Violence on Television
The National Institute of Mental Health revealed in its 1982 report that violent programs on television lead to aggressive behavior by children and teenagers who watch those programs. The said report was confirmed and agitated the General Surgeon to conduct and extended and earlier study. As a result of these and other research findings, the American Psychological Association passed a resolution in February 1985 informing broadcasters and the public of the potential dangers that viewing violence on television can have for children.
Psychological research has shown that the children seeing violence on television may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others, more fearful of the world around them, and more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways toward others.
Studies show that children who watch a lot of TV are less aroused by violent scenes than are those who only watch a little; in other words, they're less bothered by violence in general, and less likely to see anything wrong with it. For instance, in several studies, those who watched a violent program instead of a nonviolent one were slower to intervene or to call for help when, a little later, they saw younger children fighting or playing destructively.
George Gerbner, Ph.D of the University of Pennsylvania has shown in his studies that children's TV shows contain about 20 violent acts each hour and also that children who too much exposed to television are more likely to think that the world is a mean and dangerous place.
It was noted that children often behave differently after they've been watching violent programs on TV. A study conducted at the Pennsylvania State University a included 100 preschool children who were observed both before and after watching television. Some watched cartoons that contained aggressive and violent acts in them, and others watched shows that didn't have any kind of violence. The researchers observed that real differences between the kids who watched the violent shows and those who watched nonviolent ones.
Aletha Huston, Ph,D. of the University of Kansas revealed that 'children who watch the violent shows, even 'just funny' cartoons, were more likely to hit out at their playmates, argue, disobey class rules, leave tasks unfinished, and were less willing to wait for things than those who watched the nonviolent programs.'
Laboratory findings are further supported by field studies showing the long-range effects of televised violence. Leonard Eron, Ph.D., and his associates at the University of Illinois, discovered that children who spent many hours watching TV violence when they were in elementary school were likely to show a higher level of aggressive behavior when they became teenagers. By observing these youngsters until they were 30 years old, Dr. Eron found that the ones who'd watched a lot of TV when they were eight years old were more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for criminal acts as adults.
In the United States, violent crime is at its peak again, especially among the teenagers and it is noted that this trend is likely to continue. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention reports that between 1985 and 1994, there was a 40 percent increase in murders, rapes, robberies, and assaults reported to law enforcement agencies across the nation. What is even more alarming is the fact that despite their relatively low numbers in the population, the juveniles were responsible for 26 percent of this growth in violence.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reveals that in the years between 1985 and 1995 there had been a 249 percent increase in gun-related murders committed by juveniles. Furthermore, the year 1992 had in its record that three-quarters of the killings already involved guns when murder became the second leading cause of death among males 15-24 in the United States. It is worth noting that the rapid increase of death for black and white older adolescents are firearm murders.
In 1994 alone, for example, juveniles were responsible for 14 percent of all violent crimes solved by authorities. The records show that they committed 20 percent of robberies, 14 percent of rapes, 13 percent of assaults, and 10 percent of murders. With these numbers, taking of course the consideration of the fact that arrest rates recorded in 1992 remain constant, it is predicted that there will be a 22 percent increase in violence arrests for youth age 10-17 until the year 2010.
What is even worse is that the National Center for Juvenile Justice foresees that the number of youth age 10-17, who are arrested for violent crimes is more likely to double by the year 2010 if arrest rates continue to increase as they did between 1983 and 1992. This projected growth between 1992 and 2010 is expected to vary among categories such as murders + 142 percent; rapes + 66 percent; robberies + 58 percent; and assault + 129 percent.
Statistics shows that victims of violent crimes more likely involve youth age between 12 and 17 than any other age group except young adults age 18-24. However, senior citizens, by contrast, are the least likely group to be victims of violent crime. It is very disturbing that youth victimization is rapidly increasing but it is even more alarming to find out that the experience of being victimized by crime increases certain people’s inclination for perpetrating violence, juvenile crime, adult criminality, and adult violence toward family members. Thus, if youth victimization is reduced youth violence will also be reduced as well.
It also has been found out that black youth, along with recent Asian immigrants and gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth are also likely to become victims of violence stemming from 'hate crimes.' Rates of victimization for young Hispanics are slightly lower than those for black and higher than those for white youth.
“In some areas of the country, it is now more likely for a black male between 15 and 25 to die from homicide than it was for a United States soldier to be killed on a tour of duty in Vietnam. ” New York Times, December 7, 1990.
The American Psychology Association also says that “regardless of race or cultural group, violence is most prevalent among the poor. Thus, although violence in nonurban areas is increasing, children in poor, unstable neighborhoods are more likely to be assaulted than their counterparts in affluent or stable suburbs. The ultimate violence is murder. Homicide has been the leading cause of death among African Americans age 15-34 since 1978. The lifetime risk of violent death for young black males is 1 in 27 and for black females, 1 in 17. By contrast, 1 in 205 young white males and 1 in 496 white females are murdered.”
