No Longer Cowboys And Indians, Television Violence And Children Essay, Research Paper
No Longer Just Cowboys and Indians:
Children and Television Violence
What has the world come to these days? It often seems as if wherever one looks, violence rears its ugly head. We see it in the streets of our communities, back alleys of our cities, the schools our children attend, and unfortunately, sometimes even at home. It is not a bold statement to say that violence has rooted itself in today s society. For every cause, there is an effect. We know that violence exists, but in order to stop it, we must know the source. In many peoples’ living rooms there sits a display of violence that often goes unchecked. It is the television, and the children who view it are often pulled into its realistic world of violent scenes with sometimes devastating results. Much research has gone into understanding why children are so mesmerized by a glowing box and the action that takes place within it. Research has concluded that television violence is a definite source of violent behavior in children. This research that has been done by many people and organizations has proven time and time again that aggression and violence on television are linked. Of the studies that have been carried out, the results point to one conclusion: television violence effects children in a manner that results in aggression and the effects can be life-long.
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 did not want to leave fingerprints, but the startling part is that he discovered to do 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 lamb stew his 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 each one of these children were watching violent television programs that directly caused all of these situations.
Not only does violence on television affect a person in youth, but it can also have a lasting effect in to adulthood. Some psychologists and psychiatrists feel that continued exposure to such violence unnaturally speeds up the impact of the adult world on the child who is not prepared to deal with such an impact. This can force the child into maturity before the child is ready. As the child matures into an adult, he/she 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 has devastating effects on a young child s mind. The effects of this violence can be long lasting, if not never-ending. Violence on television at its worst, is an assault on a child s mind, an influence that 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 in effect 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 more exciting and enthralling than the violence that is normally viewed on the streets. In reality, seeing a police officer issuing a ticket to a speeding violator is normal. On television, the police officer always manages to get in to a gunfight with the bad guy . 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 excitement. The children then create the excitement that their mind craves through what they have learned from watching violent television.
Television violence causes 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 portray them often.
Yet, another reason why violent television programming 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. Of all the research into the topic of children and television violence that has been conducted, the results point in the same direction. There is an undeniable correlation 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 did. Likewise, the city boys identified most with characters from violent programs than did those living on the farms. (Huesmann 166) The United States 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 did. The results were published in a federal report. “A Surgeon 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. The result is a cause for 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 research found 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).
Now that the source has been determined, the next step in solving the problem 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 due to commercial purposes and the all mighty dollar. One such solution is to allow conflict to happen without provoking violence. 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. The program “Hill Street Blues” presents conflicts that usually deal with personal and political matters amongst the characters. Although some violence does occur, the theme is not the action, but rather its consequences (Cheyney 49). Perhaps the most effective method of preventing children from watching violence on television is to stop it where it starts. Parents need to step in and turn the set off when a violent programming comes on. The most influential role models for children are the parents from which he learns. If the child can learn at an early age that violence on television is bad, then they can turn the set off for themselves when they are older. Correcting the problem of child aggression that directly results from television violence is not a simple chore. Many factors have to be considered and people on a whole need to be convinced of the significance of the relationship between violent television and children. Television violence will most likely never completely go away and may continue to get worse as the years go by. There are measures that can be taken to prevent the children from ever being exposed to such things, we only but need to exercise them. After all, what will the world be like when the children of today are running the world of tomorrow?
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.
· Dorr, 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.