During the past decade, America has witnessed an alarming increase in the incidence of violence in the lives of children. On a daily basis, children in America are victims of violence, as witnesses to violent acts in their homes or communities, or as victims of abuse, neglect, or personal assault. The causes of violent behavior in society are complex and interrelated. Among the significant contributors are poverty, racism, unemployment, illegal drugs, inadequate or abusive parenting practices, and real-life adult models of violent problem-solving behavior.
At the same time that there has been an increase in the number of reported violent acts directed at children, there has been an increase in the amount and severity of violent acts observed by children through the media, including television, movies, computer games, and videotapes, and an increase in the manufacture and distribution of weapon-like toys and other products directly linked to violent programming.
In response, Governing Board appointed a panel of experts to guide the development of initiatives and resources to assist teachers and parents in confronting the issue of violence in the lives of children. This position statement addresses one aspect of the proble — media violence — and is the first in a series of projects the Association plans to address this important issue. We have chosen to address the issue of media violence first because, of all the sources and manifestations of violence in children’s lives, it is perhaps the most easily corrected. The media industry ought to serve the public interest and ought to be subject to government regulation.
The responsibility of adults and of public policy to protect children from unnecessary and potentially harmful exposure to violence through the media and to protect children from television content and advertising practices that exploit their special vulnerability (Huston, Watkins, & Kunkel, 1989). Television and other media have the potential to be very effective educational tools for children.
Research demonstrates that television viewing is a highly complex, cognitive activity, during which children are actively involved in learning (Anderson & Collins, 1988). Therefore, supports efforts to use media constructively to expand children’s knowledge and promote the development of positive social values. Supports measures that can be taken by responsible adults to limit children’s exposure to violence through the media is an important details Such efforts include but are not limited to:
legislation requiring reinstatement of guidelines for children’s television by the Federal Communication Commission, including requirements for videotapes and elimination of television programs linked to toys
legislation limiting advertising on children’s programming, and standards for toys to ensure that they are not only physically safe but also psychologically safe
legislation enabling the development of voluntary television-industry standards to alleviate violence in programming, specifically exempting such efforts from anti-trust regulation
promotion of more developmentally appropriate, educational programming that meets children’s diverse needs for information, entertainment, aesthetic appreciation, positive role models, and knowledge about the world (Huston et al., 1989)
development and dissemination of curriculum for teachers to improve children’s critical viewing skills and to teach nonviolent strategies for resolving conflicts
development of resources to assist parents in the constructive and educational use of media with their children
During early childhood, the foundation is laid for future social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development. During this formative period, young children are particularly vulnerable to negative influences. In most instances, children have no control over the environmental messages they receive.
Up until age seven or eight, children have great difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality, and their ability to comprehend nuances of behavior, motivation, or moral complexity is limited. This special vulnerability of children necessitates increased vigilance to protect them from potentially negative influences. Parents are ultimately responsible for monitoring their children’s viewing habits; however, parents cannot be omniscient and omnipresent in their children’s lives. Parents need assistance in protecting their children from unhealthy exposure to violence. Therefore, limits must be placed on the content of programming directed at children. Restricting violence in children’s programming should not be considered censorship, any more than is protecting children form exposure to pornography (Carlsson-Paige & Levin, 1990).
Likewise, industry standards to limit violence in children’s programming should be developed as action taken in the public interest.
This position statement is based .