Television: The Digital Mentor "A nursery school teacher told me her children were crudely bopping each other much more than previously, without provocation. When she discussed it with them, they protested 'But that's what the Three Stooges do. ' This incident did not signify a serious undermining of character, but it certainly showed me that watching violence can affect a children's standards of behavior. Recent psychological experiments have shown that watching brutality stimulates at least slight cruelty in adults, too" (Chen 16).
In a world where parents are scarce and mentors don't come around too often, another culprit has stepped into the first place as the family role model, or the sole source of influence: it is television, the digital mentor. Typically, children in the United States begin watching TV at a very early age. American children spend an average of four hours a day, 28 hours a week, 2,400 hours a year, and nearly 18,000 hours by the time they graduate high school watching TV. American children spend more time watching TV than any other activity besides sleeping (Chen 23). When children watch TV they are not running, reading, writing, or engaging in any other activity. They are actually learning while they are watching TV.
What they learn depends on what they watch. Not all television is bad. Dr. Ernest Boyer, the former US Commissioner of Education stated: "Television sparks curiosity and opens up distant worlds to children. Through its magic, youngsters can travel to the moon or the bottom of the sea.
They can visit medieval castles, take river trips, or explore imaginary lands... With selective viewing, television can richly contribute to school readiness". (Chen 122) Unfortunately, a majority of children's television programs do not teach children what their parents want them to know. The level of violence in weekend programming is about 20 to 2 violent acts per hour (Sweet & Singh 2). The Center for Media and Public Affairs surveyed a day's TV programming lineup in Washington DC.
They picked out 1,846 violent scenes. The most violent times were between 2 to 5 p.m. with 609 violent scenes. This is the time of day when children watch the most TV (Murray 2). On television, violence is attractive, and a preferred solution to most conflicts. Because there is so much violence on television it is looked at as a normal and accepted way of life. Children being exposed to this violence use violence more often and quickly in their lives (Devore 21).
A recent study looked at the effects of the popular children program, 'The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" on children's behavior. It found that a group of children that watched the Power Rangers committed seven times more than usual (Devore 23). Children that watch a lot of television violence are less likely to empathize with others and they are less like to be distressed by real life acts of violence. They are less bothered by violence and don't see anything really wrong with it.
In several studies, children who watched violent television were less phased when they saw younger children fighting (Featherstone 3). Violence on TV is looked upon as a effective and acceptable way to resolve conflicts. It is usually justified, and the good guys always beat the bad guys. The good guys are often no more acceptable role models for children than the bad guys or villains themselves. The result is that more American children are familiar with violence approaches to solving problems (Sweet & Singh 6). Many of the shows that children watch send the message that conflict is always composed of a winner and a loser.
The message is that fighting is fun and glamorous. Along with making children think that violence is an easy way to resolve conflicts, the representation of guns adds to the picture of an easy, simple solution. It's like everyone has a gun. Television also masks the long-term results of violence. Real life violence usual involves someone going to a grave, jail, or the hospital.
Television violence is generally clean with little blood, pain, or suffering. This gives children the message that violence is successful when it comes to solving conflicts. Children's TV programs only show the long-term effect of violence five percent of the time (Melville-Thomas 4). It is obvious that television violence is one of the major causes of behavior problems in America's youth. In his testimony before the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs in 1992, Dr. Leonard Er on argued that: "There can no longer be any doubt that heavy exposure to televised violence is on of the cause 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. 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 television violence which makes children more aggressive these aggressive children turn to watching more violence to justify their own behavior" (Murray 6). Television is much like music.
When a person can't find the right words to say, they fall in love with the song that expresses how they feel. On television, when a person can't go and kill a person, they imagine themselves doing so my imagining themselves inside the TV. It stimulates the imagination and in one way or another it makes some people feel better. People want a way to express their emotions and their pains. They amount of violence on TV today makes it far to easy. And thus, the deadliest weapon in the American home has done what it wasn't created to do.
It is television: the digital mentor. People say it doesn't effect them but it does. Chen, M. The Smart Parent's Guide to Kids' TV. San Fransisco: KQED Books, 1994. Devore, C.D. Kids & Media Influence. Edina: Abdo and Daughters, 1994.
Featherstone, H. What Children Learn From Television. New York: Stein and Day, 1982. Melville-Thomas, G. Television Violence and Children. London: Haddon and Stoughton, 1985. Murray, J.P. "Impact of Television Violence".
28 Oct 1999.