In today society the television play’s a prominent role in the majority of all houses in the U.S. In fact, more than half of the homes in America have over three or more TVs.(…) Numerous studies have been conducted about whether or not television influences children to be violent and once all the studies have been completed, they have proven the same thing- violence on TV does impact children. The purpose of this research essay is to shed some light on: how much television a child watches, how much violence is in most TV shows, what the government is doing about restricting this type of exposure, as well as several other important topics for discussion.
The role that television plays in civilization today cannot be stressed enough. The TV has become a central source of entertainment in most homes, as well as a source of information from around the world. Therefore, naturally people will spend a great deal of time in front of it, watching shows of their preference. When it comes to children, they are no different than the rest of a televisions audience. There are is a finite amount of shows, programs, and cartoons that are geared specifically towards younger children of all ages. Whatever age a child begins watching shows, that child becomes subject to all kinds of themes that parents may not be aware of. For example violence is the most frequent story topic of most television programs on the air today. According to a research article at Gonzaga.edu, “over half (55%) of the stories about youth referenced violence, and more than two thirds (68%) about violence concerned youth” (Rawlings). These numbers show that although children are more than likely to watch children shows, even those types of shows display violence in some of its many forms. So exactly how much television violence is a child subjected to when watching television? Well first it’s important to understand how much an average child in America watches TV. According to the article “Television and Health” at the website CSUN.EDU, “The average child watches television: 1,680 minutes per week” (Herr). This number adds up to 28 hours a week of sitting in front of a television and as a child sits there for 28 hours every week for 52 weeks a year, eventually that number grows into 1,456 hours a year. Almost 1,500 hours of watching television can lead to a lot of different things watched over those 12 months. However, when it comes to witnessing acts of violence on TV, according to the same article, during the course of one year, “The number of murders seen on TV by the time an average child finishes elementary school is 8,000”, and by the time that child turns 18, “The number of violent acts seen on TV is 200,000, including 40,000 murders” (Herr). These statistics do an excellent job of putting the reality of what a child actually sees into a tangible perspective. Not only do these stats provide an idea of how many hours a child can be left in front of a TV, it also provides an idea of how much time a child is not actively doing other things. This information can be crucial when discovering the root cause in disobedience and academic failings. In an attempt to eliminate children from being exposed to: sexual content, graphic violence, and strong profanity in television programs; the government established The Parental Guidelines system on January 1, 1997. Although the concept of restricting what children watch seems like a sound argument, it is completely flawed when it is left up to the discretion of parents. This is due to the reality that not all parents are the same and not all of them utilize the TV Rating system is that has been established by Congress. Although most TVs, cables networks, and viewing programs provide accessibility to a parental restricting system that works hand in hand with The Parental Guidelines system, not everyone uses that either. So in short, if parents are given the necessary tools in order to protect their children from being exposed to an unrestricted amount of violence, and they’re not using them, this can lead to trouble down the line as a child gets older. A system can only succeed if it’s being implemented and used. However, kudos to the parents that are using the system and are actively monitoring what their younglings is being exposed to. As any parent would attest to, being a parent can become quite overwhelming at times. Using the television as a means of calming a child and keeping their attention is considered a blessing by so many, however, it is also important to use these commodities that are available to protect kids. On a global aspect, the United States of America is not the only country in the world where children are exposed to violence on TV. However, the difference between America and other countries is that America has statistics that prove our crime rates are the highest in the world. According to a congressional hearing that took place in 2004, “The U.S. has the highest homicide rate of all developed countries in the world. In fact, it is not higher by a small amount; it’s higher by five to twenty times more.” (Representatives). The US has a horrible reputation and for good reasoning too. The numbers of violence that occurs reflects the number of kids that are exposed to violent television shows. Due to the nature of this information, the US Government has taken an initiative for addressing these concerns. Violence on TV desensitizes people to reality and the consequences that follow. Although most people can determine what’s real from what’s not, the line that separates the two can become very thin in the eyes of a child. As a child becomes more exposed to examples of adult themes and violence they begin to grow accustom to it. Children are young and based upon their short life; they haven’t gained the necessary experience to know exactly what entails when someone commits the act of violence or other illegal acts. Video games and movies do an even better job of desensitizing children to violence due to the fact that video games are an interactive form of entertaining where one of the bestselling games of all time is a First Person Shooter where the majority of its players have been known to be under the age of 17. When it comes to movies being played on television, majority of profanity, sexual content, and violence is removed prior to the movie being aired. This type of censoring is a good thing for children because the exposure to adult themes is very limited. Limiting a child to these things can be viewed as either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on which side of the fence you are with it. When a person becomes desensitized to violence it tends to have a long term effect on how they view the world. The more a child is exposed to these things, the more likely they are to commit similar acts that they see every day on the TV. The concept of Monkey See, Monkey Do, plays a prominent role in this argument as humans naturally imitate one another. So what type of long term effects does an excessive amount of exposure to these things have on a child? The answer is simple: bad ones. Since today’s children are spending majority of their free time playing video games, watching movies, or TV; they are sacrificing other activities in their life as a result. According to the article “Television and Children” from the University of Michigan’s website, as a result of this sacrifice these activities “may replace activities that we know help with school