Risky Behavior in Movies, TV and Cartoons – How Does it Affect Kids?

This is a two part discussion. This is part two.

When I was a preteen I had a relative, under the age of eighteen, who told me a story about a child who seemed to have trouble distinguishing between real and pretend. The kid, she said, watched a TV show about a superhero that could fly. One day he got on a roof and tried to fly with only a cape and fell to the ground. In her version the child really did think after watching the TV show he would be able to fly. I thought the child knew the danger but was PLAYING, just acting out a scene. Her story seemed like an urban legend to me because certain questions never got answered. Was it a low hanging roof or a second story house this child leaped from? Was the age of the child three, six or nine? Did he often have poor judgment or lack common sense? And why would you have to jump off a building to fly? Why not just hop off the ground to see if you could do it? Would this child have done the same thing if someone just read him a story about a flying superhero? And why was this child on the roof in the first place? How did he get up there? If my mom saw me moving a ladder to the roof she would have said, “Just what in tar nation are you doing!?”

This same relative was also positive her brother believed in Santa Clause until he was at least ten. I kept telling her by that late in age he probably just said he believed in Santa for the gifts. I stopped believing in Santa for sure by eight. By seven I was doubtful. At six I might have believed in him, but not the part about him flying off the roof with his reindeer and sled. Call it self preservation but even if Santa said jump or no presents I would not have done it. Even if he said, “Believe” I would not have gotten in that sled with him. Unless it had a jet pack. Today as an adult I have a nephew who at age three to five liked to dress up like Peter Pan. As far as I know he never had a desire to leap off a balcony or a roof in order to fly. And as a child of eleven I could see myself at six and seven. And I could not see myself leaping off a building. Why would I think I could fly? No one I knew could fly. Then again no one I knew liked to leap off buildings. And I knew superheroes were not real. Cartoon or not. I understood the concept of pretend.

I do believe people’s brains work differently. I had no desire of play acting a part and jumping off anything higher than a stool as a kid. Where my brain would give me major warning signals if I got near a cliff’s edge, another kid might have not have such bold warnings signs going off in their mind. Or they choose to ignore them. They perceive situations different than me. It is no different for adults. I have no desire to ever bungee jump or leap out of an airplane with a parachute. Other people love doing this. I asked one woman why. She said she loved the thrill of it. With some people they see a situation which looks enticing. This gives them an idea. Then they do something that is not the smartness move to make. Such as jumping from a third floor balcony into a swimming pool. They ignore the danger. They fail to really consider what could happen if they miss the swimming pool. I would never make such a jump. But in college I knew a student who said he did such a thing. He stated he thought it would be a fun thing to do. The fun factor outweighed the risk factor in his mind. Some children make faulty discussions based on this too. They can not gauge dangerous situations correctly. As a parent you need to help them understand dangers and risks.

The following is a sad story so skip it if you want. When I was a nanny I went to someone’s house which was architecturally beautiful. I told the owner this. She thanked me but then informed me she had her house blessed. I asked why. She said unfortunately there was a little autistic boy who lived with his alcoholic mother in the house at some point. The little boy was very agile and could climb like monkey (no offense). He could easily climb up the roof and would jump from the roof to tree limbs to the dividing fence. He also liked to sneak in the neighbor’s swimming pool. One day the boy was found drown in the neighbor’s pool which was close to the fence. It was thought he fell from the fence. Whether he slipped from the fence or hit his head trying to jump into the pool from the fence I do not know. The point is some children need constant supervision. Some children have a difficult time comprehending dangerous situations, whether they watch movies and cartoons or not. This is why as a parent you should keep hazardous and poisonous materials up and away from young children. They do not realize the threat they are exposing themselves to if they get into it.

I have seen two-year-olds at the park. Some do not like to go on the high play equipment. Others do. A child might leap off something if they do not understand the risk or danger, but also because they do not understand the reason for pain. If put your hand too close to the fire and got burned the physical pain that follows is a way of telling you, “Hey that hurt. Do not do that again.” I had a parent tell me once her son jumped off a swing twice and both times broke his arm. She thought after the first time he would not do it again. But he did. She was not sure if her son forgot how bad the pain was the first time or did not think it would happen again. If you have a child who is unusually wild, does not think before they leap, or does not understand consequences for actions, like if I do this I could end up hurt, then keep an eye on them as best as you can. And monitor what they watch, not only on TV, but with video and computer games as well. Do not let programs give them ideas. And do not have loaded guns in the house. A two-year-old does not understand the danger. And if a six-year-old never saw a gun before he/she might not understand the risk. Plus, kids are curious. A nine-year-old might know the danger of a really interesting ancient military knife or a gun but they might want to look at it anyway. Even if they have to sneak through drawers and find the key to the gun cabinet so they can show a friend their dad’s cool gun. And that is where the danger lies.