If we present our children with sweet sugary preschool worlds where everyone is lovely to one another, is real life just going to be a real kick in the crotch? Worse still, are they going to be totally unprepared to deal with tough situations?
Could heaping the sugar on actually be really damaging to children?
The reality is, life is not sugary sweet. Children can be mean. That’s just children finding out who they are, reacting with instinct and learning how to be among other children.
And the world can get much worse going into adulthood.
So is there a good case to be made for presenting children with fictional demons, wicked witches or bullies in order to prepare them for life? That young children actually need to see the darker side of life?
Possibly. As a parent I find that, at the right time, certain stories can really help children understand with or deal with why things happen (like when I had to explain why my scooter was stolen). Or at the right time they can even help children find the strength to overcome their own problems (like when I invented ass-kicking fairies to help my girls beat their bad dreams). Useful.
At the right time. Like medicine, to be taken when prescribed.
And yet all the research I have read indicates that violent television leads to increased aggression. Heavy viewing can scare children, leading to a paranoid world view which then leads, yet again, to increased aggression under the guise of self-defense. And some studies seem to indicate that children who have been watching more age-appropriate content rather than content outside their age range are actually better equipped to deal with life’s problems as they get older.
It seems to me that, while television isn’t to blame for children being who they are, for people being who they are, presenting the darker side of life too early will actually compound problems. In telling children that there are demons, wicked witches or bullies out there, we’re not just preparing them for the worst. We’re presenting the worst as normal. We can make them fearful, more likely to strike first or, worse still, have some aspire to be that which we’re desperately trying to defeat in our fictional worlds – certain preschool demographics were shown to aspire to being Swiper the Fox, for example, and who didn’t want to be Darth Vader?
I think, no matter which way I look at it, by presenting those tales of demons, wicked witches and bullies, we are more likely simply to end up with more demons.
More wicked witches.
And more bullies.