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Alexander Residence: Cartoons, attention spans and bright red vans

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Cartoons, attention spans and bright red vans

Children and Television  - untangle your mind with Postman Pat
There's been a lot of controversy in the media recently about a research study into the effect of cartoons on children's attention spans.  Now, just as the parent in me loves to sniff out and torture myself with any story that might suggest I am ruining my children, there's also a media analyst in me who can't resist a good read too.  Before I had children, I studied and taught children and media.

For every study that points to the harmful effects of television, another celebrates the medium. It really all comes down to context. The study in question suggested certain fast paced cartoons with surreal narratives, reduced children's attention spans, more than drawing or slower paced cartoons.  Whether that was a temporary or lasting effect wasn't determined, and I think that's the crux of it.  Sometimes having my brain fried by a genius thriller is a desirable effect of television, one I actively seek, as is being brought to tears by a great piece of music.   Is it that different for children?

I think it comes down to what is known in Media Studies as uses and gratifications theory.  The idea that we select media to meet our own uses and gratifications.  My children do this on a daily basis, they choose different programmes to relax, to be scared, to learn, to sing, to dance, to laugh, to be silly.  I try and encourage them to make their own choices from a pool of channels and DVDs I feel are age appropriate. I think it comes down to common sense.

I thought about the research while watching a Postman Pat DVD we had been sent a review copy of.  It wasn't that special delivery stuff, just vintage Pat.  The parent and the media analyst in me immediately warmed to its simpleness, it's not full of  jump cuts, pseudo educational interludes or strange computer animated creatures. It's old fashioned animation, lovingly rooted in the narratives of everyday country life. It unfolds gently, the birds sing, the sun shines, the green hills roll.  It's positively relaxing to watch. I challenge you not to hear the jangly guitar and singing of the theme tune and not 'feel you're a very happy wo/man'.

Nowadays there is far more pressure on parents to guide children through the huge variety of media out there.  Perhaps a trip down memory lane, to a time when television was a less 'sophisticated' medium, is the solution now and again.  It  was the perfect antidote for me.  Postman Pat definitely stands the test of time.  I also love Mr Benn, Magic Roundabout and the Flumps.  Which programmes stand the test of time in your house?

Turns out it's Pat's 30th by the way. Blimey. Sorry, if like me, that makes you feel old.  I remember sitting in the story corner in my primary school classroom, stroking a cardboard cut out of Jess the cat, while rehearsing the Postman Pat theme tune for our class assembly.  How time flies.

To celebrate his 30th, Pat has a new DVD out.  it comes with a free CD of rocking tunes too, which Mr G loved.  And its only a fiver on Amazon right now.

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At 5 October 2011 at 18:28 , Anonymous Helloitsgemma said...

Love old fashioned Pat. Was it the one with very tweety birds or the one with children. Not a fan of helicopter pat. Never read reports on parenting

At 5 October 2011 at 19:12 , Blogger The Alexander Residence said...

Wise approach Gemma, like film stars or celebs who never read reviews/papers. There were birds and children. 2 votes for Pat then.

At 6 October 2011 at 07:17 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

We love a bit of Pingu. Not an old programme as such, but gentle and old fashioned, seems to appeal to all ages. Although new pingu has narration added which I think is totally unnecessary, it's the lack of words that make it appealing. Love old Pat too!

At 15 October 2011 at 23:08 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loves a bit of Pat!

Stick with him!


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