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Where’s the Problem, Media or Parents?

In the past few years, media violence has increased on television, in turn bringing inevitable resistance from concerned parents. What they don’t stop to think about is that maybe the media is not the only area to blame. Parents are to blame when children are subjected to violence in the media, because it is due to an undedicated parent, not a careless network or radio station. “Taking Aim”, by Wendy Mellillo states, “While research indicates that viewing violence can cause aggression, studies conclude that the leading determinant of violent behavior is upbringing. Predictably, politicians have been silent on this finding. Poor parenting, after all, is not a traditional vote-getter.”(Mellillo). With all pressure building up, one or both sides may eventually have to compromise to achieve a partial victory. Could this lead to ratings that praise mildness, and treat violent shows and movies as if they were outcast? Who has the greater right to their beliefs, the media or concerned parents? Should we limit the freedom of speech that we have cherished since the foundation of our country? Movie producers should have the same protection under the constitution as any other American. On one side, we should respect people’s right to express them, and Jeffrey Cole makes a strong point for this in saying:

What we’ll be trying to do is to operate on the assumption that violence per se is not necessarily bad. If you were to argue that violence in and of itself is bad, then you would be against Schindler’s List, Bambi, The Lion King, and The Wizard of Oz. We think parents would not say simply that children can watch nothing with violence in it-you would miss very important programming where violence is very responsibly dealt with and carries an important message. (Cutler)

On the other, we can’t invade homes where one person’s expression is offensive to the other. More and more, the upbringing of the children depends upon the parents, and not government regulations.

As of now, throughout the country, numerous conservative groups are strongly against violence on television. It seems a few take aims at a different target, which is the parents, and ways they can better communicate with their children about violence. The majority of them are too quick to point the finger at the government and media. It is a fact that children subjected to violence can reflect with bad attitudes, ill tempers, and aggressive behavior. A statement by the

North Carolina PTA shows just this:

More than 30 years of research has shown that excessive TV watching by children can interfere with the development of intelligence, thinking skills, an imagination; it can slow down the development of reading and speaking skills; it can slow down the development of reading and speaking skills; it can cultivate violent or aggressive behavior; and may even contribute to ADD/ADHD. (N. Carolina PTA)

I do believe that it is the parent’s responsibility to keep a close eye on their children, and I can understand how violence in the media can make this a difficult task. Parents should not expect media violence to disappear, and for now, should deal with the violence directly. It boils down to being the parents, not the networks, which should keep a young child’s eyes from seeing violent acts in the media. That does not just mean locking the inappropriate channels, but giving the children an alternative. Encouraging children to attend and take part in sporting events and being involved with more mind stimulating activities will help direct children away from violent ways. Networks and radio stations could create divisions in their company dedicated to finding new ways of censorship, but it would be as a good deed, not as a responsibility. If it was a fair and just world, television could and would be responsible for inappropriate programs they televise, but until that happens, parents should lay the responsibility on themselves. Good parenting is the best censorship a child can have, and should be available at all times.

Can parents justify themselves when they accuse the media of being their children’s sole reason of committing violent acts? Does the violence actually have any effect on the way children turn out, and is it more so than the teachings of morals by a dedicated parent? According to an Associated Press article entitled, “Senate Report: Media Violence Affects Kids,” Senator Orrin Hatch said, “Exposure to media portrayals of violence increases aggressive behavior in children” (Associated Press). When children show this behavior, the guidance by parents can extremely effect how the children interpret the violent behavior. Can media violence corrupt a good upbringing completely, canceling out years of being taught what is right and wrong? This could be a possibility, but this does not mean good parenting should be abandoned. There is little doubt that media violence has a negative effect on children, as Senator Hatch exclaimed, “As one expert put it, arguing against the link between media violence and the violent actions of our youth is ‘like arguing against gravity’ “(Associated Press). Since it is well known that television can have negative effects, why do parents still place their television in every room of their homes? All day, while they are at work, they leave their child with a nanny where he/she watches television mostly unsupervised. After returning, the parents wonder why their own child would rather watch violent acts on television than spend time with them, becoming outraged and blaming media for everything. Paul McMasters of the Freedom Forum Online explains it best:

All eyes turn to Hollywood these days in search of both blame and remedy for whatever ails us at the moment. And right now, what ails us, at least if we believe our elected and self-elected leaders in Washington, D.C., is the “evil” coming out of Hollywood and into our homes. It is blamed for everything from the tragedy at Littleton to road rage on our highways. (McMasters)

No one can be the perfect impartial judge of media violence. Is violence limited to explosions and murder, or does it include punches and other physically inflicted pain? According to Jonathan Cutler, a study being held by UCLA, “?aims to focus on qualitative issues and improve on past studies of bullet rounds, punches thrown and incidents of bloodletting”(Cutler). There is a small chance of a rating system being formed that will please both the upset viewers along with the producers, and advertisers. The actual definition of violence is a rough force in action, or causing harm or injury. By its true definition, this means that there is violence in almost every show/cartoon on television, and eliminating it altogether would be nearly impossible. If censorship were to become stricter, where would the cut off point on violence be? Would the government, viewers, producers, or a collection of all three make this judgment? Would an explosion need to be under a certain size, and should there be a limit to the number of people killed or injured in an episode on television? Under a new rating system, producers would be wary to express themselves in the possibly severe way they want to, in fear of an unwanted rating. Having an unpopular rating would not only keep viewers from seeing a show, but ward off advertisers that help keep shows on the air. This could lead to a string of shows under one popular rating, and producers would be afraid to break this more promising rating. This is a statement by Paul McMasters of the Freedom Forum Online:

