As a child growing up in the 1980's, television watching was a key aspect in my life. Early on, my favorite shows comprised mostly of Warner Brothers cartoons with Tom & Jerry, Bugs Bunny, etc. and Disney shows featuring Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Chip and Dale, Goofey, etc. As I got a little older, those shows were later replaced by Transformers, G.I. Joe, and then those cartoons were replaced by the A-Team, Dukes of Hazzard, Knight Rider, etc. A common theme among those shows, as I look back on them now, is that they all contained violence of some sort - and a lot of gun violence. Even the WB and Disney shows. I recall that some neighborhood kids and I would tease another set of kids because their parents would not allow them to watch cartoons due to the violence (ironically, they were the only house that got robbed at gun point in my neighborhood).
I never really noticed the level of violence these had until I ventured down to visit my family some time ago. I brought along my young family (6 year old son and 16 month old daughter). My father had a collection of old Disney cartoons. So during the kids' "quiet time", he put on these shows for them. At first I thought that this was great, let the kids see how far cartoon imaging and story lines have come over the past few decades.
One of the episodes featured Mickey Mouse with a shotgun as he was hunting a moose. I laughed to myself, thinking that this show would never be aired today. However, I allowed my son to watch the episode, as I understand that he will not derive any violent tendancies from watching this. But seeing Mickey with a rifle was something new to him, as he was used to watching Mickey Mouse clubhouse - a show that is completely violence-free.
Later that evening, as I was reading with my son before bed, he wanted to read "Horton Hatches the Egg". So we read the book, and when we were done, I told him that I recall watching this show when I was his age. So he asked if he could watch the show as well. Thus, I searched on Youtube and found the show. As we watched the show and read along in the book, I noticed that show was tracking the book almost exactly - except for one part. There is a scene within the show (not in the book) where Horton is on a ship heading across the ocean, and a fish pops out of the water to observe the strange site. The fish then says, "Now I've seen everything!", pulls out a gun, and shoots himself in the head.
My son did not really pay attention to that scene, but I thought to myself, was this scene really necessary? Even back then when the film was first created, what was the writer thinking - that kids would get a laugh at a fish committing suicide? However, I'm sure that they thought the scene was okay as no blood was shown (and this was also probably before censorship as well).
Despite all of that television show violence, I have never once wanted to shoot someone, let alone get a gun. In fact, I am for stronger gun control - but I also realize that guns do not kill people, people kill people. So I believe the best first step is education - educating our children on better ways to resolve conflicts with their words and minds as well as understanding that safety is a must.
I do not plan on restricting the television content that my son watches, so long as the show's rating falls within his age. Just the other day, we allowed him to watch "Wipe Out". This program shows people running through an obstacle course while the commentators laugh at them getting knocked down and falling into mud. Granted, this is mindless television whereby the audience gets a kick at others' misfortune, but my son enjoys obstacle courses and getting dirty, so why not?
So I am wondering, would you allow your elementary school-aged child to watch the same cartoons that you grew up watching?