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Media Violence 2 Essay, Research Paper

In today s modern world, children have access to many different forms of stimuli. Some of which are positive and some are negative. Television is a vary persuasive presence in children s lives. They spend many hours every week watching it, although patterns of viewing and program tastes changes as children grow older. Children often learn through observation and a large part of this process is learned while watching television. Because, much of the content on television is violent children s behavioral patterns are becoming more and more aggressive. In the western society up to 98 per cent of homes have a television set, and children are dedicated consumers of television. On average children spend about 25-35 hours per week watching television. ( Hodge, 1986 ) As a result they express what they have learned through their behavior and many times duplicating what they see on the screen. This behavior is often seen in the school yard while observing young boys interacting with one another. We are able to see them play fighting and when asked who they are trying to imitate, they often respond with the words ” Power Rangers” .

Many television programs contain violence portrayed in ironic contexts. For example heroic “good-guy” characters commit aggression, consequences of violence are unseen, and aggression goes unpunished or seems justified. For example, one cartoon featured four heroes who used their superior strength to beat up villains who were trying to freeze the world. The villains escape unscathed. The heroes congratulated each other. Young children are unable to distinguish the difference between what is reality and what is fantasy. Thus, the children saw attractive perpetrators of aggression use violence that seemed justified on victims who suffered minimal consequences, with the aggressors showing no remorse in the process. In an incident in Norway, two children beat another child by jumping and kicking the child in the head and other parts of the body numerous times. As a result, the child died from being left in the cold because she was not able to move due to her injuries. ( Centerwall, 1993) After an investigation officials had discovered that the incident occurred because the children had watched a show called ” Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” . The children thought that the girl would later get up because in the show the characters never seem to be seriously injured. Consequently, the show was canceled throughout Norway.

When children watch television, they are physically passive, and at the same time mentally alert. Their minds are ready to absorb ideas, information, and values. What they see on television directly impacts how interact with others and how they deal with problems in their everyday lives. ” Television then is merely a social-situational factor of one s environment which is assessed and manipulated as an element or instrumental tool according the same reasoning and decision making processes which relate any individual to his/her environment” ( Hexamer, 1980) Because much of what they watch contains some form of violent behavior they are more likely to select physical aggression as a means of response when in a conflict situation. According to the study conducted by Barbara Wilson, Ph.D., associate professor of communication at UC- Santa Barbara, 58 percent of TV Programs contain violence.

It has also been examined that extensive viewing of television by children causes greater aggressiveness. Sometimes watching a single violent program can increase aggressiveness. This can be seen in the school yard during playtime or recess when the children fight over who gets to use the swings. Rather than sharing, the encounter often leads to pushing and shoving until somebody gets their way. Without even knowing it, their minds become more numb to the things they see. ” Fighting no longer is something we want to avoid but rather a common way to solve problems.” ( Havens, 1993) Children who view too much media violence may have more difficulty getting along with others. If children do not see acts of kindness between other children and adults, they are less likely to be kind, or resolve their conflicts peacefully. This makes other children less eager to play with them.

After many years of research there seems to be three major avenues of how people are effected by TV violence; Direct effects, Desensitization, and the Mean World Syndrome:

“The Direct effects process suggests that children and adults who watch a lot of violence on television may become more aggressive and/or they may develop favorable attitudes and values about the use of aggression to resolve conflicts.”

“Desensitization, suggests that children who watch a lot of violence on television may become less sensitive to violence in the real world around them, less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others, and more willing to tolerate ever increasing levels of violence in our society.”

“The Mean World Syndrome, suggests that children or adults who watch a lot of violence on television may begin to believe that the world is as mean and dangerous in real life as it appears on television, and hence, they begin to view the world as a much more mean and dangerous place. ” ( Eron & Slaby,1994)

There is research evidence to support all three types of effects (direct, desensitization, and mean world ) and each may operate independently of the other. For example, one study, conducted by Aletha Huston-Stein and her colleagues (Stein & Friedrich, 1972), assessed the effects of viewing either violent or prosocial nonviolent television programming. In this study, about one hundred preschool aged children enrolled in a special nursery school at Pennsylvania State University were divided into three groups and were assigned to watch a particular diet of programming. The children watched either a diet of Batman and Superman cartoons, a diet of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, or a diet of neutral programming ( programs designed for preschoolers that contained neither violence nor prosocial messages). The researchers observed the youngsters on the playground and in the classroom for two weeks to assess the level of aggressive and helpful behavior displayed by these children. Then, the children viewed the program diet one half hour a day, three days a week, for four weeks. They watched 12 half-hour episodes of the diet to which they were assigned.

The researchers found that the youngsters who watched the Batman and Superman cartoons were more physically active, both in the classroom and on the playground. Also, they were more likely to get into fights and scrapes with each other, play roughly with toys, break toys, snatch toys from others, and get into little altercations. No serious problems occurred, but, they were simply more aggressive and had more aggressive encounters. The other group, the group that watched Mister Rogers Neighborhood, was much more likely to play cooperatively with their toys, spontaneously offer to help the teacher, and engage in what might be called ” positive peer counseling.” In this latter instance, the focus of the Mister Rogers sessions was similar to “peer counseling” being kind, being sensitive to others needs, and being concerned about others feelings. For example, Mr. Rogers might suggest that if someone looks sad, you could say, “gee, you look sad today, are you feeling okay? Do you want to go play or do something.” The group that watched the neutral programming was neither more aggressive nor more helpful. However, what is interesting about this study was that it showed both sides of the coin. What children watch does affect how they behave, both positively and negatively.