The ratings are creatures of the cultural whims of the moment – for example,

Violence gets a pass but sex doesn’t – which in turn requires untenable judgments about the good or the harm of specific characters, subjects, words, and images. They mislead and cheat the very public they are supposed to help because they are subjective judgments. The ratings quickly become entrenched as the standard, forcing creators to change their work, often in substantive ways, to bring their works in to compliance. (McMasters)

Everyone interprets signals differently, particularly ones sent out by the media. Where one person would consider a violent act necessary to portray the story, another critic may misunderstand meanings in violent acts, as in when they are necessary to depict real life. Part of a UCLA study is to “?assess the way violence is depicted in context, looking at the motivation, plot relevance and consequences of violent acts in TV shows”(Cutler). Another critic may show stereotypical behavior and judge media productions just by reading the title, or by certain actors/actresses in a movie or television show. To rate each show equally would be a great task, and would always have one side upset, whether it is the viewers or producers.

There are many solutions for parents concerned about the effect media will have on their children. To aid them in parenting, devices like the v-chip and standard channel locks for inappropriate cable channels can be used. Parents must realize that using such devices is only a crutch for them in battling media violence. It is impossible to isolate a child from all forms of violence in media. With the parent’s reinforcement, children faced with violence have a much greater chance of reacting to it with knowledge that it is not acceptable behavior. Children must be taught that with violent actions come consequences, and that media violence, is fictional.

The main influence on children is their own parents, and the good morals that should be taught during their upbringing. Dan Jaffe, the National Association of Advertisers executive vice president, exclaims, “We are not concerned about giving parents power to protect their families, but now the government is putting itself in the role of parent-and that’s dangerous. A national nanny is not the solution to these problems”(Mellillo). It is the parent’s role, and should not make any other organization responsible. Ironically, even the newspapers that claim to support use of the v-chip do not print the ratings in their newspapers. One example of this is The Washington Post. “The Post ran a huge front-page piece entitled ‘Parents Not Tuned to Vchip.’ The story included several reasons why parents seem clueless about the new technology but did not mention that many papers, including the Post, don’t run the ratings that work with the chip” (Mundy). This is the example of a rating with explanations from the Center for Media Education:

This just displays how parents can’t rely on anyone else to get the job done. Whatever the politics and newspapers may say, nobody is concerned with your children except you. Politics are just looking to get support, only caring for them, and will not go with what is right necessarily, but what is popular at the time. Newspapers only want to act interested and keep you reading. Don’t get me wrong, you should use these as tools of information, but realize they are not necessarily reporting what is best for your children, but what most people think the way it should be is.

Annotated Bibliography

Mellillo, Wendy. “Taking Aim.” Adweek (Eastern Ed.). 40(24): 14-16. (4 May 1999)

The main idea of this article is can the makers of violent movies and dangerous products are held responsible for advertising to children. The article points out the gun makers have advertised in children’s magazines, and makers of violent video games for mature adults are advertising in Sports Illustrated For Kids. The article includes quotes from senators and the research they have carried on. It is very original how it compares the advertising of violence-related products to Joe Camel and how this character supposedly targeted teenagers.

Mundy, Alcia. “Rating Hypocrisy”. Media Week. 29 Sept. 1999: n. pag.

The article concentrates its ideas on the usage and effectiveness of the v-chip. (The incident at Columbine and its relation to television violence and how newspapers who previously supported the v-chip refused to print ratings for it.) Support comes from the newspaper’s half-hearted attempt to supporting the v-chip. Some interesting information in this article is the way the newspapers pretended to be all for the welfare of the people, when it was only concerned with self-image.

Cutler, Jonathan. “Reading on the Firing Line.” Media Week. 4(22): 22-24. (22 Aug. 1994)

Senator Paul Simon is pressuring large networks to regulate the amount of violence on television, and UCLA is conducting studies on the amount of violence in an average line up shows of different networks. For two seasons, the Center of UCLA will evaulate four shows from prime time series along with movies and kids shows. Leading faculty members of the UCLA research division are providing information the members have collected, along with past research. A part of this article stands out because of its concerns how and where the statistics are originally gathered and analyzes the different aspects of their research.


Mellillo, Wendy. “Taking Aim.” Adweek (Eastern Ed.). 40.24 (4 May 1999): 14-16.

March 16.

Cutler, Jonathan. “Reading on the Firing Line.” Media Week. 4.22 (22 Aug. 1994): 22-24.

North Carolina PTA. “Television’s Effects on Children.” LimiTV, Inc. Feb. 1999

Associated Press, The. “Senate Report: Media Violence Affects Kids.” Freedom Forum Online.

6 Aug. 1999. 13 Mar. 2000 *www.freedomforum.org/speech/1999/8/6mediaviolence.asp*.

McMasters, Paul.” Hollywood: The Power and the Evil.” Freedom Forum Online. 26 July 1999.

13 April 2000 *http://www.freedomforum.org/first/1999/7/26ombudsman.asp*.

Mundy, Alcia. “Rating Hypocrisy”. Media Week. 29 Sept. 1999: n. pag.

Online, Internet. 20 Feb. 2000.

Center for Media Education.” The V-Chip Education Project.” 16 Apr. 2000


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