According to a research by the A.C. Nielsen Co, an average American child watches the television for about four hours a day. This translates to over two months of watching TV in a year. However, it should be noted that, most of these programs being aired are extremely violent. An analysis of the effects of the violence on children and young adults has revealed that these programs have more negative effects than positive ones. There are a number of studies that have been carried out and they all point out a number of factors. Firstly, children end up imitating the violence they see on television. Secondly, they usually identify with some characters and become immune to violence. Lastly, the children eventually accept violence as a problem solver. Television violence and its effects on viewers has been a heated debate for quite a long time.
The term violence refers to deliberate actions which can cause harm to individuals, animals, or non-living things. Violence is always associated with aggression. There have been a number of researches into the relationship between the viewing of violent scenes and aggressive behaviour by the viewers of such material, especially children. Therefore, we should ask ourselves a very important question. How does television violence affect our children and does it inspire them to be violent? After some study, UNESCO found out that close to 93 percent of children in most parts of the world watch television an average of three hours a day. This is more than half the time spent on any other activity done out of school. This proves the fact that the television is the most influential medium in the lives of most children in the world today. The study also revealed that television exposes children to violent scenes on a daily basis.
Recent research has also suggested that young children watch a lot of television and end up becoming bullies. The increasingly violent nature of cartoons is blamed for this trend. Therefore, parents should be made to understand that a television show or movie made for children is not automatically good for them. Children who have problems controlling their behaviors, emotions, or impulses are likely to be influenced by violent programs. The impact may be felt immediately or may come out years later.
Children at different ages watch and react to television scenes differently. Infants, for example, can easily imitate behavior from the television if it is simple and instructional. However, they only pay attention to the TV when it is on. At the age of around three years, children are able to extort meaning from TV content. This makes them likely to imitate the things they see on television. Children at the preschool age actively search for meaning in the contents of a program they view. They like vivid production features. It should be noted that, television violence is usually accompanied by vivid production features. This makes the preschoolers attracted to violence, especially cartoons. Most of the toddlers prefer cartoons which exposes them to violence in their viewing. Research has shown that most preschoolers behave more aggressively than necessary after watching action packed and violent content (Bandura 580).
Children at the age of eight tend to show aggressiveness from watching violent television if they view the violent behavior as being real or if they identify with a violent hero. It is also evident that, apart from watching cartoons, elementary schools children begin to develop a taste for horror movies in an attempt to overcome their fears. However, they end up desensitizing themselves to violence and become tolerant to violence in the real world. They are not yet able to differentiate fantasy from real life. On the other hand, adolescents are reasonable and cannot be influenced easily by the TV violence. They tend to doubt the reality of television content or identify with television characters as their heroes. However, their superior reasoning ability and tendency to challenge the authority make the adolescents capable of imitating some kinds of TV violence, crime or portrayals of suicide. There are fewer cases that come from this age group than the younger ones.
There are a number of factors that are usually misinterpreted by children when they watch the violence in the media, movies or the games they play. Firstly, when a character gets beaten by another character and gets up immediately without harm, children will start to believe that violence is not harmful. This trend is common with cartoons. Secondly, a character shown in the television that commits a crime and goes unpunished will teach children that violent acts are never punished. Lastly, most violent programs teach children that violence is the solution to most of our problems. Children are likely to copy when they see their favorite characters use violence and get what they want. It is also evident that television programs usually glamorize a hero that commits a crime. This will eventually make the children think of criminals as role models and engage in the activities they do (Bandura 575).
There are a number of television programs that include violent and aggressive scenes in their content. The WWE, for example, is a program that is viewed by an increasing number of young children and adolescents alongside their parents. There have been reported cases of young children harming or killing their peers using the styles they watch from the WWE. On the other hand, most network news is increasingly including gross murders, kidnappings, traffic accidents or war scenes to their coverage. It is common to see a good guy killing a number of bad guys using dangerous weapons. A research by the public health community has concluded that viewing entertainment violence can lead to increase in aggressive attitudes, values and behavior, mostly in children. Dr. Rowell of the University of Michigan also confirms that, each exposure to violence will increase the chances that a child will one day behave more violently than normally expected. The researches also suggest that, over some time, violent programs will increases the likelihood of a disposition towards aggressive behaviour amongst children and young adults. According to the MD, the Kaiser Family Foundation, Mary Gavin, nearly two-thirds of infants or toddlers watches TV an average of 2 hours a day. Those under six years watch TV for about two hours a day. Also teenagers spend nearly six hours a day in front of a TV and a computer screen.
According to Eugene Beresin, the Director of Child Adolescent Psychiatry Residency Training at Massachusetts General Hospital, an average American child witnesses over two hundred thousand violent acts on television by their eighteenth birthday. This figure is alarming and will eventually affect their behavior. It is also intriguing to note that television violence seem to become more graphic over time than before. Most of these programs are being aired during family hours. That is, the time when children are still awake, and the parents are not working. Short-term exposure to violent television programs will increase the likelihood of physical and aggressive behavior (Jeffrey 247). Recent studies have provided evidence that link frequent exposure to violent media in childhood with aggression or violence later in life, for example, physical assaults and spouse abuse.
There are a number of ways that parents can use in limiting their children’s exposure to violence on television. First, they can examine and regulate their own viewing behaviour, since toddlers are influenced by viewing habits of their parents (Rowell 1150). They can try and reduce the time their children spend watching television programs to an hour or two a day. The parents should also consider previewing the programs that their kids want to watch and see whether they are appropriate or not. The parents should also try substituting their children’s favorite videos for network programming. This is because most of them will repeat watching the videos and become addicts. It is also good for parents to discuss any violent content with their older children. They can educate them on suffering that is caused by violence. They can also get their children’s views on the content of violent movies they watch. The parents may also encourage the children to watch programs that enhance learning, teach morally upright and caring behavior. The children can also be encouraged to do other activities apart from watching TV. For example, they can be encouraged to read, participate in extracurricular activities. However, the parents should note that today’s modern culture the children will be exposed to these programs, even if not at home. A close relationship between parents and children is the main idea that should be emphasized.
In conclusion, it is clearly obvious from various researches carried out, that violence is quite prevalent on most of our television networks. The violence shown in these programs can either make children and young adults become more violent, less violent or have no effect at all. However, researchers have proved that the violence scenes or programs eventually end up increasing violent behavior. Parents should note that, it is recommended that the first years of a human being’s life should be a critical time for brain development. So, infants should not be allowed to watch any TV. This is because it will get in their way of exploring, playing, or interacting with other children or parents. These will in the long run hinder their learning, healthy physical and social development. As for older kids, too much time spent on the television will eventually interfere with their physical activities, their reading, their doing of homework, playing with friends, or family time. However, the television should not be demonized. It can be a good thing if in moderation. For example, preschoolers can learn the alphabet on the TV, grade-schoolers can also learn about wildlife on nature shows. These are but a few of the advantages associated with the TV. However, it is too much television that can be detrimental.
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