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Television and Children: Violence on TV and Children Behavior

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The television has been considered as the single most important source of media in any industrialized country today and 98% of American households have it. While TV programs have undergone tremendous innovations, multi-media viewing has nevertheless become very liberal and challenging sometimes compromising more than just viewer’s entertainment just to gather viewership and rating. Getting access from the many TV programs depicting violence and aggressiveness in today’s media can simply be done by just simply clicking the remote control than manually turning the TV. Another concern was that even daytime talk shows that are common on any channel typify guests that show emotional, psychological and vulgarly oppressing each other on national television.

For the children and the adolescents, the World Champion Wresting was considered as one of the most viewed programming on television. Even network news are spiced with pictures of murders, stories of kidnappings, international war scenes and every war common to different media. Alarmingly, children who watch primetime movies on television opted to watch violent movies that involve killing, stabbing, punching and many other violent acts. It’s the same forte for everyone. This became the children’s general assumption that what they see on TV could happen in reality. In any way, TV stations were successful in getting general public attention, producing more violent programs and nevertheless affecting our children’s values, attitudes and behavior.

Thus for many decades now, there is still the growing number of public concern with regards with violence on TV. Researches have been conducted to answer issues regarding its negative effect to our children. To support these findings, one must begin with statistics from previous studies. According to the Nielsen data collected in 1993, American children regularly watch TV 21 to 23 hours per week. If based from the age statistics of American children, young children up to the age of 5 spend an estimated 2 ½ hours watching TV a day. While for those between the ages of 5 and 12, 4 hours a day are being consumed. Viewing drops off to 2 to 3 hours when the child comes to adolescence stage. It study also integrated the components of all primetime shows and based from these, the shows depicted or portrayed 3 – 5 violent acts every hour. Even the Saturday programming also contain 20 – 25 violent acts per hour.

TV Violence and Children

According to the research made by the National Institute of Mental Health (1982), the effects of TV violence can lead to children and teenagers’ violent and aggressive behavior watching such programs. The product of this research was supported by laboratory test and field experiments. Although the NIMH concluded that not all children have the tendencies to become violent and aggressive with prolong viewing, there are still positive correlations between violence and aggression on TV to children.

Furthermore, there are also two critical disadvantageous effects of TV violence on children. First is that continuous and prolong exposure to violent portrayal can desensitize children to any form of violence. This implies that children may accept violence as normal to any society and inflicting violence to others would not be uncommon. And secondly, too much exposure to violence may make children believe that our society is basically a dangerous and unsafe place to live in. This will lead them to judge that one day or another, they may also be a victim of violence and this will leave them with undue anxieties and stress.

More Research Findings

A previous study by Bandura conducted in 1963 also confirmed that children viewing TV violence can really lead to their aggressive behavior. He formed a group of children of almost the same age and asks them to watch a violent movie. He then installed an inflatable doll for them to kick and attack after the viewing. The group was then incorporated with another group of children who has not viewed any video. According to observation, almost all children that viewed the video have significantly shown strong aggressive behavior toward other children than children who have not seen the video.

Similar studies were done to confirm such hypothesis. Such as the research conducted by Liebert & Baron in 1972 wherein two sets of children were used and were allowed to watch two different programs. The first set watched a TV program with violent content while the other set watched a neutral program. Members of the wet who have viewed The Untouchables were found to be keen on attacking other children whereas the children who have watched a track race were not being violent or aggressive at all. Other studies also confirmed that very young children after viewing violent cartoons have made them not to share their toys to other children.

To completely confirm such observation, a convincing study was conducted to compare the incidence of aggressive behavior among children of different age both before and after the introduction of TV in an isolated Canadian community. Significantly, the community was chosen to know the effect of TV viewing among children without any other influencing factor from their environment. After 2 years of introduction to the media predominantly set to show action movies, it was documented that a significant increase in both physical and verbal aggression among children was observed. Nonetheless, this study confirmed that no other factor other than the introduction of TV has stressed its effect on children’s behavior.

This came to analysis that there is a greater risk for children who are at their pre-adolescent stage particularly those that are 8 years old or younger because at such young age, may still have complexities in identifying fiction from realism. In fact, they have not yet developed full abstract and logical thinking to evaluate and measure fantasy from the real world. This is what other sociologist call the “sponge” stage which means that children tend to soak up what they are exposed to rather than make an analysis and evaluation on what they see in their inanimate world (Frazier).

One of the most recent statistic conducted by A.C. Nielsen Co. found that today, 99 percent of U.S. households have at least one TV set per household while each household has an average number of 2 TV sets.  Approximately 4,000 studies were made examining the effect of TV on children and these studies show that children spend an average 28 hours per week watching TV. For the age bracket of 4-6 year-olds, there are an alarming 54 % of children who chose to watch TV rather than spend their time with their fathers. By calculation, by the time an average child completed his elementary school, he may be able to viewed more than 8,000 murders on TV and before the age of 18 has viewed more than 200,000 violent acts. Majority of the Americans which make up to 79% believe that TV violence helps in the rapid proliferation of disorder in the society.

 Influence of Television on Children

Meeting at Nashville, Tennessee last July of this year, Dr. John Nelson of the American Psychological Association stated that the effect of this issue has been a long-standing “public health problem.” The APA addressed and endorsed on National TV-Turnoff Week saying that, “We have had a long-standing concern with the impact of television on behavior, especially among children” (Herr)

            As the presentation of the relationship between viewing TV-violence and aggression of children was confirmed, there are however very few studies which examined related behavior of the same subjects from childhood to adulthood. Although previous studies were predominantly conducted using male children, the latest study was composed of 329 youth (boys and girls) and the result was published in the March issue of Developmental Psychology. This study was to examine the long-term relations between TV-violence based on children’s behavior and their behavior 15 years later.

It shows that children particularly boys viewing aggressive and violent behavior on TV 15 years ago are still able to put themselves to violent behavior such as physically abusing their spouses, easily responding to aggressive behavior, have been convicted of a crime and more often committing traffic violation. Women who are also now in their 20s are likely to be vengeful to their husbands and commit aggressiveness such as throwing things at their spouses,  respond physically to those who irate them, commit kinds of criminal act and common traffic violations. They also reportedly punched, beat or choke other adult more than four times as compared with other women. This result simply indicates that TV violence can be a predictive factor in making children aggressive and to become aggressive adults.

In 2003, Psychologists Huesmann, Moise-Titus, Podolski, and Eronsaid concluded in their studies and wrote the following as quoted from page 201 to 221:

“It is more plausible that exposure to TV violence increases aggression than that aggression increases TV-violence viewing. For both boys and girls, habitual early exposure to TV violence is predictive of more aggression by them later in life independent of their own initial childhood aggression. Violent scenes that children are most likely to model their behavior after are those to which they identify themselves with the perpetrator of the violence, the perpetrator is rewarded for the violence and in which children perceive the scene as telling about life like it really is. Thus, a violent act by someone like Dirty Harry that results in a criminal being eliminated and brings glory to Harry is of more concern than a bloodier murder by a despicable criminal who is brought to justice” (Huesmann).

Works Cited:

Frazier, Barbara. “The Impact of Tv Violence on Children and Adoloscents.”  (2000). November 5, 2007 <http://www.thesuccessfulparent.com/articles/tv.htm>.

Herr, Norman. Television & Health. 2007. November 5, 2007 <http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html#tv_stats>.

Huesmann, L. Ruell. “Childhood Exposure to Media Violence Predicts Young Adult Aggressive Behavior, According to a New 15-Year Study.”  (2007). November 5, 2007 <http://www.apa.org/releases/media_violence.html>.

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