Cartoons frequently watched by children between the ages of 12 and 17 are riddled with adult content, including the use of profanity and strong sexual themes, according to a recent study by the Parents Television Council.
The networks used in the study include Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and Nick at Nite, since they air the highest rated primetime animated series for teens and pre-teens, according to Nielsen data.
“Nielsen data told us where children ages 12-17 are watching animated programming on basic cable. PTC analysts followed the Nielsen data in order to see exactly what type of material kids are consuming,” said PTC President Tim Winter in a press release. “The findings of this report should be vexing for every parent.”
Winter describes how the networks use the term “adult” to market their shows, which he feels is a perfect description of the nature of the programming’s content.
“We’re not talking about cartoon characters slipping on banana peels and ramming into doors. Our data demonstrates that today’s norm is profanity-laden storylines involving everything from rape and cocaine to STDs and crystal meth,” said Winter.
He goes on to state that this type of content is not just included in the most popular cartoons, but has invaded most of animated programming.
Winter feels parents are aware that animation blocks like Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim contain adult content, but feels they have no clue on how high the cartoon’s level of raunchiness can be.
Alarmingly, Adult Swim starts at 9 p.m., moved up two hours from its former 11 p.m. slot, marketing the programming to a larger audience, including some children.
The network also fails to issue the proper warnings to children and parents, according to Winter.
“Just as shocking as the volume and degree of adult material in the cartoons was the abysmal network failure rate in applying consistent TV content rating standards,” he said. “During the study period, harsh profanity and graphic sexual depictions aired during programs rated TV-PG.”
He explains that Cartoon Network failed to warn viewers about the content almost 100 percent of the time.
The network also markets adult entertainment products to children during TV-PG programming including R-rated movies, according to the study.
Winter feels parents need to understand just how inappropriate these adult cartoons are for their children, and must be given a chance to unsubscribe to the explicit cable networks.
“As it stands now, every parent who subscribes to cable so their kids can watch Disney or Nickelodeon is also forking over cash every month to Adult Swim,” said Winter.
He also feels the networks need to improve their rating system.
“The current system fails parents and families when it comes to accuracy, consistency, transparency and accountability,” Winter concluded.
Adult Swim, out of all the networks analyzed, was the main culprit for these adult animation deceptions. Out of all the recorded sexual references occurring on the networks which aired cartoons, Adult Swim contained 95 percent of them, along with 85 percent of the explicit language, and 100 percent of the drug references and depictions.
Cartoon network failed 100 percent of the time to issue an "S" to warn of sexual content in a program, and a "D" to warn of suggestive dialogue.
Disney and Nick at Nite proved to be more suitable for children, airing the least amount of the adult content in their animated programming.