Cartoons have had a hugely positive impact on my life in a variety of wonderful ways. So I personally find it strange when every once in a while I see something about a parent who won't let their children watch television or hear someone saying cartoons are bad for kids.
Here are 5 reasons I feel cartoons are a force for good:
(1) THE CHARACTERS SHARE THE SAME PROBLEMS AS YOU DO
Whether a cartoon is about kids, grown-ups, animals, aliens or a talking sponge – they all feature stories of overcoming obstacles you have been through, are currently facing or are yet to tackle. Cartoon fans will know that there is an abundance of animated shows that have excellent stories about making new friends or saying goodbye to old ones moving away; others have brilliant stories about being embarrassed by family, being self-conscious or being concerned about popularity. Cartoons can help you deal with bullies, tell you what it's like to have a crush on someone and show that it's possible to overcome the odds when all looks hopeless. They even deal with mature subjects such as relatives/pets dying and addiction – albeit with an addiction to chocolate or a new toy. The episode "The Boy with His Head in the Clouds" of classic kids cartoon Arthur features Arthur's classmate George dealing with dyslexia and Hey Arnold! episode "Stoop Kid" includes a case of agoraphobia (fans of the show will remember the chant, "Stoop Kid's afraid to leave his stoop").
(2) THEY TEACH WORDLY KNOWLEDGE
Cartoons have taught me a lot of facts about history, geography, religion, food and cultural references. The Rugrats for instance showed me about Passover and Judaism. Numerous animated shows from the USA have taught me the names of states, cities, presidents and about some of the history of the USA; popular 90s cartoon Animaniacs even had educational songs about the states of the USA and the history of it, as well as countries of the world and planets of the solar system. I learned about a lot of different foods from watching characters in cartoons eating them, seeing pizza being eaten in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Popeye gobbling up spinach made me want to eat them myself. I have also learned about lots of books, movies and songs from cartoons, as well as celebrities, from their cameo appearances in The Simpsons to Mr. T after his appearance in Alvin and the Chipmunks.
(3) THEY TEACH RIGHT FROM WRONG
Animated superheroes such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Spider-Man, The X-Men, Batman, Superman, Iron Man, The Fantastic Four and many, many more are terrific positive role models in animated form, who teach us on a grand scale to work for good and not evil and to strive for a world of peace and justice. Animated versions of video game characters such as Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog show us this too; but it is not just these heroes who teach kids about morals and being a good person. Characters like Bart Simpson, Doug, the kids from Recess, Hey Arnold, Timmy Turner (from Fairly Odd Parents), Jimmy Neutron, SpongeBob SquarePants and Phineas & Ferb also demonstrate good and bad choices, such as cheating on tests or in competitions, keeping secrets and doing a good deed for a friend or even for a stranger. In fact, Sonic the Hedgehog himself taught many of these and other important life lessons in a classic cartoon end segment, "Sonic Says".
(4) THEY BUILD YOUR VOCABULARY
During my childhood I learned a lot of words from cartoons. Here is a list of just some of the words I learned from cartoons (some animation fans may even be able to identify the show I learned the word from): chassis, scandalous, archipelago, superfluous, mauve, felicitous, esoteric, apathetic, lethargic, masochist, inconspicuous, conspire, defenestration and deputation.
(5) THEY ARE A FUN, ENTERTAINING WAY TO GET AWAY FROM IT ALL
Television programmes and movies can help people "escape" and cartoons can as well, possibly more so since in a cartoon since anything can happen. Everybody needs to switch off and get away from it all at some time and watching an enjoyable cartoon can be the perfect way to do that. There are a number of reasons a kid's life can be tough, some may be going through a hard time at school, their parents could be in the middle of a divorce or they could be struggling with a disability. A constant positive and helping hand during these times can be animated shows and the characters in them. Maybe a cartoon will help a child because they identify with the main character, maybe they learn some interesting facts, new words and life lessons or maybe it just makes them forget about all of those bad things in their life for a few moments whilst they giggle and smile like they haven't done for a while.