’s about changing the channel,” the lead author of the study, Dr. Dimitri Christakis, told the Associated Press. “What children watch is as important as how much they watch.”

Seattle pediatrician and researcher Christakis, who did not immediately return calls Monday for comment, has been involved in previous studies on the effects of violent TV on kids.  In 2007, a study he was involved in singled out “Power Rangers,” “Star Wars,” “Space Jam” and “Spider-Man” — in addition to televised football and ice hockey — as violent entertainment. Over in the good column were animated films and TV shows including “Toy Story,” “Rugrats,” “Magic School Bus” and “Winnie-the-Pooh.”

Even classic Looney Tunes cartoons were singled out as a lousy example for kids.

“You are actually teaching them that violence is funny,” Christakis told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in a 2007 interview.

The recent study by the University of Washington, published Monday in the online version of the journal Pediatrics, involved 565 Seattle parents, who filled out TV-watching diaries and questionnaires measuring their child’s behavior.

A control group of children was allowed to watch television as per usual, the L.A. Times reported, while a “media diet intervention” group was steered toward programming that featured nonviolent conflict resolution, cooperative problem solving, manners and empathy. (“Dora,” “Sesame Street,” “Super Why.”)

The results: The intervention group showed “significant improvements” in social competence testing scores after six months, according to Christakis. Low-income boys appeared to get the greatest short-term benefit the most, authors said.

As for those Power Rangers, their reputation as a questionable influence on kids has been around for quite a while.  A Cal State Fullerton study from 1995 compared two groups of kids around 7 years old and found “children in the Power Rangers [group] committed more aggressive acts per interval than control group children. Expressed as a ratio, for every 1 aggressive act by control group children there were 7 by children who viewed ‘The Power Rangers’ episode.”

Hey, Power Rangers fans. The shows debuted 20 years ago in August.  Did you grow up with it?  Did the helmeted crew increase your inclination to throw punches?  Would love to hear from you in the comments below.

For those who are nostalgic, here are photos of the Power Rangers through the years.

– Amy Hubbard

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