How Does Television Violence Affect Children’s Behavior
Does television promote violence and crime among children? Although most people look at television as an entertaining and educational way to spend time, some people think there is to much violence in television and that is influencing our young into becoming aggressive in nature and to tolerate violence. Now scientists have discovered that all the violence in television can in fact mold a young innocent person into becoming a monster right under our eyes, just by watching television. It might sound absurd, but think about it. It’s 5:00 p.m. you feel in the mood to relax and watch a talk show after a stressful day at work to find out the topic is “He killed my sister and I want REVENGE!!”. Sounds odd but most people like the thrill of violence. Why do you think “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Friday the 13th part VIII” were so popular?, What do you think goes through children’s mind when the bad guy is shot dead by the good guy and everyone applauds. He or She learns that its fine to hurt someone as long as they are bad, so if cousin Joey takes my toy its O.K. to hit him because his bad. This type of behavior can produce a false idea in children’s mind of how the real world deals with criminals. All major networks ABC, NBC, CBS etc. contribute to this sad but true fact.
If you seriously think about it, it’s not all that uncommon to turn on the news or pick up a paper and find out somebody’s face was slashed up simply because she was pretty or somebody was shot to death because of the color of their skin. Many of the senseless violent acts have been committed all over the country. Acts of violence are committed everyday by High school and even Elementary school kids.
Psychologists and Scientist have been trying to figure out what is causing these violent acts among our youths and how to stop it. Unfortunately it’s not all that easy. They have been researching television violence and how it affects our children’s behavior for many years and know that the more violence a child watches the more violent that child reacts. The recent increment of crimes committed by younger children has put a lot of pressure on scientist to find answers for our nations future. It also has put pressure on government to pass new laws to protect our children from the violence. Many of the research conducted, points at television violence as the primary influence in our children’s aggressive behavior. Even though results from many of the studies point to the violence content which is present in today’s television programming, television networks have denounced any allegations against them. Even though we also have to consider that other factors such as the child’s environment contribute to its behavior we must not throw away the researchers’ findings. They must be carefully studied and examine for any validity.
In this paper I’m going to go back to some of these studies conducted, research their findings, and try to and explain how the results on television violence relate to our children’s latest violent behavior.
Society is in an uproar due to these events and government is fearlessly looking for answers. Among these, the killing of a New York principal while looking for a missing student was one of the most publicized in the country. “The killing happened around 9:40 a.m. when Mr. Patrick Daly, Principal of Public School PS51 was making his way through cold and rain to an apartment building complex in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. This is one of the most notorious crime-ridden neighborhoods of New York City. Mr. Daly was simply looking for one of his students who earlier that morning had left the school upset because of a fight with a classmate. “Mr. Daily was walking on a rain-slickened mall of barren concrete, when the gunfire crackled shortly before noon, the authorities said. He fell to the pavement, shot once in the chest by a 9-millimeter slug. Thus ended the life of one of the city’s most dedicated Principals whose 26-year struggle on behalf of his pupils had been featured in news articles and on national television. On July 6, 1993 two of the three youths involved in Mr. Daly’s death were sentenced to 25 years to life based on their convictions of second-degree murder. Mr. Kahry Bekka and Mr. Shamel Burrough, both 18, were given their sentence despite pleas of leniency by their attorneys. A third youth, Jermaine Russell, 19 was sentence to 20 years to life because he had no previous criminal record. It was a tragedy for all.”
This was a sad but not to uncommon fact that’s why today, scientist are trying to answer everybody’s question about today’s youth aggressive nature. What makes them different and how is their lives related to other non aggressive youths. They may never find all the answers , but scientist are trying to explain how television violence promotes children’s temperamental nature, that continues into adulthood.
According to the Institute for Social research, an aggressive behavior is a learned behavior which is being taught to our children by the media violence that they are exposed day after day. Everyday we see crimes being committed through the cameras of our local news stations. Children in the United States watch Television an average of 7¼ hours per day, 5,000 hours by the first grade and 19,000 hours by the end of High school . These figures are alarming considering that’s more hours that our children spend in school, and that the United States has the most violent television programming among industrialized nations.
These facts affects the younger children more, since their perception of what is real and unreal is not as acute as an older adult. Meaning that aggressive adults learned their behavior as children and the more violence children watch the better the chances are for them to be violent when they are adults.
Scientist have been looking at the program our children watch and have come up with some shocking results. Studies conducted by scientists have found that the behavior of hostile kids in school were influenced by the shows they watched, especially if the youngsters were heavy watchers of violent programming. They also found that the most destructive youngsters strongly identify with warlike characters in the television, had combative fantasies, and expressed the attitudes violent programs portrayed.
