Alarming new study!

March 11, 1994|By David Grimes

PROBABLY the best thing about American newspapers, other than their superior absorbency, is the diligent way they keep us informed about the latest Alarming New Study.

America may have some work to do in such areas as education, crime, health care, drug abuse, energy conservation, political corruption, homelessness, pollution and child abuse, but in the all-important area of Disturbing Research Findings, we're unquestionably at the top of the heap.

Perhaps the reason Americans cannot devote more energy to these other problems is that reading Alarming New Studies tends to put us in such a frightened, depressed frame of mind that all we feel like doing is slumping in front of the TV and stuffing our face with cheese doodles.

I read a lot of these studies, which means I often begin my slumping as early as 7:30 in the morning. Unfortunately, that also happens to be the time when the 7-year-old puts himself in the right frame of mind for another grueling day in second grade by watching "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," a popular kids' show that, in terms of violence, makes World War II seem like a champagne brunch.

I cannot explain the plot of "Power Rangers" because I'm usually cowering behind the couch with my hands over my eyes before they get through the opening credits. My wife, however, tells me it reminds her a lot of the old Godzilla movies, only with better special effects and even dumber dialogue.

Still, I wasn't all that surprised to open the paper the other day and see a story about an Alarming New Study claiming that grade-school kids who watch "Power Rangers" are 50 percent more likely to have nightmares about giant, fire-breathing robots than those who don't.

I'm kidding. (I think.) What the study actually said was that kids who watch "Power Rangers" tend to get juiced up on all the violence and then take it out on their playmates.

According to the article, the researchers used two groups of elementary school kids: One group was allowed to watch an episode of "Power Rangers" and the other was not.

Immediately after the show, the "Power Rangers" kids started kicking and shoving their playmates, while the other group comported itself more peacefully, with the exception of a few ne'er-do-wells who were caught stealing other kids' crayons.

So the question of whether you should or should not let your kid watch "Power Rangers" apparently depends on whether you would rather your child become a bully or a thief.

Then again, maybe -- and this is a pretty radical proposition, I admit -- maybe kids act the way they do for a whole bunch of reasons, some of which have nothing to do with what they see or don't see on TV.

I'm not saying that your average 6-year-old would profit much from watching "Straw Dogs" or "A Clockwork Orange," but then again you seldom see these movies wedged between "Garfield" and "The Bozo Show."

So, before you start sending me letters about what a horrible parent I am, be advised that I'm keeping my eye on the situation and if I feel "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" is making my kid act weird, off it goes.

So far, though, he seems to look at it as nothing more than an entertaining way to kill a half-hour before school.

"Home Improvement" sometimes makes him act up, though. Especially when Tim makes those grunting noises.

David Grimes is a columnist for the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune.

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