Media Violence and the Effects It Has On Children
The media clearly has an impact on our lives and especially the young, impressionable and weak-minded people in our society. Children become desensitized to violence when they see it everyday on TV, in theaters and even in video games. They are not becoming properly aquatinted with what is real, what is not, and the effects of it all. Even TV news deadens anyone’s perception of reality. People of all ages especially those who are at an impressionable time in their lives, need to know that murder, death and violence are real and that sadness comes with all of these.
The American media is the most violent in the world. Children in America are more likely to be shot than in any other country (AAP Committee on Communications, 1997; Derksen & Strasburger, 1997). With over 1000 studies supporting the causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children, we know the more life-like the violence depicted the more likely it will be learned. Yet 66% of children’s programs contain violence and one third have nine or more violent portrayals in each episode.
Much of the violence is presented as humorous and less than half of the violent interactions show the victims experiencing any signs of pain (Clarke-Pearson, 1997). Violence on television is frequent, inconsequential, effective, and rewarded.
The heroes even use it as often as the villains do. Violence ends confrontation quickly and effectively, without a need for patience, negotiation, and compromise. Moreover, violence is an acceptable method to solve conflicts on television. Rarely are real-life consequences or the lingering psychological and physical effects of violence shown (Sege & Dietz, 1997). Children, especially young children, do not know that actions portrayed on television, in the movies, and in video games are fantasy (AAP Committee on Communications, 1997; Sege & Dietz, 1997; Spivak & Harvey, 1998).
Constant exposure to the repeated depiction of violence on television also leads to blunt emotional reactions of the viewers.
Such desensitization can lead to both hardened attitudes about violence directed at others and decreased interest in taking action on behalf of a victim of violence (Clarke-Pearson, 1997). A well-known example of this bystander effect is the New York City Kitty Genovese incident (Sege & Dietz, 1997).
Exposure to television violence, both on fictional programs and news reports, makes the world seem like a frightening place and can lead to nightmare and sleep problems. Viewing violence can lead to children being afraid of becoming a victim of violence (Clarke-Pearson, 1997). It is likely that children who witness violence in their homes or communities are especially vulnerable to media influences, as each exposure validates the other and confirms the role violence plays in settling disputes (Augustyn, Parker, Groves, & Zuckerman, 1998). There is little prosocial programming for children to consider alternative methods to violence and the consequences of violence (Sege & Dietz, 1997; Spivak & Harvey, 1998).
In our society, television is the main source of news and information, and the main source of entertainment as well. More than 99 percent of U.S. households have at least one television set, and about two- thirds of them have two, three, or more sets (Nielsen 1998). As the number of TV sets in a household has increased, family viewing has declined, and individual program selection and solitary viewing have increased. Cable programming is found in 68 percent of households, greatly expanding the number of networks and independent stations that can be accessed.
In the United States, 54 percent of children have a television set in their bedrooms. About 87 percent of U.S. households have a VCR, and about $10 billion is spent annually on video rentals, double the amount spent at movie theaters (Mediascope 1998).
The average weekly viewing time has increased annually in American households, from 43 hours in the early seventies to 50 hours in the mid-nineties. In 1998, the average was 51 hours and 55 minutes per week (Nielsen 1998), which is close to 7 hours per day! Children spend an average of 28 hours a week watching TV.
During prime time (7 to 11 p.m.), about 7 million teenagers and 9 to 10 million preteens are .