A major topic of conversation nowadays is whether or not voilence on
television causes children to bahave more violently. Shortly after I began to
research this topic, I realized that it is not a clear cut issue. Evidence can
be easily found to support each position. In the following essay I will examine
the different positions that can ba taken on this topic and try ro form my own
view on the affect violent TV has on chidren.
The first position I will examine is the one in which it is believed
that, without a doubt, violent TV increases the likelyhood that a child will
behave in a violent manner. This stands is examined in the Maclean's article
intitled,"Power to the people. Television's teen Rangers Kick up a storm. The
author of this article, Particia Chrisholm, explains a heated debate over the
affects that the kids show "The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" has on children.
According to this article, the "hemeted lycra covered Rangers" acts as a bad
influence on children. Many parents have come to believe that the childen try
to act like the kids hreo's. A cocerned mother, Kathryn Flannery went so far as
to petition the CRTC. The CRTC responded by saying that "the show is avassively
to violent."(Chrisholm 1994 p.52) As a result of the petiton, many stations
voluntarily refused to air the controversial kids show. This case shows the
power that people can have over the CRTC. Unfortunately, the parents were not
able to entirely shield their children from the Power Rangers TV show. Many US
broadcasters, available on cable, continued to air the show.
Another study that supports this belief that TV violence causes children
to act more violently is an experiment conducted by Leonard Eron and his
collegues. In these studies, Leonard Eron and his collegues studied childern
for a number of years and measuread peer ratings obtained from each child's
classmates. By doing this, they could see if violent TV changed the attitudes
of the children. In the end, it was concluded that violent TV significantly
affected the way in which the children behaved.
The other position that can be taken when discussing this issue is one
in which people believe that violent TV does not affect the behavior of children.
In the Canadian Forum article, "TV and The Child Savers. Bad Habits and The
Boob Tube" this position is discussed. The author, Thelma McCormack discusses
the goals of the action group that refers to themselves as the Child Savers.
According to this article, the Child Savers believe that "Programs which contain
gratitous violence will not be shown on television."(McCormack 1993.P20) They
basically want to force the CRTC to wake up and take action. They are also
considering making an ammendment to the Criminal Code. The author of this
article seems to be more interested with discrediting the Child Savers action
group. McCormack quotes George Gerbner as saying "in reality, there is less
violence on TV now than in the past.(McCormack 1993 p.20) Gerbner belongs to the
Unniversity of Pensylvannia's Annemburg School Of Communications and has been
studying TV for more than a decade. Gerbner believes that there is less
tolerance for any type of violence. This article discusses rhe situation in
which the American Psychologists decided to change their initial view on TV
violence negatively affecting the behavior of children. They now believe that
thier view was based on laboratory results. They also realize that the long
term affects have not yet been determined. This article has vast importance
because it shows that what is expertly reported is not necessarily true. If the
American pychologists can make a mistake anyone can. The American Pychologists
have not entirely dismissed their view, they have merely realized that they did
not have enough concrete evidence to suoourt their view. This Canadian Forum
article also realizes that most studies on violence and TV isolate TV as the
only contributor to the childrend violent behavior. They forget about the other
aspects of the subjects lives. They might have allready been prone to act
violently. This article states that "the result is that our studies tell us
little violence or the culture of childhood."(McCormack 1993 p.22) The author
believes that we need to understand how children react and respond to TV before
we can make judgements on it's affects.
An experiment that supports this view that TV violence does not promote
violence in children is a group of studies conducted by Seymour Feshbach and
Robert D Singer. In their book, "Telivision and Aggression" they state that the
issue "arrises from a concern over an important contemporary social
issue"(Feshbach & Singer 1987). This group of studies looked at the way violent
TV affects adolescent and preadolescent boys. Feshbach and Singer believed this
particular group had a natural tendancy to watch more violent TV programs.
Although this book was published in 1977, the trends it discusses are still
apparent today. Rescent studies have come to the same conclusion. This study
involved boys from private schools and residencies. The subjects were allowed
to watch a minimum of six hours of TV a week. They could watch as much as they
wanted, but the shows were specified. Seymour and Feshbach used personality
tests and attitude tests to record the boys behavior. More emphasis is placed
on was placed on on the behavior ratings. In the end, the results favoured the
view that violent TV does not cause childen to bahave more violently. Seymour
and Feshbach stated that "We feel reasonably confident, however, that the
violent program content which the boys observed is not a significant cause of
their aggression."(Seymour & Feshbach 1977) This experiment is somewhat
resticted because it focused on a subset of the population. The experimenters
would have liked to have involved girls and other ages of boys, but they felt
that these particular subjects were a natural control group. They also chose
them because they lived relatively close to where they lived.
The view that volent TV does not promote violence in children is also
supported in the book "Mass Media and Society" written by Dennis Howitt and Guy
Cumberbatch. Howitt and Cumberbatch looked at social psychology, experimental
psychology, sociology and phychiatry to come their belief that " mass media do
not have any significant effect on the level of violence in society."( Howitt
and Cumberbatch 1975 p.VII) Howitt and Cumberbatch looked at experiments,
reports and studies and tried to figure out the meaning of each. They concluded
that many studies do not specify reasons for why they believe violence makes
violent children. Th at the children imitated the suicides they saw.
The results from all these studies are incredibly difficult to disect
and understand. This is because, contrary to popular belief, whether or not
violence on TV causes children to act violent is not a clear cut issue. It is
practically impossible to entirely believe in one position. Even the studies
that conclude that violence on TV does not cause violence in children do not
ignore that there may be some type of relationship. In the book intitled
"Television and Aggression" one of the very last things mentioned is that there
may be some sort of correlation between the two variables. It seems like no one
is completely certain what view is correct.
A major issue that is raised when trying to understand all these
experiments is the existance of experimenter bias. It seems quite obvious that
most of the experimenters involved had results that they expected to and wanted
to find. This may or may not have affected the final results. It seems quite
possible that the goals of the experimenter may have interfered with the results.
Of course an experimenter does not want to prove himself wrong. For this
reason, some of these experiments may have had inconclusive results. This
situation should be taken into account when any results are discussed.
Rescently, new ways of looking at TV violence has been discussed. One
of these is tha catharsis thery. This theory involves the belief that watching
violence actually purges us of our violient urges. It is actually a healthy
process. This theory is very hard to comprehend, but in time it may actually
prove correct. No one knows what the beliefs will be in the future.
It is very hard to conclude that TV violence does affect the violent
behavior of children because the long term results have not yet been identified.
It is not until rescenly that experiments focused solely around this issue. An
experiment that involved this is one discussed in our text book "Communication
in Canadian Society" In this a study is condicted on three towms and the affect
that TV had in each. In the end it seemed like TV did not play all that much a
role in the violent actions made by children. More studies that discuss the
long term affects need to be studied.
After researching this paper I realized that I cannot come to a
conclusion on whether not I believe violent TV makes violent chilren. The
results that havr been found are entirily too confusinf for me to be able to do
this. I cannot decide which side makes more sense. I would like to be able to
believe that violence causes violence, for the simple fact that it seems like
the easy way out, but I can't do this. Each position has very valid points and
can be proven easily. What I am sure of is that there is some type of link
between the two variables. It seems like everyone agreed on this. It is going
yo take a lot more experienced, based on the long term affests to decide whicd
position is correct. Even then, not everyone will believe in the same position.
This is an entirely impossible task.