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T.V. Violence Essay, Research Paper

The United States has become the most violent nation in the industrial world. The latest, a bloodbath in Littleton, Colorado, once again has us questioning our society. These revenge fantasies portrayed in Littleton are showing themselves in movies and on TV. This shows that violence in the media is contributing to the violence in our nation and causes people to act more aggressively in society. Each generation has been exposed to more and more media. That means every generation is more vulnerable to the psychological impact of television violence. The National Television Violence Study indicates:

For the third year in a row violent TV shows account for 60% of TV programming and that the amount of violence has steadily increased each year. Since 1994 violent programming on the major broadcast networks has increased 14% in primetime (Stern, 1998, p. 24).

Television violence is a serious problem and there has to be something done to keep the violence at a respectable level.

There are strong statistics about the amount of television watched by the public and the amount of violence that is shown on television. Such statistics highlight the potentially strong influence TV can have on those who watch it. It is believed that people learn by imitating what they see, and children are particularly receptive to such learning. I feel children model things they see and learn their aggressions from family members and from television. Therefore, I feel that TV violence is a contributing factor to the aggressive behavior that is needed to commit violent acts. However, it is not the main cause.


Television and movie violence refers to the act of rape, abuse, assault, injury and murder depicted on television and in movies. Some people are against television violence, suggesting that TV violence causes aggressive behavior. Other people suggest that television violence does not cause people to act aggressively. They say it is all based on the way they were raised and how they where taught to handle their aggression, and how they interpret violence. They feel that the viewers should be critical thinkers and should learn how to interpret what they see.

It is believed that people learn by imitating what they see and children are vulnerable to such behavior. Almost without explanation, research has found that viewing violence makes children more aggressive, more restless, more fearful, less creative, and less sensitive (Levine, 1996, p. 68). In addition no study has ever found any benefit to children form watching violence except, perhaps, the Catharsis Theory. Albert Bundura found that children learn to be aggressive by observing and imaiting other people who are acting aggressively; “if these individuals, or ‘models’ as Bundura call them, are reward for their violent behavior, children are even more likely to imitate them” (Levine, 1996, p. 68). A recent study showing how children learn by what they see found that, “when children are put into a group exposed to a televised ‘Power Rangers’ episode, they committed seven times more aggressive acts in a subsequent two minute play period then did the controlled group” (Boyatzis, 1995). It is important to note that children who are not particularly aggressive to begin with become more aggressive as a result of television violence.

These studies show that television does influence children and it causes them to act aggressively. Children learn from what the see and since what they watch most of the time is television, it plays a part in how there minds develop.

Another example of how television influences children was in Linnord, California when three local teens with their obsession with the hit movie Scream turned deadly. Mario Pidea and his two accomplices created a plan to reenact the film on friends, family and classmates. Each murder was planned perfectly just as in the movie. The viewing of violent movies can sometimes have a trigger effect, making the person do things they normally would not do. When serial rapist and murderer, Nathaniel White, confessed to authorities in New York State, he claimed that he got his ideas from his criminal mentor, Kane, from the film series Robocop. White stated that he saw him cut somebody’s throat and take the knife and slit it down their chest and stomach. He looks at a violent movie and what ever he sees on the movie is what he imitates. A number of reports in the popular media and professional journals are about the relative effects that television and movies have on the behavior of children and adults. A number of cities have reported a number of cases in which children where injured trying to fly like Superman or perform like Evel Knivel. They do this because they are imitating what they have seen on television.

Television also causes people to imitate very dangerous things that look cool and fun. The film the Deer Hunter did just that, by the portrayal of Russian roulette, which inspired twenty-six self inflicted deaths. People imitate films when the can imagine themselves in the film, playing the role of person they think is cool. The Washington Post reported on a wave of violence in several cities following the opening of Boys N’ The Hood. Likewise, the same paper reported that the movies Juice, New Jack City and Colors where all followed by the same incidents after their openings. These films portray the respect and greed of the lifestyle being imitated by the viewers. They too want to achieve that life style, and they try to act like the actors. In another senseless crime connected with the exposure to the media, a nine-year old Olivia Niemi was sexually assaulted with a discarded beer bottle on a deserted beach in San Francisco. The four girls who took part in the attack said they were imitating a scene form Born Innocent, an NBC television movie they watched three days before they committed the crime. The movie, which takes place in a girl’s reform school, shows a new inmate cornered by four girls and graphically raped with the handle of a plumber’s plunger (Levine, 1996, p.12).

It is time to move past the debate of whether or not the entertainment industry is responsible for these crimes. Even though they do make the movies they still don’t cause the crimes, but something has to be done to stop these senseless crimes.

The opposing side suggests that television violence does not cause people to act aggressively, it is all in the way they where taught to treat their aggression, and how that person interprets violence. They agree that viewing television violence has nothing to do with the creation of aggression. Aggression is an innate instinctual impulse that may give rise to a need for aggressive behavior. Freud and other early pioneers of psychoanalytical theory believe that aggression is an instinctual force that causes one to perform aggressive behavior. For those reasons people feel that people are not influenced by television. They feel that the real reason is based on the way they where brought up by their parents.

The viewers should be critical thinkers. They have to be taught how to interpret what they see. Aggression is a pervasive and unalterable aspect in every child’s personality. The teacher or parent must control what they view to help the child express aggression in a constructive way. There are two fundamental ways in which a teacher can help an aggressive child according to psychodynamic tenets: first, by accepting the child’s behavior and feelings; and second, by provoking the child with opportunities for “catharsis”. Therefore, the development of critical viewing skills should be part of every elementary school curriculum. Teaching children how to watch television more productively is extremely important because the use of educational television and other media appears to be growing throughout all educational levels. Parents also play a very important role in the development of their child’s aggression. Therefore, parents have to monitor their children and watch television with them. Parents also need to engage in conversation about what they see on television and help their child in understanding what they see. Parents can’t be neglectful to their child and they should not use television as a babysitter or a way of avoiding contact with them.

Each generation has been exposed to more media, and each generation is more vulnerable to the physiological impact of and engaged into imitating what they see on television. Television has always been enjoyed by people of all ages, but our generation is mesmerized by it and in hand television has become more and more violent. Children spend approximately 25 hours per week watching television; they may see more that 12,000 acts of violence per year (Miller, 1998, p. 1). People and especially children have to determine what is fantasy and reality. In the make-believe world of television, violence is a commonplace and accepted part of life. In the real world, violence should not be an accepted part of life. In the real world, people, not actors, are involved. Violent acts, defined as acts intended to injure or harm others, appear approximately 8 to 12 times an hour on prime time television and about 20 times an hour on children’s programming. Cartoons are a part of many children’s morning and weekend routines and these cartoons are especially packed with violence. Children learn from what they see on these shows, and it should surprise no one that the violence on television clearly provokes violent or aggressive behavior in children. These programs show the children that the heroes receive rewards and acknowledgement for their violent behavior. The children see this violence as a means of solving problems.


Filmmakers should not be held liable for people who imitate the films. People have to remember that they just make the movies, they don’t sell the guns. It is the parent’s job to teach their children how to control their aggression. Instead of advocating the banning of violence on television, we need to advocate the understanding of the personal, family and societal issues, which cause violence and determine what role television can play in reaching the understanding. TV violence is not the cause of the many violent acts being committed. However, it is a correlation to this behavior and our society is responsible.


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