performance, such as reading, doing homework, pursuing hobbies, and getting enough sleep” (Boyse). This quote basically states that children lose out on more activities in life and their school performance can definitely suffer too when a child spends more time watching TV. A simple equation can be created out of this concept and it goes as such: the more a child watches TV, the more they lose sleep and do worse in school, however, the gain that is acquired from watching more is that they are exposed to more violence and adult themes. It’s a simple case of this equals that. Also, this can probably shed some light on why so many kids are failing academically at the moment. According to the same article that was mentioned last, not only are children being subjected to more negativity, but they are also: spending less time interacting with family members, more likely to become obese, having behavior problems, becoming defiant, not participating with chores, and less physical activity. As for the physiological effects that children experience: having less empathy toward others, a perspective on violence that glamorizes it as a fun and effective way to get what they want without consequences (Boyse). According to Illinoi.edu, another negative physiological effect that children have is that,”They may become more fearful of the world around them” (Anonymous). It would seem that these types of effects that a child experiences seem to have no bounds on all aspects of their life. Whether it’s becoming more aggressive towards others or fearing aggression from others, kids definitely deal with the effects of violence in several different ways. Let’s face it; violence is human nature that American society has deemed as wrong, immoral, and illegal. However, violence on television really is a reflection of the violence in society. As human beings, we have the instinctive nature to commit acts of anger and dominance since the age of a toddler. It is only when we begin to mature that we are taught that these things are wrong. However, suppressing this animalistic nature is a lifelong process that can easily be deterred from TV. When children are shown how to commit acts of violence at a young age, via one of the current forms of entertainment, their knowledge and experience is reduced the more they’re engaged with it. Depending on a family’s situation at home, a child can have more TV time than average. For instance: Single parents, parents with multiple kids, inactive parents, or parents that just don’t want to be involved with their kids; tend to rely on the TV to occupy and educate children on life. It’s an effective way to hook a kid’s attention, but it can become quite addicting for a child and difficult for them to let go of once they become attached to it. Furthermore, if a child is left in front of a TV for extended periods of time, then this form of media becomes an educator that teaches children about the world. The lessons that a kid can learn from a television are infinite. However, it is only natural to note that the more a child watches violence, the more they learn to accept that is a common. A counter argument for violence in television is that this form of media can express the impact that violence has on others. Although, not all violent shows demonstrate the full aspect of one’s consequences there can still be an interpretation of cause and effect. The argument that not all violent shows are bad can be viewed as negative and/or beneficial, depending on who’s discussing the topic. This argument is flawed because it has been repeatedly documented that when children watch acts of rage, aggression, or abuse on television; they have been known to experience surges of adrenaline and are more likely to resort to violent acts in order to get what they want. Once aggression settles in, it takes a child a long period of time before they begin to understand the scope of their actions. Another counter argument is that television simply doesn’t have the impact on children that everyone thinks. This argument is can be proven wrong with the shear amount of research that has been conducted to prove that it does. According to the article “Does TV Make Kids Killers”, “Research shows that television violence does increase levels of aggression, fear and desensitization among some who consume it. The strongest impacts are on the youngest viewers” (Hamilton). And also, “Social science research indicates that violent images are more likely to be imitated if they go unpunished, show little pain or suffering and involve attractive perpetrators” (Hamilton). These quotes are from an article that was written on a similar topic by a professor at Duke University. In his article Hamilton stresses the reality that kids do in fact become more violent by watching violence. This argument actually holds no weight, but it is been brought up by several agencies as to rather or not this issue needs to be dressed at all. We know that the US Government has conducted studies to prove that all of this information occurs every day, but the question remains- What can we do to stop children from being subjected to this type of misconstrued education? Well for starters, making sure people are informed is a good place to begin. The more parents, teachers, and even children are informed, the more we are able to identify it when it occurs. The Parental Guidance system is an effective and wonderful means for identifying shows that are inappropriate for kids at specific age groups. However, not many parents are informed of the importance of using this guidance system because they’re not aware of the effects that violence can actually have on kids. Everyone knows that knowing is half the battle, so if a parent doesn’t know that their kid is at risk of growing up learning to behave in a number of ways regarding issues learned from television than these parents are uniformed. In conclusion, everyone plays a role in preventing this from happening, from the politicians to the entertainment officials, also the parents right on down to the children; everyone. That being said in most cases ignorance is bliss but when planning on becoming a parent it’s very important to educate yourself so that you can better help your children and the best way to do this is by becoming more educated on how the smallest thing like television can have lifelong affects on our children. With the information I have given you and all the recent studies it’s unlikely that things will ever change in the immediate future unless more parents start becoming more actively involved and giving their children other sources of entertainment. What it comes down to is this, if more families well better yet everyone is more aware and informed on the results and consequences, the better chances that all children will have a fighting chance at a good healthy life. However it’s foreseeable that there will be more studies conducted that will provide further information and statistics on this topic, but whether the numbers go up or down is yet to be seen.
Anonymous. University of Illionois Extension. 20 July 2012 . Boyse, Kyla. Med.UMICH.edu. August 2010. 20 July 2012 .
Hamilton, James T. Duke Policy News. 1998. 20 July 2012 .
Herr, Norman. www.csun.edu. 20 July 2012 .
Rawlings, Brittany T. "REACHING AN AGREEMENT: EFFECTS OF TV VIOLENCE ON YOUTH." August 2011. Gonzaga.Edu. 20 July 2012 . Representatives, US House of. "www.GPO.Gov." 13 September 2004. 20 July 2012 .