Childrearing

A Distinguished Child Psychiatrist Explains How Scooby Doo Is Ruining My Child

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Scooby DooViolence in the media and it’s effect on young people has long been a cultural hot topic. We’ve heard about “shoot em up” video games, graphic song lyrics, vicious horror movies, and how all of these things make impressionable teens more immune to violence. Parents have revolted against things like Grand Theft Auto. We’ve demanded “Explicit Content” warnings on Eminem CDs. Now, children’s medical professionals are asking that we consider one more problem area that needs our attention. It has nothing to do with teenagers. And don’t worry, there’s no blood involved. The newest target in the effort to control media exposure to violence goes after a much more innocuous threat: cartoons.

Dr. George Drinka has an upcoming book about the media’s influence on children called, “When The Media Is The Parent.” When his publicist emailed me about the work, one sentence jumped out at me pretty quickly. It said that Dr. Drinka would be happy to talk with me about the ill-effects of television shows like Loony Toons, Spongebob, and Scooby Doo.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. The ill-effects of Scooby Doo? My daughter has a Mystery Machine in her toy room. She watches the classic cartoons frequently, as well as more recent versions. She knows every character’s catch phrase and uses them on a daily basis. We love some Scooy Doo in this household. I just couldn’t let a slam on Mystery Incorporated go without some defense. So Dr. Drinka and I agreed to sit down and talk about the so-called danger of this violent media for my 4-year-old daughter.

Obviously not being a very good debater, I laid all my cards on the table from the beginning. “Listen, my little girl and I watch Scooby Doo pretty frequently. She loves it. How is Scooby hurting us?”

Dr. Drinka immediately understood my defensiveness. “I watched Scooby Doo with my daughter when she was little too,” he told me. “But looking back, she had some trouble sleeping. New studies say that it could be because of violent shows like this before bed. There could have been other factors too, but there’s new research that shows a causal link between sleep problems and violent cartoons.”

One of those studies that Dr. Drinka is referring to appeared in August’s edition of Pediatrics. While not pointing fingers at the specific violent shows used, the study clearly showed a link between cartoons that show physical comedy and problems for young people getting to bed. He explained, “I think what’s really interesting is that parents are caught unawares because parents think of these things as comic. For kids it’s not a joke in the way that it is for adults. Cartoons are more realistic. Think about it, when they draw a human being, it looks like a cartoon character.”

The research Dr. Drinka is citing and his personal experience with these issues is that violent imagery, even in cartoon form, can lead to anxiety in children. That’s what is leading to the sleep problems. However, I just couldn’t help citing my personal experience on how Scooby Doo helped my daughter get over a little of her monster anxiety.

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