Television Violence and Its Effect on Children

The children of today are surrounded by technology and entertainment

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that is full of violence. It is estimated that the average child watches from

three to five hours of television a day! (Neilson 1993). Listening to music is

also a time consuming pastime among children. With all of that exposure, one

might pose the question, "How can seeing so much violence on television and

video games and hearing about violence in in music affect a child's behavior?"

Obviously these media have a big influence on childrens' behavior: we can see it

in the way they attempt to emulate their favorite rock stars by dressing in a

similar style and the way children play games, imitating their favorite cartoon

personalities or super heroes. Studies have shown that extensive television

viewing may be associated with, aggressive behavior, poor academic performance,

precocious sexuality, obesity, and the use of drugs or alcohol (Deitz).

Television, video games, and music are very influential and if there is too much

violence available for children to watch, play, or listen to, this can sway

their attitudes in a negative direction.

Television is especially influencial on the children today. The hard

truth is that children spend an average of 28 hours a week in front of the

television (Neilson 1993). This is almost two times the amount of time that

some children are in school. At this very impressionable age it is no wonder

that the images that kids see sometimes has a profound impact on their behavior.

Fifty-five percent of children watch television with a friend or alone. (TV-Free

America). Too often parents assume that their children are responsible enough to

choose suitable programming. But the sad fact is that even some shows deemed as

"children's television" are violent. A survey in Mediascope showed that a

staggering sixty-six percent of children's programming contained violence. Many

times the violence occured in cartoons which were the least likely to show the

long term consequences of violence and in many cases portrayed the violence in a

humorous way (Mediascope 2/96). Studies done in various countries across the

world show the homicide rates doubling 10 to 15 years after the introduction of

television even though the study was taken at different times in each country

(Centerwall). Another study showed that eight year old boys who watched the

most violent programming were the most likely to get into fights or problems

with the police (Eron). If parents knew what their children were watching maybe

they could help to point out the shortcomings in television.

Music is also a large part of children's lives today. A recent study

showed that between the seventh to twelveth grade alone children listen to

almost as many hours of rock music as they spend in school, for a full twelve

years (Entertainment Monitor, 1995). As a teenager I can personally attest to

the fact that most parents don't know what their children are listening to.

Much of the popular music of today contains messages about sex and violence.

The artists who sing the music often become the idols of countless children

across the country, many of whom copy everything from the singers habits (drugs,

alcohol, violence, etc.) to their style of dress.

Another threat to children are video games. Today's most popular video

games include many different fighting games. These games such as Mortal Kombat

and Street Fighter include graphic images of blood and violence. Other popular

types of games include sports games such as NHL "96 also include many violent

aspects. The violence in these video games can desensitize children to violence

and alter their perception of reality. It can give them the idea that violence

is the way to deal with problems and conflict. Little is known of the actual

numbers of how video games affect children because the technology is so new. It

has been assumed that studies dealing with other forms of media will also apply

here (McAfee).

In the first few year of a child's life he is very impressionable. Much

of his personality is formed by the time he goes to his first day of

kindergarten. There is nothing wrong with him listening to music, watching

television, or even playing video games. It becomes a problem when the parents

lose control of what a child sees and how he interprets it. Many of the facts

in this paper are startling, but does this mean we should ban all violence from

everything? That will never happen. In all of the examples I have presented

one thing is very clear: If parents played a more active role in what children

watched, listened to, or games they played, things would be fine. All too often

children are left to make up their own minds about things. Next time you wonder

about how easily children can be convinced of something think of the myth of

Santa Claus: One man bringing presents to the WHOLE world, in one sled, pulled

by flying reigndeer. All in the couse of one night. If they believe that, how

hard can it be to convince them of other falsehoods?