Children and Television Violence
Violence on television affects children negatively, according to
The three major effects of seeing violence on television are:
*Children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others.
*Children may be more fearful of the world around them.
*Children may be more likely to behave in aggressive ways toward others.
Studies by George Gerbner, Ph.D., at the University of Pennsylvania, have shown
that children's television shows contain about 20 violent acts each hour and
also that children who watch a lot of television are more likely to think that
the world is a mean and dangerous place.
Children often behave differently after they've been watching violent programs
In one study done at Pennsylvania State University, about 100 preschool children
were observed both before and after watching television; some watched cartoons
that had many aggressive and violent acts; others watched shows that didn't have
any kind of violence. The researchers noticed real differences between the kids
who watched the violent shows and those who watched nonviolent ones.
Children who watched the violent shows were more likely to strike out at
playmates, argue, disobey authority and were less willing to wait for things
than those children who watched nonviolent programs.
Field studies by Leonard Eron, Ph.D. and his associates at the University of
Illinois, found that children who watched many hours of television violence when
they were in elementary school tended to also show a higher level of aggressive
behavior when they became teenagers. By observing these youngsters until they
were 30 years old, Dr. Eron found that the ones who'd watched a lot of
television when they were eight years old were more likely to be arrested and
prosecuted for criminal acts as adults.
For most of television's early years, it was difficult to find role models who
would inspire young girls in the viewing audience. In the mid-1970s, a new genre
of programs such as "Charlie's Angels," "Wonder Woman," and "The Bionic Woman"
entered the scene. Now, there were females on television who were in control,
aggressive and were not dependent upon males for their success.
Conventional wisdom might suggest this phenomena would have a positive impact on
younger female viewers. But, a recent study by L. Rowell Huesmann, Ph.D. -- a
psychologist at the Aggression Research Group at the University of Michigan's
Institute for Social Research -- refutes that premise.
Huesmann's research states that young girls who often watched shows featuring
aggressive heroines in the 1970s have grown up to be more aggressive adults
involved in more confrontations, shoving matches, chokings and knife fights than
women who had watched few or none of these shows.
One example cited by Huesmann is that 59 percent of those who watched an
above-average amount of violence on television as children were involved in more
than the average number of such aggressive incidents later in life.
Huesmann says that ages six to eight are very delicate and critical years in the
development of children. Youngsters are learning "scripts" for social behavior
that will last them throughout their life. Huesmann found those "scripts" didn't
always have happy endings.
What Is Being Done About The Problem?
The television industry took steps toward implementing a ratings system for its
programming at a meeting with President Clinton in late February. The policy is
to develop a ratings system for television programs that will give parents an
indication of content not suitable for children.
The rating system may use letter codes (such as PG-7 for programs deemed
suitable for children aged 7 and up, PG-10, PG-15, etc.), or the television
industry may develop a short description of content which would be broadcast
prior to the program. Unlike the Motion Picture Association
of America, which uses an independent third-party board to rate films,
television networks will rate their own programs.
"I agree with President Clinton's and the industry's decision to promote some
sort of ratings system and the use of the V-chip," said Dorothy Cantor, PsyD,
former president of the American Psychological Association. "We live in an era
where both parents are often working and children have more unsupervised time.
Parents need help in monitoring the amount of television and the quality of what
kids watch while they're young."
According to recent studies, the following steps can help parents maintain some
control in shaping their child's viewing habits.
*Watch at least one episode of the program your child views so you can
better understand the content and discuss it with them.
*Explain questionable incidents (e.g. random violence) that occur and discuss
alternatives to violent actions as ways to solve problems.
*Ban programs that are too violent or offensive.
*Restrict television viewing to educational programming and shows or programs
which demonstrate helping, caring and cooperation.
*Encourage children to participate in more interactive activities such as
sports, hobbies or playing with friends.
*Limit the amount of time children spend watching television.
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