Risky Rugrats

Susan Scott

Pre-Writing:  Audience and Criteria

In my Critical Analysis of a Television Program, I will analyze the Nickelodeon show Rugrats. I will expose the negative aspects of the series and attempt to explain to millions of parents that the show is harmful to good childhood development.

My audience will include parents of five to twelve year old children. These parents are probably between the ages of twenty-three and forty-five. Some are married, some are divorced and some are single parents, but they all share a common concern for the well being of their children. These parents are working, middle to upper class citizens living in neighborhoods and apartment complexes all over the country. They might have never viewed Rugrats because their hectic schedules are cluttered with careers, PTA, Rotary Club meetings, tennis leagues, supper clubs and church functions. Their children come home from school to an empty house or to a babysitter. The parents have said that some channels such as MTV are off limits because of inappropriate shows, but the trust Nickelodeon because it is geared toward children. They may also blindly .consider all cartoons to be okay for their young viewers.

I have been babysitting for five years. Two of those years, I worked daily for a family with two small boys. I have experienced first hand how impressionable children are when it comes to television. I was able to watch the boys play and interact when their parents were not around, and I began to notice that television shows were able to negatively influence their attitudes and actions.

The criteria that I will use in my paper to exemplify a bad television show are examples of: children disobeying parents, hateful attitudes and dangerous activity with no consequences. Many programs show children doing bad things behind their parents' backs and even being blatantly rude to authority figures. Constantly showing incidences of television children disobeying their parents influences real children to be defiant and disrespectful. Examples of children with hateful attitudes, especially when those attitudes lead to hurtful actions, can make small children mean. Television shows brainwash children into thinking that it is "cool" to be the bully and to boss others around. Hateful attitudes can also lead to problems with sharing and including other children. The most dangerous negative criteria is examples of dangerous activity with no consequences. The perfect examples are the "Roadrunner/Coyote" type of violence in which humorous, yet dangerous violence leads to minimal or no injury. This can make children believe that they are invincible and that they cannot get hurt, hurt others, or possibly be killed doing dangerous stunts.

This audience and these criteria are all pieces that I will use to persuade parents to prohibit their young children from watching Nickelodeon's Rugrats.


Is it possible that the seemingly innocent cartoons that your child is watching are causing his or her disrespect or discipline problems? This may seem to be a radical and absurd accusation, but have you taken the time to watch popular cartoons with your child? Today's cartoons are nothing like the classic episodes of Yogi Bear and Bugs Bunny that you grew up watching. They deal with heavier and less appropriate subject matters. Through constant exposure to negative cartoons, your child may be picking up bad habits. The author of "Children, Adolescents and Television", in Pediatrics magazine explains, "Many young children cannot discriminate between what they see [on television] and what is real." Since children cannot make this differentiation between fantasy and reality, they will oftentimes imitate what they watch on television. Therefore, it is very important that your child is not watching programs that display bad behavior. The hit children's program Rugrats is a cartoon about five children and their daily adventures around their world that consists of the backyard, the playpen and the baby beds. Most parents are completely comfortable with this program because it comes on after school, at three o'clock and they trust its network, Nickelodeon. The show, in fact, is very harmful for good childhood development. While watching Rugrats, children see the characters disobeying their parents, characters with hateful and mean attitudes, and they are swayed to believe that dangerous activity leads to no consequences. The negative influence of the characters and the story lines displayed on Rugrats are harmful to a young child's behavior and development.

Rugrats constantly shows the babies disobeying their parents. The characters seem to have no regard for their parent's rules. For example, one episode showed Tommy and Chucky sitting in the playpen. The parents told the boys not to leave the playpen. Tommy and Chucky wanted to go outside and play with Tommy's Raptor doll but they were reluctant to do so. Angelica slyly persuaded the babies to break out of their playpen, and to escape into the backyard unnoticed. Another episode showed the babies sneaking into the kitchen to get cookies out of the cookie jar after they were repeatedly told not to. Neither of these episodes showed any form of punishment for this kind of defiance. Programs, such as Rugrats, that constantly show children disobeying their parents and being blatantly rude to authority figures can be very influential on small children, especially when this disrespect is never followed by rebuke or punishment. Children will begin to see this disobedience as acceptable behavior, and will soon become defiant and disrespectful.

Rugrats also portrays children with hateful attitudes that sometimes lead to hateful actions. Angelica is constantly telling the other babies that she hates them. She loves to bully them and push them around. Despite Angelica's  hatefulness, the babies idolize her and love to play with her. Rugrats brainwashes children into thinking that it is "cool" to boss others around. As if Angelica's hatefulness was not enough, sometimes it rubs off onto the other babies. On one episode Tommy and Angelica ganged up on Chucky and made fun of him for having to wear glasses. Watching this behavior on a daily basis can make small children mean. Hateful attitudes can eventually lead to
problems with sharing and including other children. One episode showed all of the babies playing kickball. Tommy, Chucky, and Phil would not let Lil play, only because she is a girl. Lil was forced to sit on the sidelines and watch the fun from afar. Rugrats teaches children negative lessons about attitudes. It leads children to believe that hatefulness is acceptable.

Through the years, cartoons have used a "Roadrunner/Coyote" type of violence to attract viewers. This type of violence portrays a terrible accident that causes no injury or death. The accident provokes us to laugh because we do not fear for the victim's safety.  Similarly, Rugrats constantly presents children with instances of dangerous activity. These actions have few, if any, real consequences. Daily you can see examples of activity such as babies running across the street without looking for cars, climbing up tall bookcases, or testing
their homemade flying machine. When the flying machine or bookcase crashes to the ground, all of the babies jump up, unharmed, and try to fix it. Real children would break bones or possibly die in these accidents. Through watching a program like Rugrats, children begin to believe that they are invincible. They think that they cannot get hurt or hurt others while doing dangerous stunts. Even though this may seem unreasonable, Louis H. Primavera and William G. Herron explain that "people learn by imitating what they see, and that children are particularly receptive to such learning." Because of this imitation tendency, children need to be shielded from television shows, such as Rugrats, that might plant dangerous ideas in their heads and distort their sense of reality and danger.

The major problem with this situation, is not the cartoons, it is that parents are too busy to know what their children are watching. Between careers, PTA, Rotary Club meetings, tennis leagues, supper clubs and church functions, it may be difficult to monitor your child's television viewing. You may be responsible enough to say that some channels such as MTV are off limits because of inappropriate content, but you probably trust Nickelodeon because it is geared toward children. You may also unknowingly consider Rugrats to be an appropriate program only on the basis that is it a cartoon. This is not a valid criteria when one considers the negative aspects of the program. Rugrats can cause children to be disobedient, have bad attitudes, and try dangerous activities. Considering this should you not protect your child from this program and others like it? Leslie Prawd explains that "children need and should have some form of adult supervision" while watching television. All that it takes is a few minutes to sit with your children and evaluate what you are allowing to seep into their developing minds. It is imperative that, after watching television with  your children, you make rules concerning what you want and do not want your children to view. Talk to you children about these rules and make sure that they completely understand what the rules are and why you have made them. Also, set up reasonable, yet stern consequences for breaking those rules. When you hire a babysitter, explain to him or her exactly which show you want or do not want your children to watch. All of these provisions will help shelter your children from inappropriate television programs that could possibly affect their behavior. As a parent, begin today to point your children's development in a positive direction by restricting negative television programs such as Rugrats.

Works Cited

"Children, Adolescents, and Television." Pediatrics. February 2001: 423-426.  Onlme. EBSCO. 28 January 2002.
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       aubumu&U serPass=ebsco& group=main&pro file=acad>

Herron, William G. and Louis H. Primavera. "The Effects ofViewing Television Violence and Aggression." International Journal of
    Instructional Media. 23 (1996): 14. Online. EBSCO. 28 January 2002. <http:/ /ehostvgw5 .epnet.com/ehost.asp?key=204.179
   .122.141-8000--1659701917 &site=ehost&return=n&U serID=aubumu&UserPass=ebsc o&gro up=main& pro file=acad>

Prawd, Leslie. "The Negative Effects of Television on Children." International Journal of Instructional Media. 22 (1995): 225-232.
    Online. EBSCO. 28 January 2002. <http/ /ehostvgw5.epnet.com/ehost.asp?key+204.179. 122. 141_8000_- 1659701917
    &site=ehost&return=n&U serID=aubum&UserPass=ebsco&g ro up=main& pro file=acad>