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Television Violence


The purpose of this paper is to look into the effects of television violence on children, and to see if, in fact, they become more violent in their behavior because of this.


Violent behavior on television desensitizes children to violence in real life and has long lasting negative effects on them.


Violence is all around us in today’s world. With the advent of smaller, more powerful handguns, it is easier than ever to commit a violent act. Every night on the news, one can see any number of news reports on a shooting or hostage situation. Even on fictional children’s programming, one can find any number of creatures fighting each other. This is a large problem, because many children spend much more time with the television per day than they do with their parents. Why is seeing all of this violence a problem? Violent behavior on television desensitizes children to violence in real life and has long lasting negative effects on them.


There have been many studies that have shown that this is not really beneficial to children. One of the first studies was done by Albert Bandura (Bandura, Ross, and Ross 1963) demonstrates how easily a child can be influenced by viewing aggression. He and his colleagues observed preschoolers in a contrived situation that included aggressive behavior. His study consisted of four groups. A control group was set up for this experiment. It contained children who had not witnessed any events involving a Bobo doll, a toy clown. The other three groups had witnessed Bobo being verbally and/or physically abused by different figures such as a live model, a filmed model, and a female dressed in a cat costume. All the children had been irritated by the fact that their toys were taken away from them. This made the children more prone to use aggressive behavior. The children were then put in a playroom with the Bobo doll. Out of the four groups that were involved, three exemplified aggressive behavior toward the Bobo doll. The exception was the control group that had not witnessed any violence. (Bandura, Ross, and Ross 1963) This experiment supports the theory that after observing violent behavior, children are more likely to imitate the aggressive acts of the characters involved. (Gettysburg). Graham Melville-Thomas (1985) defines aggression as “behaviors intended to injure a person or object physically or verbally.” Given the heavy diet of TV violence, is there a relationship between TV viewing and the rising crime rate? One million people die annually in the U.S. as the result of homicide or suicide. The leading cause of death (1992) for teen-age boys, black and white, is homicide, specifically gunshot wounds. (Kalin). While media professionals would rather believe that television has no effects other than those intended, thousands of studies have pointed to a causal relationship between TV violence and real life crime. In the mid 1980’s, FBI reports showed that crimes committed by children, the poor, and women had increased by over 300 percent since 1950. Although crime has multiple causes, researchers have found that people in these groups tend to watch more TV than other people do. Dr. Leonard Eron of the University of Illinois studied 400 viewers for 22 years. His research found that people who had watched the most violent TV between birth and age 8 had committed the most serious crimes by age 30 (Megee, 1984).

Parents really need to exercise control over television viewing. There are reasons as to why this makes sense as well. Children whose parents generally exerted guidance over their TV viewing were less likely to choose programs labeled as problematic, i.e. with advisories or PG-13 and R ratings. (NCTA). The first thing that parents can do is find out what their children are watching. About half the time a child spends in front of the television she is alone or in the company of other children (Sweet & Singh, p.3). By placing the television in a central location, for example in the living room and not in the child’s bedroom, parents can better monitor what their children are watching. Parents can simply turn off the set if what their children are watching does not seem appropriate. (Kalin)


There is a wealth of information on this topic; more than I would have expect, much of it being studies conducted by the government or national agencies. While there is proof to both sides, it appears that one side is more right than the other on a moral basis. I think that in order to write a good paper, it would be necessary to better organize information in such a way that it makes a strong point, and include many different people restating similar ideas. I think that the many comprehensive studies would have been very useful in a real paper, and I perhaps would have included some sort of chart or statistics to make the point more obvious.


Foster, B. G. (1995). “Helping Children Cope in the Information Age.” Educational Horizons, v73 n4 p174-180.

Megee, M. (1984). On Television: The Violence Factor (video recording).San Francisco: California Newsreel. Mediascope National Television Violence Study, (1996). [Online]. Available:http://cii2.cochran.com/mnet/eng/med/home/ resource/ntvs.htm [1997, March 26].

Kalin, Carla, “Television, Violence, and Children.” College of Education, University of Oregon. [Online]. Available: http://interact.uoregon.edu/MediaLit/FA/MLArticleFolder/kalin.html [1997 June].

Sweet, D. & Singh, R. (1994). “TV Viewing and Parental Guidance.” Education Consumer Guide. [Online]. Available: http://inet.ed.gov/pubs/OR/ Consumer/tv.html [1997, April 2].

Surgeon General’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior, (1972). Television and Growing Up: The Impact of Televised Violence. Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

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