Television Violence and Its Effect on Children The children of today are surrounded by technology and entertainment that is full of violence. It is estimated that the average child watches from three to five hours of television a day! (Neilson 1993). Listening to music is also a time consuming pastime among children.
With all of that exposure, one might pose the question, 'How can seeing so much violence on television and video games and hearing about violence in in music affect a child's behavior?' Obviously these media have a big influence on children's' behavior: we can see it in the way they attempt to emulate their favorite rock stars by dressing in a similar style and the way children play games, imitating their favorite cartoon personalities or super heroes. Studies have shown that extensive television viewing may be associated with, aggressive behavior, poor academic performance, precocious sexuality, obesity, and the use of drugs or alcohol (De itz). Television, video games, and music are very influential and if there is too much violence available for children to watch, play, or listen to, this can sway their attitudes in a negative direction. Television is especially influential on the children today. The hard truth is that children spend an average of 28 hours a week in front of the television (Neilson 1993).
This is almost two times the amount of time that some children are in school. At this very impressionable age it is no wonder that the images that kids see sometimes has a profound impact on their behavior. Fifty-five percent of children watch television with a friend or alone. (TV-Free America).
Too often parents assume that their children are responsible enough to choose suitable programming. But the sad fact is that even some shows deemed as " children's television" are violent. A survey in Mediascope showed that a staggering sixty-six percent of children's programming contained violence. Many times the violence occurred in cartoons which were the least likely to show the long term consequences of violence and in many cases portrayed the violence in a humorous way (Mediascope 2/96). Studies done in various countries across the world show the homicide rates doubling 10 to 15 years after the introduction of television even though the study was taken at different times in each country (Center wall). Another study showed that eight year old boys who watched the most violent programming were the most likely to get into fights or problems with the police (Er on).
If parents knew what their children were watching maybe they could help to point out the shortcomings in television. Music is also a large part of children's lives today. A recent study showed that between the seventh to twelve th grade alone children listen to almost as many hours of rock music as they spend in school, for a full twelve years (Entertainment Monitor, 1995). As a teenager I can personally attest to the fact that most parents don't know what their children are listening to. Much of the popular music of today contains messages about sex and violence. The artists who sing the music often become the idols of countless children across the country, many of whom copy everything from the singers habits (drugs, alcohol, violence, etc.) to their style of dress.
Another threat to children are video games. Today's most popular video games include many different fighting games. These games such as Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter include graphic images of blood and violence. Other popular types of games include sports games such as NHL '96 also include many violent aspects. The violence in these video games can desensitize children to violence and alter their perception of reality. It can give them the idea that violence is the way to deal with problems and conflict.
Little is known of the actual numbers of how video games affect children because the technology is so new. It has been assumed that studies dealing with other forms of media will also apply here (McAfee). In the first few year of a child's life he is very impressionable. Much of his personality is formed by the time he goes to his first day of kindergarten. There is nothing wrong with him listening to music, watching television, or even playing video games. It becomes a problem when the parents lose control of what a child sees and how he interprets it.
Many of the facts in this paper are startling, but does this mean we should ban all violence from everything? That will never happen. In all of the examples I have presented one thing is very clear: If parents played a more active role in what children watched, listened to, or games they played, things would be fine. All too often children are left to make up their own minds about things. Next time you wonder about how easily children can be convinced of something think of the myth of Santa Claus: One man bringing presents to the WHOLE world, in one sled, pulled by flying reindeer. All in the course of one night.
If they believe that, how hard can it be to convince them of other falsehoods?