Mass Media Violence And The Effect On

Children Essay, Research Paper


Violence in the media is a problem in American society today. The effect can be severe and widespread. The people exposed to this media violence are mostly children. They are very impressionable and imitate what they see hear and are told by their friends. In this essay I will state my opinion and the opinions of several physiologists and other officials.

Violence on television has been an issue that has plagued man from the day it was invented. Numerous shows depict violent acts such as rape, murder, and other such acts that many people consider inappropriate for adolescents. According to some studies the average child watches about 27 hours of television week. In some cases it is as much as 11 hours a day on a weekend. With the current amount of violence that is on television today these same studies estimate that the average child sees 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence before finishing elementary school. In 1992, there were over 1,800 acts of violence shown on television a day, over 360 those showed an act involving guns. Mediascope’s National Television Violence Study found that 57% of television programs aired in 1994 and 1995, contained some violence most of these were cartoons. So the question is, should we ban violence from the television or should we just leave it the way it is?

Some people believe that it should be banned from stations that show children s programs to prevent the exposure of those children. Sometimes children see a great amount of violence on television, they begin to think that this is right and start to imitate the acts that they see on television, which are not the things that the parents want the children to learn from. One example of this is a thirteen-year-old boy who shot his best friend s father and then put salt in the wounds. When he was asked why he did this he said that he had seen the same thing on a movie the day before. Psychological research has shown three major effects of seeing violence on television: Children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others. Children may be more fearful of the world around them.. Children may be more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways toward others. Children who watch a lot of TV are less aroused by violent scenes than are those who only watch a little; in other words, they’re less bothered by violence in general, and less likely to anything wrong with it. One example: in several studies, those who watched a violent program instead of a nonviolent one were slower to intervene or to call for help when, a little later, they saw younger children fighting or playing destructively. Children often behave differently after they’ve been watching violent programs on TV. In one study done at Pennsylvania State University, about 100 preschool children were observed both before and after watching television; some watched cartoons that had a lot of aggressive and violent acts in them, and others watched shows that didn’t have any kind of violence. The first group were less likely to share and more prone to hit or be destructive. Prime time programs average eight hostile acts per hour; children’s shows four times as much.

People as a society today tend to over react to incidents where children are involved. The problem arises when some demented child who has serious metal problems and can t define reality and fiction does a horrendous crime and blames all his problems on a show that he saw where two people kill each other. I can see the relevance of this argument but I can t honestly believe that 50% of children can t tell the difference between reality and the images they see on television. Without being taught children make their own assessments of the reality status of television programs. The opposing sides of this issue are the parents whose children are viewing the violent material and the television stations that broadcast the shows. Parents can help by just observing their children. Because there is a great deal of violence in both adult and children’s programming, just limiting the number of hours children watch television will probably reduce the amount of aggression they see. In addition: Parents should watch at least one episode of the programs their children watch. Parents can encourage their children to watch programs that demonstrate helping, caring and cooperation. Parents can protect children from excessive TV violence in the following ways:

 Point out that although the actor has not actually been hurt or killed, such violence in real life results in pain or death.

 Refuse to let the children see shows known to be violent, and change the channel or turn off the TV set when something offensive comes on, with an explanation of what is wrong with the program.

 Disapprove of the violent episodes in front of the children, stressing the belief that such behavior is not the best way to resolve a problem.

 To offset peer pressure among friends and classmates, contact other parents and agree to enforce similar rules that limit the length of time and type of program the children may watch.

Studies show that these non-violent types of programs can influence children to become more kind and considerate. Although there are different views on the impact of TV violence, one very strong summary is provided by Eron (1992) in his recent congressional testimony:

There can no longer be any doubt that heavy exposure to televised violence is one of the causes of aggressive behavior, crime and violence in society. The evidence comes from both the laboratory and real-life studies. Television violence affects youngsters of all ages, of both genders, at all socio-economic levels and all levels of intelligence. The effect is not limited to children who are already disposed to being aggressive and is not restricted to this country. The fact that we get this same finding of a relationship between television violence and aggression in children in study after study, in one country after another cannot be ignored. The causal effect of television violence on aggression, even though it is not very large, exists. It cannot be denied or explained away. We have demonstrated this causal effect outside the laboratory in real-life among many different children. We have come to believe that a vicious cycle exists in which television violence makes children more aggressive and these aggressive children turn to watching more violence to justify their own behavior.” (p. 1)

Others believe that violence makes television more interesting and that if you take it off the air that the programs will be more boring and that they will go to the networks that are showing the violent programs that are interesting. The problem with this issue is the right of free speech. The networks have the right to show any thing that they want. The government does regulate some of the programs but they can t see them all. Television viewers argue that if networks were forced to take the violence off the air that they would lose viewers and then they would lose the sponsors that they depend on. They also believe that this would be denying their freedom. Television stations have received many complaints from the public regarding the content of the violent shows that they show on their networks. A poll was taken in March 1993 showed that 72 percent of Canadians believe that TV entertainment shows contain too much violence. Major networks like NBC and CBS have received a great deal of criticism because there are viewed the most. However the major networks have said that most of the violence is shown on cable networks and not on their networks. Some networks are saying that violence is not the worst thing on TV. They say that sex, drug use, and alcohol abuse on television is more influential then the violence that is shown. As a result, the networks do not think about limiting the violence on programs is as big a priority as limiting the sexual content or the drug use. The government has the right to cancel or edit any program that they see fit but the problem is that they don t see all the programs before they are aired to the public. But because of the pressure of society, networks are becoming diligent in keeping a leash on what is said and done on their stations.

