The Effects of Television Violence On Children

 

What has the world come to these days? It often seems like
everywhere one looks, violence rears its ugly head. We see
it in the streets, back alleys, school, and even at home.
The last of these is a major source of violence. In many
peoples' living rooms there sits an outlet for violence
that often goes unnoticed. It is the television, and the
children who view it are often pulled into its realistic
world of violence scenes with sometimes devastating results.
 
Much research has gone into showing why children are so
mesmerized by this big glowing box and the action that
takes place within it. Research shows that it is definitely
a major source of violent behavior in children. The
research proves time and time again that aggression and
television viewing do go hand in hand.
 
The truth about television violence and children has been
shown. Some are trying to fight this problem. Others are
ignoring it and hoping it will go away. Still others don't
even seem to care. However, the facts are undeniable. The
studies have been carried out and all the results point to
one conclusion: Television violence causes children to be
violent and the effects can be life-long.
 
The information can't be ignored. Violent television
viewing does affect children. The effects have been seen in
a number of cases. In New York, a 16-year-old boy broke
into a cellar. When the police caught him and asked him why
he was wearing gloves he replied that he had learned to do
so to not leave fingerprints and that he discovered this on
television. In Alabama, a nine-year-old boy received a bad
report card from his teacher. He suggested sending the
teacher poisoned candy as revenge as he had seen on
television the night before. In California, a
seven-year-old boy sprinkled ground-up glass into the the
lamb stew the family was to eat for dinner. When asked why
he did it he replied that he wanted to see if the results
would be the same in real life as they were on television
(Howe 72). These are certainly startling examples of how
television can affect the child. It must be pointed out
that all of these situations were directly caused by
children watching violent television.
 
Not only does television violence affect the child's youth,
but it can also affect his or her adulthood. Some
psychologists and psychiatrists feel that continued
exposure to such violence might unnaturally speed up the
impact of the adult world on the child. This can force the
child into a kind of premature maturity. As the child
matures into an adult, he can become bewildered, have a
greater distrust towards others, a superficial approach to
adult problems, and even an unwillingness to become an
adult (Carter 14).
 
Television violence can destroy a young child's mind. The
effects of this violence can be long-lasting, if not
never-ending.For some, television at its worst, is an
assault on a child's mind, an insidious influence tat
upsets moral balance and makes a child prone to aggressive
behavior as it warps his or her perception of the real
world. Other see television as an unhealthy intrusion into
a child's learning process, substituting easy pictures for
the discipline of reading and concentrating and
transforming the young viewer into a hypnotized
 
nonthinker (Langone 48). As you can see, television
violence can disrupt a child's learning and thinking
ability which will cause life long problems. If a child
cannot do well in school, his or her whole future is at
stake.
 
Why do children like the violence that they see on
television? "Since media violence is much more vicious than
that which children normally experience, real-life
aggression appears bland by comparison" (Dorr 127). The
violence on television is able to be more exciting and
enthralling than the violence that is normally viewed on
the streets. Instead of just seeing a police officer
handing a ticket to a speeding violator, he can beat the
offender bloody on television. However, children don't
always realize this is not the way thing are handled in
real life. They come to expect it, and when they don't see
it the world becomes bland and in need of violence. The
children then can create the violence that their mind
craves.
 
The television violence can cause actual violence in a
number of ways. As explained above, after viewing
television violence the world becomes bland in comparison.
The child needs to create violence to keep himself
satisfied (Dorr 127). Also the children find the violent
characters on television fun to imitate. "Children do
imitate the behavior of models such as those portrayed in
television, movies, etc. They do so because the ideas that
are shown to them on television are more attractive to the
viewer than those the viewer can think up himself" (Brown
98). This has been widely seen lately with the advent of
the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. Young children cannot
seem to get enough of these fictional characters and will
portray them often.
 
