Social Learning Theory and T.V. Violence

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DON-RAY TV Violence on Children Introduction In the United States children watch an average of three to fours hours of television daily (Cantor & Wilson, 1984, p. 28). Television can be a powerful influence in developing value systems and shaping behavior. Unfortunately, much of today's television programming is violent. Studies of the effects of TV violence on children and teenagers have found that children may become insensitive to violence. Consequently, they tend to gradually accept violence as a way to solve problems by imitating the violence they observe on television; and they identify with certain characters, good or bad. Therefore, extensive viewing of television violence by children causes greater aggressiveness (Rosenthal, 1986). Time Spent Watching Television Typically, children begin watching television at a very early age, sometimes as early as six months, and are fervent viewers by the time that they are two or three years old (Murray, 1997). The amount of time that American children spend watching TV is remarkable, an average of four hours a day, 28 hours a week, 2,400 hours a year, nearly 18,000 hours by the time they graduate from high school (Chen, 1994, p.23). In comparison, they spend a mere 13,000 hours in school, from kindergarten through twelfth grade (Chen, 1994). It appears children spend more time watching TV than any other activity. Studies have shown that children, in the hours between school and dinnertime, spend nearly 80 percent of the time watching television (Chen, 1994). Children living in poverty watch even more television than average -- some up to seven hours a day. TV Violence on Children By the time a poor child graduates from high school, he or she may have watched as many as 22,000 hours of TV (Chen, 1994). Bandura, (1973) indicates that sometimes, watching a single violent program can increase aggressiveness. Children who watch television shows in which violence is very realistic, frequently repeated or unpunished, are more likely to imitate what they see, ( p.25). Children with emotional, behavioral, or learning problems may be more easily influenced by TV violence (Bandura, 1977). The impact of TV violence may be immediately evident in the child's behavior or may surface later, and young people can even be affected when the family atmosphere shows no tendency toward violence (Cantor & Wilson, 1984). Therefore, while TV violence is not the only cause of aggressive or violent behavior, it is clearly a significant factor. The Good in Television Not all television is bad. There are several excellent programs dedicated to young children. Some programs incorporate entertainment and education to help children learn and identify characters, shapes and colors. Programs such as Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and Sesame Street also help promote good behavior and cooperation. Dr. Ernest Boyer, President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and 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 castles, take river trips, or explore imaginary lands. . .With selective viewing, television can richly contribute to school readiness. (Chen, p. 122) Unfortunately, most children's programming does not teach children what most parents and teachers want them to learn. TV Violence in Children Preschoolers Preschoolers in the United States, by watching television, “are predisposed to seek out and pay attention to violence, particularly cartoon violence” (Cantor & Wilson, 1984). It is not the violence itself that makes the cartoons attractive to preschoolers, but the vivid images accompanying them. With cartoons, preschoolers are being exposed to a large number of violent acts daily. Furthermore, preschoolers are unlikely to be able to put the violence in context, since they are likely to miss, or not understand, any information...
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