Does The Violence On Television Effect Our

Children Essay, Research Paper

“Children don’t naturally kill. It is a learned skill. And they learn it from abuse and violence in the home and, most pervasively, from violence as entertainment in television, the movies, and interactive video games,” (Oliver Stone, 1995). Children today can see someone get shot or killed on the television and mimic that act at very young age. But it is not until the age of about 8 or 9, that the children actually understand what is going on.(Oliver Stone, 1995)

Violence is defined as “any overt depiction of the use of physical force, or the credible threat of such force, intended to physically harm an animate being or a group or beings.” (Salt lake Tribune, 1996)

Many experts believe that if television technology had not been developed there would be 10,000 fewer homicides in the U.S, 70,000 fewer rapes, and 700,000 fewer assaults causing injury. These are the findings to a recent study from the Journal of the American Medical Association.(1997)

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a report confirmed that violent programs on television lead to aggressive behavior by children and teenagers who watch those programs.

Children begin to notice and react to TV very early. By the age of three, children will willingly watch a show designed for them 95% of the time and will imitate someone on television as readily as they imitate a live person (Parke and Kavanaugh, 1977). The average time children spend watching television rises from about two and a half-hours at the age of five to about four hours a day at age twelve. During adolescence, average viewing time drops off to three hours a day (Liebert and Sprafkin,1988)

Young children do not process information in the same way as adults. Nor do they have the experience or judgement to evaluate what they see. For example, children between the ages of six and ten may believe that most of what they see on TV is true to life. Since they watch a lot of TV, this makes them particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of television.

Psychological research has shown three major effects of seeing violence on television:

1. Children may become less sensitive to pain and suffering of others.

2. Children may be more fearful of the world around them.

3. Children may be more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways towards others.

Children who watch TV are less aroused by violent scenes than those who only watch a little: in other words, they’re less bothered by violence in general, and less likely to see 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 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(Eron, 1986), 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 researchers noticed real differences between the kids who watched the violent shows and those who watched the nonviolent ones.

“Children who watch the violent shows, or even just “funny” cartoons, were more likely to hit out at their playmates, argue, disobey rules, leave tasks unfinished, and were less willing to wait for things than those who watched the nonviolent programs,” says Aletha Huston, Ph.D., now at the University of Kansas.

The results of studies on the effects of televised violence are consistent. By watching aggression, children learn how to be aggressive in new ways, and they also draw conclusions about whether being aggressive to others will bring them rewards (Huesumann and Eron, 1986). Those children who see TV characters getting what they want by hitting are more likely to strike out themselves in imitation.

Even if the television character has a so-called good reason for acting violently (as when the police officer is shown shooting down a criminal to protect others), this does not make young children less likely to imitate the aggressive act rather than when there is no good reason for the violence (Liss, Reinhart and Fredrickson, 1983).

Children who prefer violent television shows when they are young have been found to be more aggressive later on, and this may be associated with trouble with the law in adulthood, (Huesmann, 1986). Strong identification with a violent TV character and believing that the TV situation is realistic are both associated with greater aggressiveness (Huesmann and Eron, 1986). In general, boys are more effected by violent shows that girls are (Lefkkowitz, Eron, Walder and Huesmann, 1977).

Besides making children more likely to act aggressively, violence on television may have other harmful effects. First, it may lead children to accept more aggressive behavior in others (Drabman and Thomas, 1974). Second, it may make children more fearful as they come to believe that violence is as common in the real world as it is on television (Bryant, Careth and Brown, 1981).

But television is not always a negative influence. There is strong evidence that children’s shows that were developed to teach academic and social skills can help children to learn effectively. In fact, research suggests that the positive effect of educational children’s shows probably outweigh the negative effects of exposure to TV violence (Hearold, 1986). For example a child who watches an educational program such as Sesame Street, will learn some numbers or letters. Where as, if a child watches a violent program such as the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” the child will only learn aggressive behavior.

Findings from the laboratory are further supported by field studies which have shown the long-range effects of televised violence. Leonard Eron, Ph.D., and his associates at the University of Illinois, found that children who watched many hours of television violence when they were in elementary school tended to also show a higher level of aggression behavior when they became teenagers. By observing these teenagers until they were 30 years old, Dr. Eron found that the ones who’d watched a lot of TV when they were 8 years old, were more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for criminal acts when they were adults.

In spite of this accumulated evidence, broadcasters and scientists continue to debate the link between the viewing of TV violence and children’s behavior. Some broadcasters believe that there is not enough evidence to prove that TV violence is harmful. But scientists who have studied this issue say that there is a link between TV violence and aggression, and in 1992, the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Television and Society published a report tat confirms this view. The report entitled Big World, Small Screen: The Role of Television in American Society, shows that the harmful effects of TV violence do exist.

If violence on television helps to make children more aggressive, it is still only a small part of the overall problem. Other factors in a child’s life may be far more influential than TV. For example, pre-schoolers who were given guns and other “violent” toys to play with were found to commit more aggressive acts than pre-schoolers who had merely watched a television program with violent content (Potts, Hutson and Wright, 1986).

Another major factor that determines how aggressive a child will be is how his or her parents behave. If parents ignore or approve of their child’s aggressive behavior, or if they lose control too easily themselves, a TV control plan will not help. Similarly, if parents themselves exhibit violent behavior, they serve as role models for their children.

On the other hand, parents who show their children how to solve their problems nonviolently and who consistently notice and then praise their children for finding peaceful solutions too their conflicts, will have children who are less aggressive (Singer and Singer, 1986).

The question of whether or not violence causes aggression in children cannot be answered conclusively for many reasons. Although many studies have been conducted by psychologists, their findings do not show that television is the sole factor for causing aggression.

The Social Learning theory developed by Bandura is the main argument for the side arguing that violence on television leads to aggression in children. The social learning theory claims that children copy violent scenes from television, believing that this type of behavior is acceptable. All people are individuals and therefore it is difficult to characterize behavior. Obviously not every child who watches “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” will act aggressively after the show. However, research has provided that they are likely to act in an aggressive manner. I can back up this theory with my own personal experiences. At home I have a 5 year-old brother, and after watching a violent prgram or even WWF Wrestling, he is always wired up and aggressive.

There is and enormous amount of information that supports the notion that violence on television does lead to aggression in children. The World Wide Web has thousands of links into these categories. Most real life examples also lend themselves to the support of this theory. Although it is true television is not the sole cause of aggression, it is one of the leading causes.

One of the main theories supporting the other notion that television violence does not lead to aggression, is the Cartharsis Theory. This theory claims that watching television violence may reduce the amount of aggression in someone’s behavior. Watching the aggressive behavior is an outlet for a person’s own aggression. Because a person witnessed the violent act they are less likely, now, to go out and commit that act. The Cartharsis does support the hypothesis that violence in television does not lead to aggressive behavior.

I conclude that there is strong evidence supporting the idea that violence on television does lead to aggressive behavior. Of course television is not the sole factor in causing aggression, but it is an important factor. Violence on television can cause aggressive behavior.


Channeling Violence : The Economic Market for Violent Television Programming. By James T. Hamilton 1998

I Am A VCR: A Book by TV’s Number 1 Critic About Sex & Violence, Dynasty & Dallas, T & A, N.Y., Drugs, Roone Arledge, & Hero Cars. By Marvin Kitman 1988

Breaking Your Child’s TV Addiction. By David Pearce Demers 1988.

Television Violence : A Child’s Eye View (Advances in Psychology, Vol 32) By T. Van Der Voort 1998


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