It's seven in the morning – do you know what your children are watching?

Gerard Gilbert's six-year-old daughter may be ready for more grown-up television fare, but he's not sure that he is

Once upon a time, not long ago, I strolled downstairs to find my six-year-old daughter watching television. Nothing unusual in that and, you never know, there might be a career in it one day – except that, instead of Tweenies or Fireman Sam, I discovered her glued to what I thought, at first glance, was Family Guy.

It turned out not to be the very funny but highly unsuitable cartoon series, but rather Phineas and Ferb, an animation on Disney XD channel that shares the same rapid-fire, knowing humour. Apparently it has celebrity "cool dads", from Jonathan Ross to David Beckham lining up to impress their offspring by recording cameo appearances – Simon Pegg recently becoming the latest. But for me it had the opposite effect, triggering an un-cool moral panic attack.

I mightn't have been ecstatic about everything on CBeebies, but at least you knew where you were with the BBC channel aimed at children aged six and under. There was nothing there to traumatise your children, or to turn them into precocious mini-teenagers. But just to take one look at the demographic being catered for on CBBC (ages six to 12) or Disney XD (six to 14) is to enter a whole new, more perplexing universe. After all, how do you entertain a six-year-old and a 12-year-old at the same time? It's a question I put to CBBC director, Joe Godwin.

"Mums and dads love the safety of CBeebies", he says. "But when you're older you want to try stuff for yourself, but there shouldn't be anything on CBBC that would be harmful to her". But what about that age-gap that he is attempting to bridge? "Very little of what we do is aimed at all of them."

But what's to stop a six-year-old tuning into Tracy Beaker Returns, the drama based on Jacqueline Wilson's novels set in a care-home, where attitudes are distinctly teenage – especially as it stars current Strictly Come Dancing co-favourite, Dani Harmer. "Children won't watch stuff that has no relevance to them", Goodwin reassures, but I'm not so sure – especially given peer pressure at school, and the fact that children with older siblings tend to be more precocious viewers. Does he get complaints about unsuitable programming? "We get complaints about language", he says, "because we're always striking the line between credible – the language children actually use – and what parents think is suitable. We had a long debate yesterday about the word 'fart'… 20 of us in a room, that's how seriously we take it."

Anyway, my daughter seems to be developing a penchant for property programmes such as A Place in the Sun. The problem with these shows is the breaks, where ads can be graphic appeals for child- or animal-cruelty charities. "Most of children's viewing isn't children's television", observes Goodwin. "Escape to the Country and Come Dine with Me are popular with children – they have well-defined situations and six, seven and eight year olds are learning about how people deal with each other".

From Come Dine with Me? Well, I suppose you get other people to cook for you, you're rude about their food and you still hope to be given cash at the end of the week…

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Arts and Entertainment
U2's Songs of Innocence album sleeve

tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men

Arts and Entertainment
Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
tvReview: Alison Steadman stars in Inside No.9's brilliant series finale Spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk