“Adult content isn’t just creeping into the cartoons that kids today are watching the most; it has overtaken much of that animated programming. 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. There is now more sexual content on these cartoons than violence — even when counting traditional ‘light’ cartoon violence.
“Parents might not be surprised that there is an abundance of adult-themed content on a cable network called Adult Swim; but those same parents are likely to be very surprised at just how adult the content is and how often teens and pre-teens are flocking to the network. Many don’t even realize Adult Swim appears on the same channel as the decidedly kid-centric Cartoon Network and begins airing at 9:00 pm Eastern/8:00 pm Central.
“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. During the study period, harsh profanity and graphic sexual depictions aired during programs rated TV-PG. Cartoon Network failed to use the ratings system to warn parents about sexual content, suggestive dialogue and explicit language 100 percent of the time. We also discovered the networks are directly marketing adult entertainment products to kids during TV-PG programming, including R-rated movies and TV-MA shows and DVDs,” Winter continued.
“Parents need to understand just how explicit these cartoons are so they can make better viewing decisions for their family. They also must be given the chance to unsubscribe to 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. Parents, not cable companies, should decide which cable networks they want to pay for.
“In addition to cable choice and more responsible programming decisions by the networks, the entire television content ratings system needs to be overhauled. The current system fails parents and families when it comes to accuracy, consistency, transparency and accountability,” Winter concluded.
The Parents Television Council used Nielsen data to identify networks with the highest-rated primetime animated cable shows for ages 12-17. Based on the Nielsen findings, PTC examined 123 episodes of animated programming that aired on Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and Nick at Nite for the presence of sexual content, violence, drugs and explicit language between March 21, 2011 and April 14, 2011.
PTC research analysts documented 1,487 incidents of explicit language, drugs and sexual content during the four-week study period. On average, young viewers were exposed to adult content once every two minutes and 19 seconds. TV-PG rated animation featured sex, drugs or profanity every two minutes and 31 seconds. Adult Swim, which used to begin airing at 11:00 pm ET and now begins at 9:00 pm ET (8:00 pm CT), included some of the highest-rated animated shows among ages 12-17 and the highest levels of explicit content.
â€¢ Sex (680 instances) surpassed every form of violence (674 instances) in animated primetime cable programming.
â€¢ Sexual depictions included simulations or obscured scenes of sexual intercourse, pornography, masturbation, pedophilia and prostitution.
â€¢ There were a total of 208 incidents relating to drugs, including cocaine, marijuana, crystal meth, psychedelics and alcohol. Eighty percent of the drug-related incidents were depictions rather than references.
â€¢ The study identified 565 incidents of explicit language on shows rated TV-PG and TV-14. Twenty-seven percent of the uses of “f**k” and “sh*t” occurred on TV-PG programs.
â€¢ Eighty-five percent of the TV-PG shows and 64% of the TV-14 shows containing sexual content did not have an “S” descriptor warning parents.
â€¢ Cartoon Network failed to use the ratings system to warn parents about sexual situations (S), suggestive dialogue (D) and coarse or crude language (L) 100% of the time.
â€¢ TV-PG and TV-14 shows included advertisements for adult media, including TV-MA DVDs, TV-MA shows, and R-rated movies.
â€¢ All R-rated movies that aired during the study period were advertised during TV-PG programs.
To access the full report and view video examples, please visit www.ParentsTV.org/Cartoons.