Before having a child, I always thought I’d only let my child watch CBeebies, with a limited amount of screen time per week. Whilst she’s not watching TV all the time, my daughter does watch more than the pre-parent me thought she would. I think most of us are the same, it’s a way of helping us to get all the things we need to get done completed. However, are we paying close enough attention to what they watch? One programme she likes, Masha and the Bear, has recently been banned by me as I believe it has been having a negative effect on her.
Why is Masha and the Bear so popular?
If you’re not familiar with Masha and the Bear, I’ll give you a quick run-through. Loosely based on Russian folklore of the same name, this animated series was first launched in Russia 10 years ago. It follows the story of a mischievous 6 year old girl who lives in the woods and an ex-circus bear who is a kind of father figure. It is he who keeps her from disaster.
Available on Netflix, it has been translated into 25 languages and broadcast in over 100 countries! Impressively, one episode is even the 5th most viewed video on YouTube. It is only beaten by 4 music videos and is even ahead of Gangnam Style.
But why is it so popular? The characters are visually appealing for children, particularly Masha with her large eyes and expressive face. Her mischievous attitude makes her very likeable to children. Each 6-7 minute programme is full of action, which holds their attention well. The characters all have their own personalities and interact in various ways and each story has a meaning.
So what’s the problem?
Masha and the Bear might seem harmless, but there are a number of reasons I don’t like it. Firstly, I know that a lot of children’s programmes don’t necessarily have good role models (I’m looking at you, Peppa Pig). However, I find Masha more annoying than most. She is hyperactive and loves to play all the time. This is often to the detriment of the animals in the woods who she forces to play with her. Poor Bear is always getting pranks pulled on him by Masha, too. She is rude, selfish and spoiled. If you delve into Google, you’ll find parents saying how they believe watching Masha and the Bear has made them behave more hyperactive and even violently!
I also have a problem with how some things are portrayed. The breaking point for me was the episode where Masha has a wobbly tooth. She first notices it when she’s brushing her teeth. I don’t recall seeing people try to pull out teeth with string on English children’s programmes. To me, it just seems like a really bad idea. However, that’s part of the storyline on Masha and the bear. It continues on to her sitting in a medical chair in the creepy abandoned old ambulance on the hill with the wolves working on her. The whole thing comes across quite scary, as do some storylines in other episodes. Throughout the ordeal, Masha is shown to be upset and in pain. This really upset my little girl, who said “Oh no!” and started crying. For a good week or two afterwards, she’d clasp her hands over her mouth and cry in terror whenever we tried to brush her teeth as she was convinced it was going to hurt and make her teeth fall out! It took so much work and patience to get to the point where she’d allow us to get a toothbrush anywhere near her again.
Banning Masha and the Bear has gone okay so far, as we just tell our daughter that it’s not available anymore. However, it is still present on her Netflix page, annoyingly. I wish you could hide things on there. I think she is becoming used to us saying no and choosing alternative programmes that we find much more suitable.
If we ever let her watch it again, we’ll be a lot more choosy about what episodes we’ll let her see.
Interestingly, there has been talk of it being banned in some European countries. Not for the reasons I’ve mentioned, but because of possible Soviet propaganda, including a hat that Masha occasionally wears.
What do you think of Masha and the Bear? Are there any programmes you don’t like your child watching? Let’s discuss in the comments below!