I’d like to start posting some more cheerful practical things and this serves as well as anything. While it would be lovely to live in a magical fairyland where kids weren’t watching tv or DVDs or smartphones or tablets or laptops, most people, particularly the SAHMs so close to my heart, aren’t likely to be able to have tv-free households for many of their child-raising years.
These are the majority of the cartoons we are ok with our children seeing. None of them is explicitly Christian, but mostly they do a good job of modelling healthy social orders, gender roles and legitimate authority.
Rolie Polie Olie: a basic family where the father isn’t useless or lacking in respect from wife and children, and where extended family is important. The episodes we’ve seen show the father playfully engaging with his children without lapsing into treating them like little adults. It’s a nice light little show for any age.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic– This show is really great. It’s about healthy friendships and family connections, and about how much better it is to respect lawful authority rather than attempt to subvert it. Unlike a lot of kid’s cartoons that show the younger heroes undermining or simply not respecting the adults, the teenaged (approximately) mares of MLP:FIM always are respectful to their elders, even the ones who have less magical ability than they do. Twilight Sparkle, the leader of the group, is perhaps the most powerful individual in the imaginary world of Equestria. But she treats the comparatively weak (in magic terms) Mayor of her little adopted hometown of Ponyville with the deference accorded to that position. The show is full of such little details of proper behavior and well-ordered social norms. It is truly, truly subversive conservative entertainment, particularly the first two seasons. I know it’s subversive by the number of adults, liberal and conservative, who dismiss it as no different than the latest Disney dreck. It’s quite different. The songs are charming as well. It’s pretty all ages as well.
There was a full-length animated film made that is connected to this series, Equestria Girls. In that film the ponies are schoolgirls. It is in plot and tone much in the spirit of the tv series, but unfortunately the outfits for the four main female characters are regrettable (the characters themselves seem almost embarrassed to be in them, frankly). I only mention this because it is extremely likely to come up when looking for episodes of the show and there were many entirely justified complaints about the wardrobe when the film was originally released.
Avatar: The Last Airbender (cartoon series, not the live-action movie): This is also a very good children’s cartoon portraying hierarchy and lawful authority. There are one or two extremely subtle mature moments, but my husband viewed the whole series and could only find them by checking on the TV Tropes website. They are moments, about 1-2 seconds across the entire series. Mostly it is a program for younger kids that are about to become pre-teens. It has good portrayals of friendship and navigating mixed-gender social situations. Bonus: the good girl doesn’t pursue the bad boy, but through a natural, organic relational progression comes to end up with the good guy. This show is very good at showing how 10-15 year olds would actually conduct themselves if they also had powers to manipulate the elements of earth magically. The show really manages to dig into the complexity of possessing great and deadly power without going way over the heads of young children. It’s not really for kids under 5-6 consistently, it really is more for the 7-10 age range, up to teenagers. There is a sequel series for teenagers, but it isn’t as good and I don’t really recommend it.
Thomas and Friends: This is colloquially known as Thomas the Train or Thomas the Tank Engine. It has had several different incarnations through the years, but it is also wholesomely oriented and is based on a series of children’s books written by a devout Anglican clergyman and his son. So, not explicitly Christian, but the source material was written by devout Christians and hasn’t in broadcast form shown itself to really be full of anti-authority and anti-hierarchy themes. It is very much for small (mostly male) children, but charmingly animated.
There’s nothing wrong with explicitly Christian cartoons, but we haven’t pursued that and it was a nice surprise to find anything in the normal run of children’s cartoons that we were comfortable with. These are ok. They are moral and represent consistent, coherent social and moral systems.