Another reason why television violence causes violence in
children is apparent in the big cities. "Aggressive
behavior was more acceptable in the city, where a child's
popularity rating with classmates was not hampered by his
or her aggression" (Huesmann 166). In the bigger cities,
crime and violence is inevitable, expected and, therefore,
is left unchecked and out of line.
 
Much research into the topic of children and television
violence has been conducted. All of the results seem to
point in the same direction. There are undeniable
correlations between violent television and aggression.
This result was obtained in a survey of London
schoolchildren in 1975. Greensberg found a significant
relationship between violence viewing and aggression (Dorr
160),
 
In Israel 74 children from farms were tested as well as 112
schoolchildren from the city of Tel Aviv. The researchers
found that the city children watched far more television
than their farmland counterparts. However, both groups of
children were just as likely to choose a violent program to
watch when watching television. The city children had a
greater tendency to regard violent television programs as
accurate reflections of real life than the farm children.
Likewise, the city boys identified most with characters
from violent programs than did those living on the farms
(Huesmann 166).
 
The government also did research in this area. They
conducted an experiment where children were left alone in a
room with a monitor playing a videotape of other children
at play. Soon, things got "out of hand" and progressive
mayhem began to take place. Children who had just seen
commercial violence accepted much higher levels of
aggression than other children. The results were published
in a report. "A Sergon General's report found some
Ôpreliminary indications of a casual relationship between
television viewing and aggressive behavior in children'"
(Langone 50).
 
In other research among U.S. children it was discovered
that aggression, academic problems, unpopularity with peers
and violence feed off each other. This promotes violent
behavior in the children (Huesmann 166). The child watches
violence which causes aggression. The combination of
aggression and continued television viewing lead to poor
academic standings as well as unpopularity. These can cause
more aggression and a vicious cycle begins to spin.
 
In yet another piece if research children who watch a lot
of violent television were compared to children who don't.
The results were that the children who watched more violent
television were more likely to agree that "it's okay to hit
someone if you're mad at them for a good reason." The other
group learned that problems can be solved passively,
through discussion and authority (Cheyney 46).
 
The most important aspect of violence in television is
preventing it. There are many ways in which it can be
prevented, but not often are many carried out. These
solutions are easy to implement, but are often overlooked
because of commercial purposes.
 
One such solution is to "create conflict without killing."
Michael Landon, who starred in and directed "Little House
on the Prairie" managed to do so in his programs. His goal
was to put moral lessons in his show in an attempt to teach
while entertaining. On the program "Hill Street Blues" the
conflicts are usually personal and political matters among
the characters. Although some violence does occur, the
theme is not the action, but rather its consequences
(Cheyney 49).
 
Perhaps the most important way to prevent children from
watching television violence is to stop it where it starts.
The parents should step in and turn the set off when a
violent program comes on. The parents are the child's role
models from which he learns. If he can learn at an early
age that violence on television is bad, then he can turn
the set off for himself when he is older. Education should
start at home.
 
Fixing the problems of children and television violence
isn't easy. There are many factors that have to be
considered and people to be convinced. This problem will,
no doubt, never go away and continue to get worse as the
years go by. However, there are measures that can be taken
to prevent the children from ever being exposed to such
things. After all, what's the world going to be like when
the people who are now children are running the world?
 
Works Cited
 
Langone, John. Violence. Boston: Little, Brown and Co.,
1984.
 
Cheyney, Glenn Alan. Television in American Society. New
York:
 
Franklin Watts Co., 1983.
 
Howe, Michael J. A. Television and Children. London: New 

University Education, 1977.
 
Husemann, L. Rowell. ÒSocial Channels Tune T.V.Õs effects.Ó
 
Science News 14 Sept. 1985: 166.
 
Door, Palmer. Children and the Faces of Television. New
York:
 
Academic Press, 1980.
 
Carter, Douglass. T.V. Violence and the Child. New York:
Russel
 
Sage Foundation, 1977.