Modern technology has come up with ways to regulate the violence and the type of television watched by kids. The summer of 1993 marked an important milestone for the issue of television violence. Due to the work of Senator Paul Simon (D-IL), the industry met and discussed the issue media violence with media activists. For the first time the industry leaders acknowledged that there might be some reason for concern. The broadcast industry and the cable industry both agreed to monitor their offerings for levels of violence. UCLA was chosen to monitor broadcast television, while Mediascope was contracted to do the same for cable television. The final V-chip may not be a chip, but a modification of existing technology in TV sets, i.e., and the closed-captioning system. According to industry spokesmen, modification to the existing closed-caption to include the V-chip rating would not be difficult. A rating code would be carried within an unused portion of the television signal, the black bar that appears when the horizontal hole on a television set goes out of whack and the picture rolls. It would be an improvement over existing technology that allows parents to block an entire channel, since the V-chip could automatically block-selected programs. The Electronic Industries Association has been working on a V-Chip technical standard for more than 3 years. Many people have comments on the v-chip. President Bill Clinton looks on the V-Chip as giving the remote control back to the parent. The administration supported the V-Chip and has aided in the formation of a means to create a rating system. Senator Paul Simon, a long time critic of the industry, surprised and disappointed many when he opposed the concept of the V-Chip and the legislation, which incorporates it into new television set. In an article written for Business Wire and also in a speech on the floor of the Senate he argues that:

 The V-chip is no substitute for the industry disciplining itself

 In areas of high crime where children watch 50% more TV, the V-chip would not be used

 Teenagers will find a way around the V-chip.

 They will see the programs at the homes of other children

 It will take years for the V-chip to be in all TV sets TV needs to be cleaned up now.

 Will the V-chip distinguish between gratuitous, glamorized violence and other types?

 Will broadcasters shy away form any programming deemed to be violent?

 It will be a pro for cable and a negative for broadcast television. Yet it is broadcast television that has made the most progress in lessening violence.

 For 10- to 14- year-old males a negative rating will have drawing effect.

 In short the V-chip is a gimmick

There are some problems however with the v-chip. Some of these are:

 There will certainly be problems that are related to the implementation of the rating system and the use of the V-chip.

 Will the rating be carried just at the beginning of the program or will the rating be carried throughout the program so if a program is turned on in progress the rating will be read by the chip and the program will be blocked?

 Would each episode of a show be rated or would shows be given just one rating, regardless of content from week-to-week?

 If “R” ratings are limited to a post-9PM, would that mean that reruns of those shows could not air in the lucrative 7 PM 8 PM time known as prime access, when the studios make their money back on programming?

 Some worry that a more detailed rating system could be used by pressure groups to target certain television programs. Advertisers could be forced not to advertise certain rating categories.

 It will be a huge job to rate 300,000 hours a year, plus the programs that are available for re-runs.

The violence that is on TV is not the only way that children are exposed to. Video games are more based to violence because they sell more than any other type of game. Music is also a very good way to expose children to violence. Here are some facts related to the topic that I found on the Internet about games, the Internet, TV, and music industry.


 The Internet, a global “network of networks” is not governed by a government or private entity. This vacuum leaves no checks or limits on the information maintained or made accessible to users. No person or entity owns the Internet, leaving no one accountable for the accidents, which occur, on its highways.

 The incidence of violence on the Internet is difficult to quantify because the technology has moved faster than our capability to monitor it. Evidence of violence is anecdotal rather than statistical mainly because communication on the Internet is private. Reported cases of abuse are relatively infrequent, but as the technology continues to advance, there is potential for great harm as well as great good.

 The Oklahoma bombing suspect obtained a copy of the “Turner Diaries,” a book which advocates the violent overthrow of government, off the Internet. Whereas before, one would have had to know exactly where to look and be pre-disposed to search for the book, the Internet made it easily accessible to a global audience.

 Although there has been less research on the effects of violence in video games and the Internet because they are new and changing technologies, there is little reason to doubt that findings from other media studies will apply here too. Young children instinctively imitate actions they observe, without always possessing the intellect or maturity to determine if such actions are appropriate. Due to their role-modeling capacity to promote real world violence, there is deep concern that playing violent video games, with their fully digitalized human images, will cause children to become more aggressive towards other children and become more tolerant of, and more likely to engage in, real-life violence.


 The Parents Music Resource Center reports that American teenagers listen to an estimated 10,500 hours of rock music between the 7th and 12th grades alone – just 500 hours less than they spend in school over twelve years.

 Entertainment Monitor reported that only 10 of the top 40 popular CDs on sale during the 1995 holiday season were free of profanity, or lyrics dealing with drugs, violence and sex.

 A recent survey by the Recording Industry Association of America found that many parents do not know what lyrics are contained in the popular music their children listen to.

 In September 1995, Warner Music Group bowed to public pressure and announced it was severing its 50% stake in Interscope Records, home to Nine-Inch Nails and controversial rap artists Snoop Doggy Dog, Dr. Dre. ,and Eminem. Rap artists simply turned to a different distribution network and their CDs continue to hit the stores with lyrics, which glorify guns, rape, and murder.








 NAESP Homepage, http:/,2000



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