So programs like today’s “Power Rangers”, “Beavis and Butthead” are teaching our children to fight and be aggressive, because in the case of the Power Rangers the only option is to fight the so called bad guys.
Several decades ago, a few psychologist hypothesized that viewing violence in the unreal television world would have a purgative effect and therefore reduce the changes of violent behavior in the real world. But other psychologists began to doubt this notion when their research with children revealed that much action on the TV screen is perceived as real by children. L. Rowell Huesmann and Leonard Eron (1986), who studied the effects of media violence on 875 youngsters in grades 1 through 3, found that children’s behavior was influenced by television, especially if the youngsters were heavy viewers of violent programming. Television violence, according to the researchers, provided a script for the children to act out aggressive behavior in relationships with others. These children were also likely to perform poorly in school and often unpopular with their peers.
Even though aggression was found in children who watched television, realistically is not the only factor related to children violent behavior, but the studies have found that it is a major factor because it affects us so young.
Huesmann and Eron state that television is not the only variable involved, but their many years of research have left them with no doubt that heavy exposure to media violence is a highly influential factor in children and later in their adult lives. In 1971, they found about 500 of the original 875 surveyed children. They were now 19 years and the results were just as powerful. The relationship between violence viewing at age 8 and how aggressive the individual was at 19 was higher than the relationship between watching violence at age 8 and also behaving destructive. Hauesmann, tested the children in 1981. The subject being now 30 year olds and many with children still showed and aggressive nature. The research also showed that the 30 year olds who were more violent at 8 had more arrest for drunk driving, committed more violent crimes, and were more abusive to their spouses. Also, the 8 year olds who watched more violent television had been arrested more often than the other and self confesses that they had more fights while consuming alcohol. The most frightening results that they found was that their children also showed the same if not more sign of aggression as their parents.
After these findings some of the television networks must have started feeling the pressure and conducted studies of their own. Weather it was to try to disclaim the findings of others or to see for themselves the effects of violence is unknown, But what is known is that they found more evidence that television does affect our children.
In a study commissioned by the ABC network, a team at Temple University surveyed young males who had been imprisoned for violent crimes. Results of these studies show that 22 to 34 percent of the young males, especially those who were the most violent, said that the had ultimately imitated crime techniques learned from television programs. It concluded that these males watched an average of six hours of TV per day, about twice as much as children in the general population at that time. The CBS was conducted in London. In the study, 1,565 teenaged boys were studied for behavioral effects of viewing violent television programs, many of which were imported from the United States. The study revealed that those who watched above average hours of TV violence before adolescence committed a 49 percent higher rate of serious acts of violence than did boys who had viewed below average quantities of violence. The final report was “very strongly supportive of the hypothesis that high exposure to television increases the degree to which boys engage in serious violence”.
Five types of TV programming were most powerful in triggering violent behavior in the boys in London study:
1) TV plays or films in which violence is demonstrated in close personal relationships.
2) Programs where violence was not necessary to the plot but just added for it’s own sake.
3) Fictional violence of a very realistic kind
5) Programs that present violence as being for a good cause.
Some researchers are turning their heads with some shocking new results stating that television networks are showing “Positive signs” of reducing violence in their own prime time series and in made for television movies, but serious problems persist in the theatrical movies they broadcast in some children’s shows and in promotional spots. Most of the violence that was shown on TV in the past year was from films that were previously viewed in the theaters. Finding that about 42 percent of them had explicit bloody killings and shootings from the “heroes” raised a great deal of concern. The networks can edit out the worst part but with films like “Terminator 2” or “Under Siege” you take the worst parts out and you run the risk of having very little movie left. Problems were also raised about the increasing use in children’s programming of what it calls “combat violence” which is characters fighting at the slightest provocation.
Other similar studies have also been conducted, and alarming enough have also shown the same results as Huesmann and Eron’ finding. Violent television creates violent children and later in life they create violent adults, but the media and other people are still not convinced that there is to much violence on TV and why should they? How can we compare data with other non violent children. Can parents in today’s two income, in some cases single parent society prevent children from watching violence all the time? And how can we prevent children from watching television at all, what causes can that have on a child in today’s world. But there might be such a research.
