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6 Stereotypes About Children’s TV Programs

The problem of children’s programs, films, and, after all, television is quite topical. The problem has to do with both the quantity and quality of these programs.

In terms of quantity, children’s programs suffer for one simple reason: they don’t ensure audience ratings, and consequently, don’t bring in advertising and have no commercial purpose. From this follows the thinking that children’s programs have to be state run.

I believe, children’s programs and the information conveyed to kids should go through rigorous testing and be developed by experts. Here perhaps you’ll ask, well, who are those experts? Aren’t our programs developed by experts?

In Armenia, programs are created like this: one of the television station’s employees comes up with an idea and shares it with the appropriate manager, who give his approval;  a production crew is assembled (screenwriter, director, and so); and the program is ready to be released.

As a result, we have a children’s program developed by the same staff who produce riotous and trashy talk shows for the same TV company. 

I believe, the following basic mistakes and stereotypes are common among children’s programs:

1. It’s easy to produce a children’s program. Children’s programs are often considered an easier and more lightweight genre. Actually, such programs, books, and other creative works require much greater professionalism than the rest. Firstly, because they are created by adults, who left childhood long behind, and secondly, children’s programs require a certain level of accessibility and a clear knowledge of the distinct characteristics of comprehension and age.

It’s easier to present any material to an audience that is mature and well aware of the content. It is much more difficult to present complicated material and issues in a language accessible to children. That’s why parents find the questions of the youngest children the hardest to answer. Therefore, creating interesting, accessible, and useful programs and cartoons for the smallest kids is harder than doing so for adults.

2. The more colorful, the better. Children’s programs are saturated with — it can be said, are drowning in — color. In reality, a lack of color can harm children less than the surplus of color. Don’t forget that color is also information. And every piece of information that is perceived has to be processed by the brain.

A surplus of information overstrains the brain, for processing the information; as a result, the child gets tired, exhausted from sitting in front of the television for a long time. Information surplus causes anxiety in children, which is a serious issue and often requires professional intervention.

3. The more noisy and dynamic, the better. Apart from colors, programs also contain active information, which needs to reach the children in a directed way. This can be done in different ways. Lately, television has had no lack of dynamics and speed. Also not lacking in these are children’s programs, where information is more often more, unnecessary, and age-inappropriate, and rendered extremely noisy. 

In fact, children need time to perceive and understand necessary information and make use of it in the future. For this reason, information should not be provided through quickly moving images; from noisy, different places; and by connecting constantly successive shots from the segments. 

4. The more interesting, the better. A lot of people think, that which is interesting for kids is useful. Of course, children’s interests should be taken into consideration, but here, there’s an important matter: driving children’s interest shouldn’t be the program’s only purpose. Here we will definitely be mistaken. Remember, there are different colorful toys that grab children’s interest at first sight: they attract and tempt them, but they don’t develop the children, and apart from being sold they have no other purpose or are not useful for the child. 

5. Ideal, complete, and perfect characters and information help children develop. Here, I’m talking about the strive for perfection. In fact, by and large, acting as stimuli for children’s growth and development are incomplete, imperfect characters and information. The character that compels you to add something to the imagination or complete it mentally increases a child’s imagination and thinking. In this sense, the best program is not one that answers all the questions children have, but that generates questions and compels them to search for the answers. 

6. The more diverse, the more adventuresome, the better. We already spoke about the surplus of information. More important to point out here is the importance of simplicity. Simple and accessible information helps children to understand, adopt, and manage the information. Often, children are interested in odd, inhuman, unseen, and unheard characters. Lately, there are more fairy tales and cartoons with such characters. In the past, we had Karlsson, Cheburashka, and others.

Now there’s SpongeBob SquarePants and other similar characters. Of course, they don’t harm a child’s psyche, but don’t overshoot and lose the purpose. This is where at work should be not only an animation expert, but also a children’s psychologist or another professional who is familiar with the distinct characteristics of children’s psychological development and can help to create characters that foster development and the shaping of a value system in children. 

Naturally, the made-up characters shouldn’t be incomprehensible, complex, aggressive, vulgar, or perverse. Though all these qualifiers can seem quite subjective, esthetics is also classified among the sciences and has its conformities. So, let everyone do his or her work. 

Anush Aleksanyan
Erkusov Specialized Psychological Center

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

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