In another angle, gang violence is important to be discussed, as juveniles are involved here. Still in he United States, only a small percentage of youth join delinquent gangs, and relatively few gang members engage in violence. However, it is noted that in 3 out of 4 cases of murder and assault committed by juveniles, the perpetrators are likely to be gang members.
Studies indicate that in the 70s and 80s, cases of gang violence had significantly increased in both level and type of violence in the United States. Gangs now operate in all 50 states and in suburbia as well as the inner city. A survey of 35 cities in 1989 revealed a total of 1,439 gangs but the estimate today has escalated to about 2,000 gangs, with as many as 200,000 members. Until the 1970s, most gang members were 12-21 years old. Today they can be anywhere as young as 9 or as old as 30. The younger and older gang members are mere reflections of the increasing involvement of gangs in drugs. Male gang members outnumber females 15 to 1, but the gender gap is slowly narrowing. Today's gang violence is deadlier than in the 1950s, when 'turf tiffs' were usually settled with switchblades or chains. Today, weapons of choice are AK-47s or Uzis, and drive-by shootings have replaced schoolyard rumbles.
Research findings show that three major national studies, The Surgeon General’s Commission Report (1972), The National Institute of Mental Health Ten-Year Follow-up (1982), The report of the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Television in Society (1992), concluded that too much exposure on television violence is one of the most significant causes leading to social violence.
The three studies assert that watching violence in the televised form of media bring about negative effects. According to the studies, watching television violence increases the viewer’s fear of becoming a victim of violence, with a resultant increase in self-protective behaviors and increased mistrust of others, desensitizes the viewer to violence, resulting in a calloused attitude toward violence directed at others and a decreased likelihood of taking action to help a victim of violence, increases the viewer’s appetite for becoming involved with violence, often demonstrates how desirable commodities can be obtained through the use of aggression and violence. Sexual violence in X- and R-rated videotapes widely available to teenagers has also been shown to cause an increase male aggression against females. (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry)
Also, the studies show that these effects are both short term and long lasting. A longitudinal study of boys found a significant relation between exposure to TV violence at 8 years of age and antisocial acts--including serious violent criminal offenses and spouse abuse--22 years later. (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry)
In the article of Jean Tepperman that was published in the January-February 1997 edition of the Children’s Advocate newsmagazine, Tepperman said that as an American child turns 18, he will have viewed about 200,000 violent acts on television alone. She also added that the level of violence during Saturday morning cartoons is higher than during prime time. Prime time includes between three and five violent acts per hour, while Saturday morning cartoons show between 20 and 25 per hour. Tepperman goes further by emphasizing the assertion of media-violence expert Ron Slaby that the violence in media is really damaging to children below eight years because "they don't have enough real-world experience to have a good sense of what's realistic. When we see a guy's head blown off, older people know this doesn't happen often. But younger kids don't know that. They may assume it's probable." The article also reveals that television rarely shows negative consequences of violence. Children's programs are the least likely to depict long-term negative consequences of violence. They frequently portray violence as humorous. Moreover, Tepperman explains that the programming on the television news contributes to media violence. News shows in the U.S., for instance, spend more than twice as much time on violent stories as Canadian news shows and are much more likely to open with a violent story.
The U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher recently released a report on youth violence which found that: "Exposure to violent media plays an important causal role in this societal problem" of youth violence, the draft report states. "From a public-health perspective, today's (media) consumption patterns are far from optimal. And for many children they are clearly harmful."
According to the Liberal Journal, college students who played the violent video game "Marathon 2" generated 43% more aggressive responses in later tests than those who played a nonviolent game. And in another study, researchers found that young black men who watched a violent rap music video were more likely to endorse the use of violence in a hypothetical conflict situation than those who watched a nonviolent rap video."
Maggie Fox, a Health
and Science correspondent reported that adolescents who are exposed to
television for more than hour are more likely to become violent than those who
are not too exposed.
In the report, it was found that only 5.7% of the adolescents who watched less
than one hour of television committed aggressive acts against other people in
later years, as compared to 22.5% of those who watched between one and three
hours a day, and 28.8% (45% male - 12.7% female) who watched more than three
hours daily. Male teenagers are the ones who are most influenced by it.
