Burps, farts, pants and poops. After my five-year-old son recently graduated from CBeebies to the realms of CBBC/CITV, I can say with some confidence that these four things form the foundations of every programme to be shown on those channels. Burps, farts, pants and poops. And Dick & Dom.
As much as I hesitate to say it at the risk of sounding like an old-timer, TV programmes were never like this when I was a lad. Not once did Sooty pause before soaking Matthew with his water pistol to let rip a terrible fart, nor did Neil Buchanan punctuate his many Art Attacks by belching into his poster paints and making a joke about bottoms.
I'm no prude, but if you've been following this column you will know that I worry my son is growing up too quickly, that he is losing his childish innocence and instead progressing to finding childish things entertaining.
However – as irritating as burps, farts, pants and poops are – they can be tolerated. There is, though, an ever-increasing list of programmes which my wife and I have taken then step of banning outright; not because they are vulgar, but because we believe they are a bad influence on our son.
A child's mind is an impressionable one, like Play-Doh or memory foam, shaped by what he or she sees. A tendency to find farting funny can be easily fixed with a quick glare: but some programmes, I believe, have a negative effect on a child's fundamental personality.
Horrid Henry is one such programme.
Why did the bosses at CITV think it was a good idea to commission a series in which the main character is rude, spiteful and disrespectful?
Yes, the clue's in the title, but even after just a few short episodes we could see a clear change in our son's behaviour. He started shouting at us occasionally, throwing tantrums on a scale never before seen.
Why? In all probability, because he'd seen Horrid Henry do it on TV – and get away with it. I'm not piling all the blame on Henry, of course – but he is certainly responsible for some of it.
It seems I'm not alone in banning TV programmes because I feel they have a damaging effect on my child. Programmes other parents have include Waybuloo ("too new-agey and crystally"), and Peppa Pig ("a rude, obnoxious little sod").
And many Brit parents hate American child-sitcoms, those annoying brightly-coloured canned-laughter programmes where you can tell the pubescent cast all think they're going to be the Next Big Thing.
The reason for American sitcom-hatred was not because of the endless shrieking and awful acting, but because after watching a few episodes many parents reported their children talking in American accents.
One parent told me that she almost gave up telling her daughter it was called 'rubbish', not 'garbage'. Another said her son kept saying 'garage' in a strong American twang after regular doses of the Disney channel.
Perhaps programming bosses should have another think about their schedules. My advice? Cut down on the American imports, show programmes which are at least mildly educational, and try not to show episodes in which the obnoxious child (or pig) gets their own way.
And, please: fewer burps, farts, pants and poops.
Do you have any TV programmes on your horrid list?
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