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Children And Television Violence

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Through what they experience on television, children are forced into adulthood at too young of an age. The innocence of youth is lost when children stare endlessly at a screen displaying the horrors of murder, rape, assault, devastating fire, and other natural disasters. Although these are occurrences in everyday life, things adults have grown accustomed to hearing about, children do not have the maturity level to deal with these tragedies appropriately. Children's behavior changes because they become desensitized to the violence. There are many preventative techniques that can be applied to ensure that negativity on television will not interfere with a child's development.

Children see violent acts on television and make an attempt to process it, and in doing so, their innocence is lost. According to Dr. David Elkind, president emeritus, National Association for the Education of Young Children, "Television forces children to accommodate a great deal and inhibits the assimilation of material. Consequently, the television child knows a great deal more than he or she can ever understand. This discrepancy between how much information children have and what they can process is the major stress of television." (160) Children's minds are not fully developed; therefore, they can not be expected to understand the violence on television.

The media, specifically television, has become more and more violent, in not all too subtle ways, exposing many children to behaviors not appropriate to a young audience. Remember "the Menendez brothers, who ruthlessly shot their parents as they ate ice cream and watched TV in their family room, planted in children's minds the worst possibility -- that a parent could die violently at the hands of a child." (Medved, et. al. 243) Seeing the violence, hearing about it, watching news reports about violent acts committed by real people, especially other children, affects the viewer negatively. Children can not relate to what they see when they are so young, making the act of watching violent television extremely questionable. Children should not know about murder and rape; however according to Gloria Tristani, Commissioner for the Federal Communications Commission, by the time they finish elementary school, children have witnessed 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence. (Tristani website) Children should not be allowed to view such behavior as they are far too young to comprehend the severity of what they see.

Younger children are more susceptible to the impact of television violence in part because they spend more time in front of the set. "Children ages 2 to 5 watch about 28 hours of television each week, or almost 4 hours per day." (Black, et. al. 317) Older children watch about four hours less per week. These younger children are fascinated with a media that does not require the ability to read or decipher in a way they do not know how; therefore, they spend more time watching television than older school age children. "Television has somewhat less appeal for the adolescent who has the mental ability to extend his or her senses with radio or print." (Elkind 73)

One of the most disconcerting facts of modern life is the abundance of wasted time spent watching mindless television programs. " the end of the usual life span, the average person will have endured more than ten uninterrupted years of television, day and night, with no breaks for the potty, no sleep, no work, no school. Ten years of staring at a cathode-ray tube, looking at images that for the most part one doesn't control and never chose." (Medved, et. al. 19)

"A US News & World Report survey of voters reveals that 91% 'think media mayhem contributes to real-life violence', while 54% of the public thinks violence in entertainment media 'is a major factor that contributes to the level of violence in America'. But only 30% of those with the power to control it, the Hollywood elite, agree." (Medved, et. al. 28) Because the general population appears to have little say in how much the media portrays violent behavior, it is important to take a step back and evaluate what the children are actually exposed to. It is important that parents play a direct role in deciding what children are able to view on television. This is the best method of preventing negative reactions from watching the violence that the media portrays. A filmmaker and ESPN2 correspondent from the Atlanta area believes that "parents play an important role; without them, they [children] have nothing to listen to except TV and movies. Those medias were not made to teach your children and take care of them. They are entertainment art." (Nathanson interview) By establishing ground rules at a very young age, children are taught lifelong lessons that will stay with them all through life. Parents can not always be where their children are, but by instilling safe choices in them from the beginning, when children are left to decide for themselves, they have a foundation to base their choice on.

Psychological research has shown that children become less sensitive to pain and suffering of others, more fearful of the world around them, and are more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways toward others. Children who watch a lot of television are less bothered by the violence they see on television than those children who watch only a little. This shows that children are desensitized to the pain and suffering they witness on television. A study, conducted at Pennsylvania State University, compared preschool children who had watched violent cartoons and some children who had watched shows with no violent behavior. Results show that children who witnessed cartoons with inappropriate behavior were more likely to fight with their playmates, argue, hit, and disobey compared with other children who were more patient, agreeable, and behaved.

Two gang members, Sidewinder and Bopete, provide a strong example of the impact of television violence on today's youth with a conversation discussing guns and bullets based on knowledge of a television program.

"'Hey, remember that movie we saw on TV? Where the guy shot the lamppost and made a big ole hole? Well, I want to

get me one of them.'

'I don't remember what kinda bullets they was. The long kind.'

'Yeah, and fat.'

Bopete snaps his fingers, grinning hard all over his face. 'Oh wait! I got it - thirty-thirty! Went boom! Man, them booms made you happy. Boom! Boom!'" (Medved 60)

A study conducted



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