Young children are especially at risk because of the types of shows they watch. They are attracted to the fast paced action of the cartoons shows that portray violent acts as good given that the hero is doing them. The popular children s show ” Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” is a perfect example of this violence that children are watching. The show is based on the plot of the main characters fighting the bad guy by physically beating them down. They use their special ” Morphin” powers to destroy or at least cause serious injury to them. Children can be seen in playgrounds reenacting their favorite action sequence with one another and shooting their “ray guns” . Some teachers tell parents to keep their children s “Power Rangers” toys at home. ” it manifests itself with lots of physical aggressive activities, karate chops, flying feet and that sort of thing.”

Through studies we are told that children are visual learners which means that they may not always be able to under stand what they see, but they often mimic both the positive and the negative behaviors they witness. In a study conducted by Wendy L Josephson, Ph.D., for the department of Canadian Heritage she found that the influence this violence has on kids starts at a very young age. Furthermore, even at the age of two and half toddlers start to pay more attention to the TV when it is on and even though they have a limited ability to extract the meaning from its content they are very likely to imitate what they see and hear. Even as the child starts to get older and more fully comprehend what he or she is seeing they still are attracted to the action of the violence without understanding the motivation or consequences of the acts.

There have been many studies conducted to determine if in fact people

imitate or model aggressive behaviors. For example, one of the most well known studies of modeling aggressive behavior and to determine if children imitate violent acts observed on television is an experiment done by Albert Bandura, Dorothea Ross and Sheila A. Ross. To test their hypothesis, the subjects were divided into three experimental groups and one control group. The first group observed real life aggression, the second group observed the same models but on film and the third group watched an aggressive cartoon. The groups were also subdivided into male and female subjects so that half the subjects were exposed to the same sex models, while the other half viewed models of the opposite sex. After the subjects were exposed to aggression, they were tested for the amount of imitation and non imitation aggression. As a result, the boys were significantly more aggressive than the girls. Gender was also positively correlated with imitative aggression and the subjects tended to imitate the same sex models more than the opposite sex.

In addition, Bandura, Ross and Ross had predicted that the subjects who saw the aggressive behavior being displayed would consequently be more aggressive when frustrated than the subjects who ere as frustrated but not been exposed to prior aggressive stimuli. The experiment confirmed their prediction. One of the findings of the experiment was that the sex of the child and the sex of the model provided support that the models influence is somewhat determined by the gender of the model. Also, the experiment suggests that children who are exposed to film violence or aggression will have their aggressive behavior increased. The findings also demonstrated that children tend to model their aggression after social behavior particularly that which is seen on television.

Another example of modeling aggressive behavior in television is a study led by Tannis Williams and her associates at the University of British Columbia. They examined a rural community which was recently introduced to television compared to two rural communities that already had television and high levels of aggression. The observation was conducted after the first community had television for two years. The subjects were forty-five first and second grade students. After the two year period, the researchers had concluded that the aggression among children in the first community increased by 160 percent whereas in the other communities the aggression levels remained the same. One can infer from this study that television has an impact on children reenacting the violent behaviors.

There is no doubt, that the violence on television has negative effects on children and anything that takes up 20 percent of children s waking hours cannot be ignored. It has been shown that TV violence directly effects how children behave and act when socializing. The concern about TV violence has a long history and was forcefully enunciated as early as 1961 by Newton Minow, who was the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

” When television is good, nothing not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers noting is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there without a book, magazine, newspaper, profit-and-loss sheet, or rating book to distract you and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland. You will see a progression of game shows, violence, audience participation shows, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And, endlessly, commercials many screaming, cajoling, and offending.”

( Minow, 1961)

This address was recorded by history as the “vast wasteland” speech and it became a symbol for television in the 1960 s. Thirty years later in 1991 the former chair of the FCC on the thirtieth anniversary of vast wasteland, he had this to say: ” In 1961, I worried that my children would not benefit much from television, but in 1991, I worry that my grandchildren will actually be harmed by it. ” ( Minow, 1991 )

There are reasons for concern about the impact of television violence. Social scientists have studied and discussed this issue for almost 40 years. During this period, hundreds of studies and numerous national reviews and reports have confirmed the potential harmful effects of televised violence. The question still remains how do we solve the problem? The Shaw Communication Inc. have already taken the first steps. In front of the Canadian Radio- Television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) Public Hearing on television violence; Shaw gave an interesting and somewhat disturbing presentation about the facts of television violence. In its presentation, Shaw discussed three initiatives that it has made to control television violence. These three initiatives: increasing the production of quality children s programming, providing customers with a direct means to control television programming coming into their homes through “V” chip technology, continuing support for education and other public initiatives in dealing with the problems of violence, could control violence in America by controlling the amount of violence that people see on television.

If we allow this violence to continue on the television, we are allowing it to happen in our homes, community and schools. By not doing anything to stop it we are basically giving the message that it acceptable. We have to show the children that this is not acceptable by any means. By eliminating the violence they see everyday on the screen, we will make them more aware of the violence that is around them. Their minds will not be warped into the mindset that violence is a way of like, but rather they will be able to see it for dangerous, and not a good form of constructive of problem solving. Shaw Communication Inc. have taken the first step and it is up to society to enforce the restrictions on our children in order for them to learn that there are better ways of resolving conflicts.

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