Television Violence and Children
Thanks to the miracle of television the average American child watches 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence before finishing elementary school (Early Concerns 113). Television violence is responsible for the increase in childhood violence. Watching violence is a popular form of entertainment, and watching it on television is the number one way that children are exposed to violence. Local news shows provide extensive converage of violent crimes in order to increase their ratings (Felson 96). Violence usually refers to physical aggression and aggression is usually defined as any behavior involving intent to harm another person (Sege 34).
Television is a central feature of contemporary American life. American children spend more time watching television than they do in school. In 1989, the average child in the United States spent more time watching television than performing any other activity, except sleeping. In 1989 The Nielson Report on Television commented that children age 2 to 5 viewed approximately 27 hours of television per week. Children 6 to 11 years of age viewed more than 23 hours of television per week, and adolescents between 12 to 17 years of age viewed 22 hours of television per week (Sege 32). During the past several decades, violent programs have been steadily increasing in numbers on television screens. Many believe that there could be the possibility that a direct relationship exists between the violence witnessed on television and the increasingly violent behavior of children and adolescents (Palermo 23). Coming at a time when the homicide rate is
rising six times faster than the population it is theorized that television violence does cause actual violence (Early Concerns 114).
The year 1992 set an all-time record for violence in children’s shows, with an average of 32 violent acts per hour. The nightly dose of splattering blood, rapes, car wrecks and screaming victims on television has tripled in the last decade (Johnson 18).
Only on television is there violence without pain. Sometimes, television violence is even supposed to be funny, but grownups know, or are supposed to know, that real violence causes lots of pain and sadness.
A young gunshot victim is brought into an emergency room and he astonished
his Doctors. He expressed surprise that his wound actually hurt. His Doctors
first thought, “Boy! This boy is really stupid.” But it dawned on the Doctors
that what the sees on television is that when the superhero gets shot in the arm,
he uses that arm to hold onto a truck going 85 miles an hour around a corner.
He overcomes the driver and shoots a couple of hundred people while he is at
it. (Early Concerns 112)
Another example of violence in children’s television is seen in the cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This cartoon causes confusion between fantasy and reality. Several children really do think it is okay to use physical violence with other children because the Turtles do and the Turtles are the good guys (Early Concerns 115). Children’s cartoons are among the most violent shows on television, often exceeding 24 acts of violence per hour and earning high violence ratings from The National Coalition on Television Violence. Researchers say children’s aggressiveness increases measurably after
viewing the cartoon violence of Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry and Woody Woodpecker, which are rated as very high violence with 55 or more acts of violence per episode. (Early Concerns 113).
Just as children learn things from their older brothers and sisters, they also learn from their television heroes- even bad things. Some children who watch lots of violence on television learn to fight more and others learn to become victims. Many children learn that violence is fun to watch, even in real life. These kids encourage their friends to fight. When television characters use violence to solve their problems, then some children believe that it is okay then to use violence to solve problems that they might be having. As parents we want our children to solve their problems without fighting (Sege 33-35).
Violence is a diverse problem and it is necessary to address it as such. There is no doubt that excessive and extended exposure to television violence may promote violence in some children. Television promotes violence because it hits children in a suggestible period of their life, when they lack the capacity to reflect and discriminate and to integrate what they see in the proper perspective and with objectivity (Felson 96).
Professionals and parents must be aware of all sources of impute for their children. Not only peers, textbooks, teachers, and relatives, but also from the subtle “stranger” in the living room, the television. Television “talks” to our children daily with complex messages of fear and violence and only occasionally with messages of sharing, friendship, and concern for others (Johnson 18). Parents need to limit the amount and type of television that their children are watching. If children are allowed to watch
violence on television, then most children will believe that violence out on the playground is acceptable behavior.
Most children who spend a considerable amount of their time viewing television are irresponsible, need constant supervision, and lack social skills. These children replace their daily activities with other children with viewing television. Television usually reduces their attention span, portrays a reality far from real life, and corrupts their young minds (Johnson 18).
Young people must learn at home and in school that violence is not a means of settling differences with others, as they have come to believe from watching television (Palermo 23). We, as parents, must discourage violence on television for our children’s safety and anyone who cares about children, and has access to them, needs to urge the children to stay away from the tube to keep societies youngest safe.
There are some people who would argue that there are many non-violent television shows for children. Although this is true, the shows that they are speaking of are those such as Barney, Sesame Street, and Bear in the Big Blue House. These types of children’s shows are mainly for very young children. Older children quickly lose interest in these shows, and the more violent cartoons and action films capture their interest. The overall number of violent films far exceeds the number of nonviolent shows and it is very obvious that children will want to watch the more exciting, violent shows.
Putting a child in front of a television is an easy way to keep them busy. However, it is also an easy way to lose control of a youngster if the content of what they are watching is not carefully monitored. Children learn many things by mimicking. A child who sees somebody enjoying an act of violence is more apt to try to re-create that act.