TV Violence and the Future of Our Children
In recent years, the news has seemed to mimic violence that appears in television and in movies. Several incidents support the majority of people's assumption that TV violence effects a child's behavior in many ways. A child's judgment is hurt badly by viewing TV violence, which can have some serious long-term effects.
First of all, when children see characters on TV or in movies triumph by using physical force, they begin to see violence as an acceptable way of resolving conflicts. As a result, children use physical or verbal abuse toward others on the playground or at school. Some parents often worry that their children will not fit in with their friends if they do not watch popular children's television programs. The same 20-year research tell us that children who watch more violent television are actually rated more poorly by their peers. Also, according to Dr. Jeanne Beckman, children who spend more time watching violent TV programming are rated more poorly by their teachers, their peers, have few problem-solving skills, and are more likely to get into trouble with
the law as teenagers and young adults. Take for instance the young boy who opened fire at his school in Pearl, Mississippi. The movie the Basketball Diaries had the most effect on this boy. Children who view too much media violence may have more difficulty getting along with others. If children do not see acts of kindness between other children and adults, they are less likely to be kind, or resolve their conflicts peacefully. This makes other children less eager to play with them.
Along with verbal abuse, violent TV programs do not teach good language skills. Young children tend to repeat things they hear as they begin to develop their own vocabularies. Violent movies and TV programs show children a very limited way to talk about their problems -- and to solve them. Children are visual learners and television is more visual, more salient, more intense than simply reading a story to your child.
Secondly, children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others. Viewing violence encourages children to see other people as enemies rather than as individuals with thoughts and feelings like themselves. Children who cannot put themselves in others' shoes may become less desirable playmates. One perfect example that supports this idea is the Columbine High School tragedy in which two young men opened fire, detonated bombs, and killed several school mates and teachers. Two of the many causes for their rampage were watching the movie the Matrix and not feeling any remorse for their predicted actions. Because the boys were so used
to witnessing violence in television, movies, and games, they did not pity the people they were going to hurt. Also, some people argue that TV violence only reflects on our society and is okay to watch. Children model both the positive and negative behaviors that they see, so since parents are their children's most important teachers, they need to regulate the period of time a child watches TV. Children watching violent television view the acceptance of aggressive behavior, even if this aggressive behavior is performed by the good guys. Children learn that the way to resolve conflict is through fighting. Children need to learn that violence is not the preferred
method of conflict resolution. Parents of today need to take a more active role in teaching their children how to resolve conflict and to get along with others.
Finally, by viewing violent acts on television, a child's already limited ability to differentiate between right and wrong, good and bad, and reality and fiction is weakened due to the simple fact that they are not yet able to do so very well. After many television encounters with violence, the child may come to believe that violence is a part of everyday life in the real world. When a young boy in Ohio accidentally burned down his home, episodes of Beavis and
Butthead were blamed for the tragic death of his sister. In numerous episodes, Beavis, a teenage delinquent, unsuccessfully tries to light a cigarette over and over again. The young boy probably didn't know the power of fire since nothing serious happened to Beavis. By allowing children to watch such shows we say that what he or she sees on TV is okay and a reality. If a young child cannot even remember which shoe goes on what foot how can we expect him to know that most of what he sees on television is fake. A hand full of other TV shows in the form of cartoons simulate violent crimes. South Park, another violent cartoon that is appealing to children has a
repeated format in which the same character is killed in every single episode. He has been killed in numerous fashions, the next one being more violent than the last. In a study conducted over 20
years, by the time an average child reaches the age of 12, he or she will have witnessed over 8,000 television murders. Also, children may become more fearful of the world around them. Children's television programs actually contain five times more violence than the average prime time hour of TV. Children's natural anxieties may become magnified by watching TV and movies in which the world is a dangerous place where violence triumphs over peace. Since a child's mind is still developing during his early years, watching too much television may limit his potential by confusing him about what is right, wrong, or fake.
Vast researches on the effects of children's exposure to TV violence gives us a clear message that it causes children to be more aggressive, both immediately and as they grow older. Children with greater exposure have more difficulties in problem-solving and poorer peer relationships. Parents need to watch and listen carefully to the television programs that their children watch and decide whether the message that it delivers support the values that the family believes are important.