Childhood is a phase of life when a child starts adapting to the roles of their surroundings. According to sociologists, childhood is a social construct. A child is not determined by biological age but it is created by society. Certain characteristics of childhood are dictated to and influenced by society. These characteristics include the stage of childhood and the attitude, responsibilities, and rights towards children at different stages of their lives. (StudySmarter)
Figure 1: Primary Socialisation: A crucial during childhood all through to adulthood
Source: Les Elfes
Socialization plays an important role in childhood. The agents of socialization are family, peer groups, school, religion, media, and so on. In this course of socialization, a person acquires all the social norms, rules, and regulations of society. But the process becomes much more important in children, especially in family and society. With the age of technology, media has become part of everyone and hence media has become a primary source of socialization. (Dogutas, 2017)
Gender and socialization influence each other in a great way. Gender roles are taught by the society, the ways which he or she should accept in order to behave properly in society. These ways are also taught by the media. Media has a way of shaping our thoughts, images, values, and perspectives. These values and norms are expected by society to be behaved properly by men and women respectively. Hence films, cartoons, and advertisements play an important role in shaping gender roles. (Dogutas, 2017).
Influence of Cartoons on Children
Children are curious and their thirst for knowledge does not end. Nowadays children spend more time on television in order to pass their time. According to research, 2-5 year old children watch cartoons 32 hours a week and 6-11 years old spend 28 hours. The audio-visuals attract children more than traditional methods of learning. As per scientists children as a part of their cognitive behaviour adapts to the ways cartoons are shown. They try to imitate the behaviours and attitudes of the cartoons. (Derzyan, 2019)
Figure 2: Influence of Cartoons on Children’s Socialization
Source: Enlight Studies
The positive impact of cartoons on children: Here are some positive impacts on children that they learn through cartoons.
Education of children happens from cartoons. Cartoons teach children the ways of norms and behaviours expected by the society. It also increases the vocabulary of children by showing different characters, images, places, animals, and so on. It helps children to discover the world. Cartoons often show healthy life characters and children imitate their favourite characters, thus making their lives better. (Derzyan, 2019)
The positive benefits that happen in a child’s development are in linguistic, cognitive, socio-emotional, and physical levels. Through cartoons, children improve their language, develop their sensory perceptions, and get to know the most important values from their favourite cartoon characters. (Dunga, 2022)
When in cartoons, actions and decisions are shown, a child learns to develop the problem-solving skills. The relationship between the actions and decisions shown by the characters helps a child to think about the strategy behind the action and the outcome. (Dunga, 2022)
The negative impact of cartoons on children: Despite of the positive impacts, there are also certain negative effects on children due to cartoons.
American pediatric experts have found that children who watch the action and cruel cartoons are becoming disobedient, aggressive, cruel, and angry. The imaginary world stays in a child for a long interval and their actions and behaviours are affected. (Derzyan, 2019)
Professor of Michigan University Hysman says that actions in cartoons make it difficult for children to understand the consequences. When an action is shown in a cartoon, children try to imitate that and rupture the action-related relationship. (Derzyan, 2019)
Children suffer from health issues due to cartoons. In 1997, 653 children in Japan suffered from seizures and were hospitalised. This happened due to the 38th episode blaze of “Pokemon”. (Derzyan, 2019)
Feminism spread by Walt Disney
According to social psychology, gender roles are shaped in children from early stages. During the socialization process, they perceive the notions of men and women and their respective norms and behaviours accordingly.
Figure 3: Disney Princess
Here in three phases, we will discuss how Disney has raised the concept of feminism in cartoons and how these cartoons are empowering children from their early socialization period.
During 1939-1959, Disney was accused of spreading anti-feminist ideas. The Disney princess always had sweet voices, fair looks, and good housewives, and were shown as flawless women. It was just that time when white women got their electoral rights but society has not changed much for them. These cartoons for example, “Cinderella”, “Snow White and Seven Dwarves”, and “Sleeping Princess” were shown with no individualistic rights and were ultimately always saved by the princes. (Henigsman, 2021)
The new era of Disney began in 1989 with “Little Mermaid”. This era lasted from 1989 to 1998. This period is called “the girls in distress.” In this period, the characteristics of the characters are emphasized, showing the women having dreams, aspirations, and their cravings for adventures. For example, “Mulan”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Aladdin”, and so on. The most feminist cartoon of the era is “Mulan”. (Derzyan, 2019)
The pro-feminism era of Disney started in 2009. The era started with “Princess and the Frog”. In this era cartoons were shown as the women being the main characters saving the men several times, for example, “Rapunzel”, and the “Princess and the Frog”. In cartoons such as “Brave”, “Moana”, and “Frozen”, Disney has focused on the girl’s family love and the importance of her relationships. (Derzyan, 2019)
Childhood As A Social Construct. (n.d.). StudySmarter UK. https://www.studysmarter.co.uk/explanations/social-studies/families-and-households/childhood-as-a-social-construct/#:~:text=We%20will%20look%20at%20the,not%20determined%20by%20biological%20age.
Derzyan, T. (2020, November 20). The Influence of Cartoons on Children’s Socialization. Enlight Studies. Retrieved March 14, 2023, from https://enlightngo.org/language/en/post/7795
Dogutas, A. (2021). Perspectives of Children on Gender Roles Shown on Television. Open Journal of Social Sciences. https://doi.org/10.4236/jss.2021.99048
Dunga, V. (2022, November 16). Cartoons : impact on children. All-in-One School Management and Communication Platform for K12 and Preschool. https://www.kinderpedia.co/cartoons-impact-on-children.html#:~:text=Cartoons%20bring%20positive%20benefits%20to,dance%20with%20their%20favourite%20characters.
Henigsman, T. (2022, January 6). Feminism and Disney: A Deeper Look into the Disney Studio and the Women who Defied Expectations. Medium. https://tjhenigsman.medium.com/feminism-and-disney-a-deeper-look-into-the-disney-studio-and-the-women-who-defied-expectations-e406b5fadfac
A sociology geek, Annesha is passionate about writing. Everyone has heard, that when you dream of reaching the moon, you can at least touch the stars. Such goes with Annesha, who is a post-graduate in Sociology from Jadavpur University, India. She is also an Odissi dancer, which makes herfeet tap wherever there is music. Writing and dancing is her passion since childhood. In Maya Angelou’s words, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style”. This has driven her life this far. In her leisure time, she picks up the books of her favourite sociologists and gets drowned in them. Also, being a lover of creativity, Annesha tries to make cute stationary things with her digital drawing skills.