Jeffrey Johnson of Columbia University in New York claimed that there is a "tendency to imitate behavior that people see on TV. We are social beings and we tend to want to try out things that we see other people doing, especially if we see the person rewarded for what they did or portrayed as a hero for it." Johnson added that “viewing media violence leads to a desensitization effect. The more violence that they see, the less negative, the more normal, it seems to them." (Science, March 2002)
The National Television Violence Study, in its release on April 16, 1998, discovers that TV violence continues bring about risks of harm to children. The findings were able to come up with a conclusion that there was no change in the overall level of violence in reality programming across the three seasons. In the 1996-97 season, 39 percent of reality programs contained visually depicted violence compared with 37 percent in the 1995-96 season and 39 percent in the 1994-95 season. Ratings based on age—like those used for movies and not television shows—actually increased children’s interest in restricted programs, but none of the content-based systems had this effect. Physical aggression is frequently condoned. Over 37% of violent programs feature "bad" characters who are never or rarely punished anywhere in the plot, and good characters are hardly ever criticized for violence. Seventy-five percent of violent scenes contain no form of punishment for the aggression. This glamorization of violence poses risks for the audience. Children will imitate violent characters who are heroic or attractive. Plots that can encourage aggression in young children are concentrated in programs and channels targeted to young viewers. In a typical week, there are over 800 violent portrayals that qualify as high risk for children below 7. Cartoons are primarily responsible. Also, plots that can encourage aggression in older children and teens are concentrated in movies and dramas. Unlike younger children, adolescents are capable of discounting portrayals of violence that are highly fantastic, such as cartoons. Older viewers are susceptible primarily to more realistic portrayals of violence. In a typical week, there are nearly 400 episodes of violence that are considered high risk for teens. Most violence on television remains sanitized. Violence is typically shown with little or no harm to the victim. In fact, more than half of the violent incidents on television depict no physical injury or pain to the victim. (Liberation Journal)
Dr. Jane Ledingham says that children begin to notice and react to TV very early. By the age of three, children will willingly watch a show designed for them 95% of the time and will imitate someone on television as readily as they will imitate a live person (Parke and Kavanaugh, 1977). The average time children spend watching television rises from about two and a half hours per day at the age of five to about four hours a day at age twelve. During adolescence, average viewing time drops off to two to three hours a day (Liebert and Sprafkin, 1988).
Young children do not process information in the same way as adults. Nor do they have the experience or judgment to evaluate what they see. For example, children between the ages of six and ten may believe that most of what they see on TV is true to life. Since they watch a lot of TV, this makes them particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of television.
The results of studies on the effects of televised violence are consistent. By watching aggression, children learn how to be aggressive in new ways and they also draw conclusions about whether being aggressive to others will bring them rewards (Huesmann and Eron, 1986). Those children who see TV characters getting what they want by hitting are more likely to strike out themselves in imitation.
Even if the TV character has a so-called good reason for acting violently (as when a police officer is shown shooting down a criminal to protect others), this does not make young children less likely to imitate the aggressive act than when there is no good reason for the violence (Liss, Reinhart and Fredrikson, 1983).
In an important study carried out in Canada, children were found to have become significantly more aggressive two years after television was introduced to their town for the first time (Kimball and Zabrack, 1986). Children who prefer violent television shows when they are young have been found to be more aggressive later on, and this may be associated with trouble with the law in adulthood (Huesmann, 1986). Strong identification with a violent TV character and believing that the TV situation is realistic are both associated with greater aggressiveness (Huesmann and Eron,1986). In general, boys are more affected by violent shows that girls are (Lefkowitz, Eron, Walder and Huesmann, 1977).
Besides making children more likely to act aggressively, violence on television may have other harmful effects. First, it may lead children to accept more aggressive behavior in others (Drabman and Thomas, 1974). Second, it may make children more fearful as they come to believe that violence is as common in the real world as it is on television (Bryant, Careth and Brown, 1981).
But television is not always a negative influence. There is strong evidence that children's shows that were developed to teach academic and social skills can help children to learn effectively. In fact, research suggests that the positive effects of educational children's shows probably outweigh the negative effects of exposure to TV violence (Hearold, 1986).
If violence on television helps to make children more aggressive, it is still only a small part of the overall problem. Other factors in a child's life may be far more influential than TV. For example, pre-schoolers who were given guns and other "violent" toys to play with were found to commit more aggressive acts than pre-schoolers who had merely watched a television program with violent content (Potts, Huston and Wright, 1986).
Another major factor that determines how aggressive a child will be is how his or her parents behave. If parents ignore or approve of their child's aggressive behavior, or if they lose control too easily themselves, a TV control plan will not help. Similarly, if parents themselves exhibit violent behavior, they serve as role models for their children.
On the other hand, parents who show their children how to solve problems nonviolently and who consistently notice and praise their children for finding peaceful solutions to conflicts will have children who are less aggressive (Singer and Singer, 1986).
Television violence does have a direct link in the violence exhibited by young children as well as teenagers. The more TV watched in the lifetime of the individual will only reinforce the wrong (or right) in that person’s life. Television is a great means for communication as long as it communicates good principles and ideas. But when television gets violent, it looses its communication and educational appeal and becomes a tool for all that is evil in our society. Parents should know when to say "When" when it comes to the amount of time children spend in front of the television.
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