Research in the field of public communications also supports the conclusion that exposure to television violence contributes to increased rates of aggression and violent behavior. Centerwall (1989, 19930) analyzed crime data in areas of the world with and without television and made comparisons in areas before and after the introduction of TV. His studies determined that homicide rates doubled in ten to fifteen years after TV was introduced for the first time into specified areas of the United States and Canada. Observing that violent television programming exerts its exhilarating effects primarily on children. Centerwall noted that the ten to fifteen year lag time can be expected before homicide rates increase. Acknowledging that other factors besides TV do have some influence on the quantity of violent crimes. Centerwall’s careful statistical analysis indicated that when the negative effects of TV were removed, quantitative evidence showed there would be 10,000 fewer homicides, 70,000 fewer rapes and 700,000 fewer injurious assaults.
All these figures add up to alarming results, but how do we learn in what way our children are affected can we understand exactly what causes a person to continue the violence even after their perception of what’s real and unreal. Are the children just naturally bad?, are they a loaded gun waiting to explode and television is just the trigger. Why violence becomes a part of their live even after growing up? Some answers may be found in a study from 1982 that states.
“Since the mid 1970’s researchers have broaden their attention from behavioral effects to cognitive effects of violence viewing. Substantial evidence has been accumulated that that exposure to violent programs may affect may children’s feelings and thoughts. In the long term, affective and cognitive effects may not only result in increase aggressive behavior, but may also be exhibited in more subtle forms of behavior than aggression.”
Researchers have also found that exposure to violence may decrease normal sensitivity to aggression. High viewers of televised violence were less responsive in subsequent exposure to violence. This effect is called Habituation. Habituation simply states that strong reactions grow weaker with continuous exposure to the stimuli. If people become accustom to violence from seeing it on TV, they may react less sensitively to real life aggression.
This was a great breakthrough in research because it explained how in the real world people react to different scenarios differently. It also made us aware that all of us can also be unchanged by certain events which might be consider dangerous or out of the norm. But now we are asked: “How do we stop this serious problem facing any child who watches television? How can we improve children’s perception of what is real and what is not. How can we better yet save the future of our country and our world. There has to be a way?, and the best answer to date is the a new curriculum to change children views.
A curriculum was made up for changing children’s attitudinal judgments of TV violence. Three specific objectives were formulated. In order to resist the habituation effect of violence viewing, the first goal of the curriculum was that children take violent actions in television more seriously. The curriculum was particularly aimed at having children take the violent actions of the good guys lightly, as children already took the violent actions of the bad guys seriously of their own.
The curriculum’s second objective was directed at counteracting aggressive attitudes that children might learn from television. Children should learn to go along less unquestioningly with the violent actions they see on television. This objective was also concentrated on the violence used by the “hero”. As was found in a preliminary study.
Some of the changes the government is trying to implement to stop TV violence include the new V-Chip which is supposed to allow parents to block those unwanted shows from their TV and they are also trying to set a rating system for the TV shows according to their violence content. Of course these attempts have been met with resistant by the TV media and Hollywood calling it unconstitutional.
Since the invention of television families have been gathering around the TV set to watch their favorite programs for decades. What might have been great movies and shows have become the cause for controversy. I grew up watching many of the great westerns where the good guys get the bad guys. Like many boys I always wanted to be a cowboy and get the bad guys. I don’t know what kind of affect these movies had on me or on the general population, but the studies have proven that television violence is affecting the way our children grow up and behave. The acts of Violence and the number of violent youngsters have risen not only in the great cities, but also in the suburbs. This leads me to believe that even though the child’s surroundings is usually the most influential part of a child’s development, TV violence has created another problem for the world’s youth.
In conclusion, studies have been made, the results are calculated, and many new studies complement the finding of the old studies. There should be no doubt in anybody’s mind that television violence changes children behavior and in terms causes other long lasting effects as adults. In my opinion television violence not only changes children behavior, but also changes society in general because children eventually become the adults of today.
Fried, Joseph. “Youths Guilty Of Slaying Of a Principal” The New York Times: June 6, 1993.
Duricka, John. Gene. “Beavis, Butthead and Thomas Jefferson” U.S. News &
World Report: Volume 115. November 1, 1993.
Mortimer, Jeffrey. “How TV Violence Hits kids” The Education Digest:
Volume 60. October, 1994.
Hepburn, Mary A. “TV Violence: Myth And Reality” Social Education:
Volume 59. September, 1995.
Mifflin, Lawrie. “Study Of TV’s Violence points To Films” The New York Times: September 20, 1995.
Zuckerman, Mortimer B. “The Victims Of TV Violence” U.S New & World Report: Volume 115.August 2, 1993.
Vodus, Marcel W. and Van Der Voort, Tom H.A., “Learning About Television Violence: The Impact Of A Critical Viewing Curriculum On Children’s Attitudinal Judgments Of Crime series” Journal of research and development in Education: Volume 26, Spring 1993.