Children`S Violence Reported By Media Essay, Research Paper
Television was invented as a means of providing entertainment and began with shows such as ?Leave It To Beaver? and ?Lassie?. Throughout the years, though, television, along with it?s counterpart, the movie, has evolved into perhaps one of the most graphic displays of violence and is having a large effect on the children of our society. It is thought by many that television and movies are the leading factor in the violence and aggression that many children display in today?s world.
During the past few years, there have been countless cases of children acting out with violence reported by the media. One of the most widely known and talked about acts is that of the numerous school shootings. These shootings began in Pearl, Mississippi, where a boy was accused of not only shooting his mother, but then traveling to school where he went on a shooting rampage, killing two students. They have also occurred in places such as Paducha, Kentucky, Springfield, Oregon, Jonesboro, Arkansas and most recently in Littleton, Colorado. In the Colorado shooting, two boys, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, opened fire in their high school killing 12 students and one teacher during their three-hour raid. They then killed themselves before the police could apprehend them.
So the question then arises what causes these children to commit these horrendous acts of violence. In an attempt to answer this question, many people have come up with a variety of possibilities.
Many experts believe that the violence of many Hollywood movies is to blame for putting such ideas as committing mass murders in schools into children?s heads. Such a movie as The Basketball Diaries, where a student dreams of walking into his homeroom and shooting everyone, has a tremendous impact on every-day children. ?When children look for a role model, they look for a glamorous role model similar to themselves-that similarity is terribly important,? says Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a former West Point psychology professor and Army Ranger. In The Basketball Diaries, Leonardo DiCaprio of Titanic fame, probably the most glamorous actor alive in the eyes of white children, went into a schoolroom and shot numerous children and teachers. In doing so, he became a role model that other white males desired to emulate. (McCain 37)
It is not only movies that affect the action?s of children, but also television. Children watch two to three hours? television daily from the age of three or earlier, and during childhood, they average more time in front of the television set than in the classroom. (Grossman 54) During this time, they can be exposed to many of the different graphic, violent subjects that make television appealing. These include sexually graphic scenes, scenes including violent deaths, bodily mutilations, and other disturbing images. Even the Saturday morning cartoons are not safe. It has been found that compared to the three to five acts of violence that are committed during an hour on prime time, there are 20 to 25 violent acts committed during the same time period on the cartoons. (McCain 39) The largest problem with this is that cartoons are least likely to show the long-term consequences of violence and in fact may portray them as humorous.
The news programs that are meant to inform society about the events happening in our world are also to fault for exposing children for violence. When a child?s parent turns on the television to watch the nightly news, they are automatically told about recent armed robberies, shooting and murders. For example, the United States news shows spend more than twice as much time on violent stories as Canadian new shows and are much more likely to open with a violent story. (Grossman 55) The children see what instant celebrities these criminals become because they now have their faces on television. This causes a natural instinct for the child to believe that they too can become a celebrity by doing just what this criminal has done. ?They want to be tough, they want to impress people, they want to make a bold statement and they don?t know how,? says Grossman in an interview. ?And then the media tells them how. And the message that they get from the media is that killing is the route to greatness. Killing is the route to fame.? (McCain 37) According to Grossman, the solution to this problem is simple and it lies in the hands of the media. The media have every right and responsibility to tell the story, but they must be persuaded not to glorify the killers by presenting their images on TV. (Grossman 54)
Over three-fourths of 1,000 publications have found conclusively that television violence is linked with actual violence. (Grossman 54) But a big question is what parents can do to stop their children from viewing these violent acts. It is a well-known fact that although parents have concerns over what their children watch on television, they do not either attempt to control it or do not know how. Many busy or single-parents use the television as an automatic, around the clock baby-sitter. Others that do try to control their children?s viewing have problems with them getting around the limitations that are set. Typical strategies have included watching on another television in a bedroom, sneaking downstairs and watching through a door, or watching at a friend?s house. (McCain 38) Once again, the obvious answer to this problem is for the media to limit the amount of violence that it shows. While parents can try to protect their children, the media is the only ones that can truly succeed.
Due to the recent violence controversy, television stations have taken steps to control some of the violence and to pre-warn viewers of a shows content. They have instigated a controversial ratings system that rates shows on age appropriateness. The system also includes letters such as ?V? for violence, warning viewers as to the show?s content. Technology is also lending a hand in the fight. Soon a ?V-chip? will be installed in every television set manufactured. This chip works in conjunction with the rating system and allows parents to block shows with objectionable material from their children. NCTA president-CEO Decker Anstrom recently stated, ?Cable companies remain committed to providing families with a wide range of quality programming and the tools to help parents make the right viewing choices.” Limiting violence in the media cannot solve all of the problems with children committing violent acts, but it is a start. ?The television industry has blood on their hands-and they know it,? says Grossman. ?They will not even discuss this topic. If we reach down into that great big stew of factors that are causing murder, we know that the single biggest chunk is television.? (McCain 37) In providing alternative activities to children, such as sports and latchkey programs, there is a better chance that they will not view and in turn, learn from the violent acts they see on the television and big screens. Maybe these and the limitation of violence on television by the media will prevent another Littleton, Jonesboro, or Springfield incident so that innocent children will not be killed by their schoolmates.
Grossman, Dave. ?We Are Training Our Kids To Kill.? Saturday Evening Post 27 Sept. 1999: 54-55
McCain, Robert Stacy. ?Television?s Bloody Hands.? Insight on the News. 14 Dec 1998: 37-39