Effects of Television Violence on Children

TV Violence: Friend or Enemy?
Television violence is a contributing factor to aggressive behavior in children. Recently focus has been placed on this issue, since the majority of violence occurs during prime time and in cartoons. Its not watching thats bad for kids, its what they watch and how much. (Seplow 2) Parents must accept television into their home and explain the violence that is occurring. TV and TV violence are not new, we have been hearing about TVs affects on children for quite some time. It is now the time to discover if TV violence does affect our children or not.

Children today have more outlets to view television through cable, pay-per-view, and home movies. Many homes often have more than one TV unlike when our parents were growing up. It was not until 1952 did the first congressional hearing convene to discuss violence on radio and television. In 1954 after Sen. Estes Kefaver, D-Tenn., headed a series of studies related to the role of television and our youth. The results showed that there was no correlation between violence on television and aggressive behavior from children. Slowly during the 60s, television began to be seen as a vast wasteland, by many state representatives. Report after report from the Surgeon General confirmed evidence of a link between screen violence and aggressive behavior among children.

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In 1980, President Ronald Regan made a mistake by giving the television media almost a free reign with our television programming. A rise is seen in small independent networks that increase the difficulty in controlling violence on TV. We see the first real legislation passed by Sen. Paul Simon, who created the Television Violence Act. This allowed the three major broadcasting networks some time to curb television violence on their own. Many opposed Simon stating an obstacle to a voluntary reduction in violence by networks is that in this intensely competitive business, it is commonly held that violence sells. (CQ Researcher 278) In 1990 The Childrens Television Act, required several hours each day devoted to educational programs for children. To this day little of this is seen from the networks, most programming continues to be full of violence and sexual innuendoes.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 did provide some guidelines and recommended procedures for the identification and rating of video programming that contains sexual, violent, or other indecent material about which parent should be informed before it is displayed to children. (Banta 1)
The National Coalition on Television Violence (NCTV) offers the following rating system:
TV-Y7: May include mild physical or comedic violence TV-PG: may have infrequent language, limited violence, some suggestive sexual dialogue or situations. TV-14: may contain sophisticated themes, sexual content, strong language, and more intense violence. TV-M: may contain mature themes, profane language, graphic violence and explicit sexual content. (2)
This rating system does not allow parents to identify the true content of the program. Many shows are labeled as informative and educational, yet are full of violence. The FCC receives over ninety calls per year regarding poorly labeled programming and violence on television. It is impossible for the FCC to police the amount of violence seen on TV, according to the 1934 Federal Communications Act the FCC prohibits censorship.

The National Coalition on Television Violence continues to conduct surveys concerning the ranking of our television shows. The Fox network shows the most violent programming, and was ranked number one in a recent study. Fox broadcasts over eleven violent acts per hour by offering programs as Americas Most Wanted. How can we be angry or dislike this type of programming as it is responsible for capturing over 243 fugitives? Although it shows violence, it is also dedicated to ending violence. Parents need to explain to their children the different kinds of violence that can be shown on television. There us a difference in watching the news and hearing a story about a murder than watching a cartoon of a coyote chasing a roadrunner. Most likely a child will be more inclined to identify with the cartoon than the news story. Children establish heroes on programs and identify with them.

Children today have much more access to television. Parents are busier and often TV becomes the electronic babysitter. Children turn to TV for lack of other social opportunities with their friends or after school activities. Many children learn how to solve conflicts by watching TV and not from their parents. Children are visual learners and they become an easy target audience for most networks. Children alone watch over 28 hours of TV per week, by the age twelve children has witnessed over 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence. This breaks down to almost 32 violent acts an hour. Childrens programs contain almost five times more violence than the average prime-time show. You would think it is only cartoons or a Disney movie it wont hurt, no it may not hurt your child but cartoons are full of violence.

Children tend to imitate what they see; this is why violent programming is so dangerous for our youth. The more violence children see, the less likely they are to be sensitive to others pain and suffering. Violence on television can desensitize children to reality when violence is seen as a common part of television. Almost two-thirds of all violent programming contain some sort of violent scene. Television programs try to glamorize violence by showing almost 40% of violent actions committed by the good character. Children see these characters as role models and they tend to identify with them. These patterns teach children that violence is desirable, necessary and painless, said Dale Kunkell, a researcher from the National Coalition of Television Violence. Violence on TV is not bad when it shows the negative effects such as harming another or punishment for actions.

Children who watch a lot of TV begin to develop traits that will follow them later in life. Children who watch a lot of TV have a greater risk of obesity, increased alcohol and drug use, and earlier sexual involvement. These children are being exposed to too much. The focus more on television than school and as a result have poorer reading skills, play less with other children, and have less hobbies. This makes sense, if you let you kid sit in front of the TV all day, of course they will not have many other options day in day out. It is possible for our children to become addicted to television.

The average child sees over 20,000 commercials each year that is about one hour of commercials for every five hours of real programming. All advertising aimed at children before the age of ten is very deceptive; children cant understand the cost of the product in relation to the families income. Children are given incentives to want to own everything from Barbie dolls to water guns or playstation video games systems. What is startling is many young children cannot tell the difference between commercials and programs. When you sell a kid product on television through advertisement if he cant get it, he will throw a tantrum himself on the floor, stamp his feet and cry. You will never get a reaction like that from an adult.

Violence on television is a significant contributor to aggressive or violent behavior in our children. Children who view many violent programs tend to use aggression to resolve conflict. Children see many violent characters as attractive or heroic and often tend to imitate them. They see bad characters barely punished and good characters never criticized for violence. Dont get me wrong watching one violent show does not make a child aggressive, but rather it is the cumulative effects of many violent shows over time. All television is, is education. The question is, what are we teaching and what are they learning?
We as adults may view television as violent that does not necessarily mean children do. Sure it is violence, but we know its all fake, and we know the difference between right and wrong, so it doesnt affect us. If a child has a good family life, a productive school environment, and a community that allows the child to grow, they can remain unaffected by violence. The children to tend to gain aggressive behavior from viewing violent television enjoy viewing violence. These children learn most of their behavior from the television and become unable to determine right from wrong. Many imitate the actions they see believing this is acceptable behavior. Those children who come from families that communicate with their children understand that television is entertainment. These parent sit down with their children and explain the violence on television.

I searched the library and internet rather extensively for information that supported television violence. The basis for most arguments for television violence is the homes and communities that children come from determine how they react to different scenarios on television. Networks broadcast only what the public wants to see or many major networks would be out of business. Suggestions offered to parents to take the control back from television and decide they programs that their children may watch. Parents need to become more involved in their childs viewing habits. They must set limits for their children to the amount of time they are allowed to watch television each day. Parents need to participate in their childs programs by watching them with their child. This allows them to explain any violent acts that may occur throughout the sitcom or cartoon. This provides the child with a better understanding of reality and fantasy.

I feel that it is up to the parent what they decide to let their child watch. We live in a country where we take advantage of our freedom of choice. If you do not like what you see do not watch. There are plenty of programs that are available to children that do not contain any violence. It is up to us as parents to determine what will allow are children to develop on their own. Television is not something to fear. It provided us with information, entertainment, and educational shows. You have the right to decide whether you want to allow television into your home. We need to stop blaming the network for they are only producing what the public is demanding.

Whether television violence affects the behavior of children or not, we still need to provide shows which educate rather than harm. The FCC has given the networks the opportunities to change viewing programs on their own. If the industry fails to voluntarily revise its proposed rating system to one more specific and user-friendly, the FCC must proceed with an advisory committee to change things on their own.(Banta 3)