While there is no physical bullying in these shows, what the authors consider an 'alarming' amount contain behaviors like cruel gossiping and manipulation of friendship. There aren't many ways for shows to be funny in 2012, it seems.
Nicole Martins of Indiana University and Barbara J. Wilson, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, published their analysis of the 50 most popular children's shows. 150 television shows were viewed and analyzed and they found that 92% of the programming contained some version of what they considered social aggression—approximately 14 times per hour. They also noted whether the behavior was rewarded or punished, justified, or committed by an attractive perpetrator.
The findings suggested that some of the ways in which social aggression is contextualized make these depictions particularly problematic for young viewers. The study found that attractive characters who perpetrated social aggression were rarely punished for their behavior, and that socially aggressive scenes were significantly more likely than physically aggressive scenes to be presented in a humorous way. In some cases, social aggression on television may pose more of a risk than portrayals of physical aggression do.
"These findings should help parents and educators recognize that there are socially aggressive behaviors on programs children watch. Parents should not assume that a program is okay for their child to watch simply because it does not contain physical violence. Parents should be more aware of portrayals that may not be explicitly violent in a physical sense but are nonetheless antisocial in nature," Martins said.
"Martins and Wilson's research shows just how important it is to broaden our view of 'violence' beyond the physical; particularly as their findings indicate that social violence like insults and name calling occurs just as commonly in children's programming," said Amy Jordan, director of the Media and the Developing Child sector at the University of Pennsylvania and Chair of the Children, Adolescents and the Media Division of the International Communication Association.
"As a society, we need to acknowledge that our children are learning to be socially aggressive, and that one source of this learning may be the television shows they watch. We may not see physical manifestations of this type of violence, but children who are victims of social aggression from their peers may develop deep and lasting emotional scars."
Should iCarly have a "violence" label attached to it? Parents will disagree. We must assume these researchers never saw Bugs Bunny when they were kids. A few years ago the race was on to portray cartoons as sexist but today bullying is in vogue so look for a whole lot of suspect studies making that case.