Media Violence and Children

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MEDIA VIOLENCE AND CHILDREN

Your children are surrounded by violence. From video games and television to the news itself, bloodshed is everywhere. Many parents and educators fear that violence seen on the media will at the very least desensitize children, and that it may even make children more likely to commit atrocities themselves. Other people claim the violence seen on the media is not real, and that children understand this. So who's right? In order to better understand this crucial issue, we need to examine the history of violence in entertainment as well as revelations made possible by modern science. Violence in entertainment is not new. Even in ancient Rome, people gathered to watch gladiators. In gladiator combats, two trained men (usually criminals or slaves) would fight each other in front of a cheering crowd. Sometimes, men would also be forced to fight wild animals. These shows were incredibly popular; in order to accommodate the huge masses of people eager to watch the combat, Roman officials built the Colosseum, which could seat 50,000 spectators, in 80 CE. The opening of the Colosseum was celebrated with 100 days of games, during which thousands of men and animals were seriously injured or killed.

Long before children watched violent cartoons, they listened to violent stories. Even our most cherished fairy tales often contain bloodshed. In fact, modern versions of fairy tales tend to be a lot less violent than the originals. For example, in Hans Christen Anderson's The Little Mermaid, the little mermaid has her tongue cut out, almost stabs her prince, and dies; Disney's famous version of this classic tale is significantly happier and less violent. But why is violence such a popular form of entertainment? There are several possible answers, and they are probably all true to some extent. People like watching violence because it is, at least to some degree, forbidden; all functioning societies need to have laws against murder. Seeing other...
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