The Effect of Television on Preschool Children's Aggression

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Psychological research has found that televised violence has numerous effects on the behavior of children of different ages. These include the imitation of violence and crime seen on television, reduced inhibitions against behaving aggressively, the “triggering” of impulsive acts of aggression, and the displacing of activities, such as socializing with other children and interacting with adults that would teach children non-violent ways to solve conflicts. Television violence has also been found to have emotional effects on children. Children may become desensitized to real-life violence, they may come to see the world as a mean and scary place or they may come to expect others to resort to physical violence to resolve conflicts. Although some early research, suggested that televised violence might allow viewers to vent destructive impulses through fantasy instead of acting them out against real-life targets, later findings have not supported this so-called “catharsis” hyphothesis. Children of different ages watch and understand television in different ways, depending on the length of their attention spans, the ways in which they process information, the amount of the mental effort they invest, and their own life experiences. These variables must all be examined to gain an understanding of how television violence affects them. At the preschool age (three to five years old), children begin watching television with an "exploration" approach. They actively search for meaning in the content, but are still especially attracted to vivid production features, such as rapid character movement, rapid changes of scene, and intense or unexpected sights and sounds. Although there is no reason to believe that this particular reaction was typical of preschoolers who viewed Roots, it is certainly consistent with the way preschoolers watch television. This scene was highly visual, marked by the loud and repeated sounds of the lash and rapid camera cuts between the victim and the...
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