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Essay/Term paper: The effects of television violence on children

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Political Science

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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 ”
preliminary 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. "Social Channels Tune T.V.'s effects."
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.

 

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