March 17, 2010
What SpongeBob Can't Deliver to Your Kids
VeggieTales co-founder Mike Nawrocki and his kids enjoy mainstream TV, but it's lacking
I understand it may be shocking to learn that the children of Larry the Cucumber do not always watch VeggieTales. But it’s true. When they were younger, the TV was at times tuned to Arthur, Dora the Explorer, and Zaboomafoo.
Broadcast TV for kids has come a long way over the past couple of decades. When we started VeggieTales 17 years ago, I didn’t have kids. But I remember thinking if I did, the only thing I’d let them watch was Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, because that’s what I watched when I was a kid and they were still pretty much the same. Everything else seemed too violent, too sarcastic, or too crude. Fast forward to 2010 and it’s not hard to find well-produced, age-appropriate content that teaches kids math, reasoning, spelling or manners. A fair amount of stuff I don’t mind my kids watching.
So what’s the problem?PBS, Disney, Nick and Cartoon Network is a biblical worldview — the assumption that there is a God who made us, loves us, and wants a relationship with us set against the backdrop of creation, fall and redemption. For Christians, nothing could be more basic to our understanding of how the world works. But for children’s broadcast and cable channels, nothing can get you off the air faster.
What’s missing is that much of the worldview our kids are exposed to each day is completely modernist. While SpongeBob can model friendship toward Patrick, the show will never tell a child we can love because God first loved us. While Arthur can show it’s nice to do good and to share, he’ll never add that these are the sacrifices that please God. While Zaboomafoo can show kids the wonder of nature, kids won’t hear that God chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And, we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.
There is a much deeper well we go to as Christian parents when we hope to instill our values in our children. With VeggieTales, we have sought to be a resource for parents in providing high quality kids entertainment with a biblical worldview.
Story is such a powerful worldview vehicle. I think that’s why Jesus told so many parables. In a media-saturated culture such as ours, we need to make it a point of telling as many good stories to our kids as we can—stories that assume we are living within the greatest story of all, the Kingdom of God. That way, they can watch SpongeBob and have a good laugh—but not forget that God made them special and he loves them very much.Big Idea, where he is VP of Creative Development, and VeggieTales, where he provides the voice of Larry the Cucumber. The latest VeggieTales installment, "Pistachio, the Little Boy That Woodn't," is now available on DVD.