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Television Essay, Research Paper

Television Violence and Children

The world s most powerful teacher has been sitting on most living room floors across the United States for nearly sixty-five years. A classic American icon, the television can be found in 96% of homes in the country (Kalin). They can cost little but they serve three main purposes; to entertain, inform, and educate. However, the television began to have a new purpose in the early 1990 s that still continues today; corrupting children. Television violence occurs in 25% of the programs on television, not including cable. In one hour of prime time television alone, the average person will see five to six violent acts, and twenty to twenty-five acts of violence on Saturday morning cartoons. As a result, television is teaching children that using violence to get what they want is normal and expected in today s society. If a child views and actor or actress getting punched and not reacting to it, the child will believe that violence does not hurt. Television violence is becoming a bigger issue in this country. The success of the entertainment industry has created quite a controversy over television violence and whether or not it has an effect on children (Mudore).

With the average American spending 22.7 hours in front of the television every week, children will watch more than a fair dose of violent programming. Why do children like the violence that they see on television? Since media violence is much more vicious than that which children normally experience, real-life aggression is boring to children. The violence on television is able to be more exciting and entertaining than the violence that is normally viewed in real life. Instead of seeing two grown men talk through their problems, they can see one start a fistfight with the other. However, children do not always realize this is not the way problems are handled in real life. They come to expect it, and when they don t see enough acted out aggression, the world becomes bland and in need of violence. The children can then create the violence that their mind craves (Kalin).

Television is also guilty of advertising to children. Marketing toys, clothes, games, and sports cause companies to make millions every year selling their items to children twelve and under. Advertisers, within the constraints of the law, use their thirty-second commercials to target America’s youth to be the decision-makers, convincing their parents to buy them whatever the hot toy of the week is. Television marketing teaches children that they will be popular and cool if they buy their new product. While this is the goal of marketers not just to children alone, but to adults also, this denies children the ability to explore and create and make themselves into individuals (Dennings ).

Violence viewed on television is a form of marketing. Young children have trouble distinguishing between reality and fantasy. They can t make wise decisions, cannot form logical conclusions and cannot sort out relevant data about the things they see on television. They don t understand the difference between what is possible and what is probable. If a young child see someone on TV jumping off a mountain and landing on their feet (i.e. the popular Mountain Dew commercials), they believe that it is real because they saw it happen with their own eyes and do not have the reasoning ability to believe otherwise. Children can not clearly realize the difference between reality and fantasy until their pre-school years and the distinction is not registered until the child is eight or nine years old. Children are very impressionable and are easily desensitized to the violence they see on television. Research has shown that young children are aroused by aggressive scenes on television and pay more attention when watching aggressive programs than when watching nonviolent programs. The more times a child sees a violent act, he will eventually begin to have no emotion towards it. This process is known as desensitizing. When people are no longer aroused by violence they become less responsive to human suffering and may not be as willing to help during an emergency. Because society is becoming more aggressive, there will be more violent situations and if people do not help because they are desensitized to the violence, many lives could be lost (Lacayo).

Television shows like Cops, WWF, Jerry Springer, and even cartoons flood the “must see” hours. Violent acts are constantly being used for a main source of entertainment. The study’s

research showed that in most of the films, shows and videos they examined, violence was often portrayed as harmless or without consequence, but this does not make it okay

to kill someone as long as they are a villain. Violent acts like this are seen so much that society becomes less and less affected by it when it becomes reality. Little kids especially mimic anything they see on TV unknowing of the true consequences. Little kids are getting a hold of guns and shooting their friends accidentally because they are unaware of reality (Consalvo).

Other effects of watching too much television violence at an early age are lack of concentration, no usage of body muscles (hence the term couch potato), a decrease in a child s sensitivity towards others, lack of creative, original thinking, and eventually trouble with relationships. By the time a teenage graduates from high school, they will have witnessed over 200,000 acts of violence on the television alone. Television watchers put in less effort on school work, have poorer reading skills, are not as socially active, have fewer friends, have fewer hobbies, and are more likely to be overweight. Before a child even finishes elementary school, he will have seen over 20,000 murders (Dennings and Kalin).

Perhaps the most famous case of television violence influencing a child took place in October 1993, in Morraine, Ohio. Two year old Jessica Matthews was killed by her five-year old brother after he set fire to their mobile home. The boy claimed that he lit the fire after watching an episode of Beavis and Butthead, who are notorious for being pyromaniacs. The case was widely reported in the United States and as a result, Beavis and Butthead was moved to a later time spot (Kalin).

In research studies performed on children it was discovered that aggression, academic problems, unpopularity with peers, and violence feed off each other. This promotes violent behavior in the children. The child watches violent programming, which causes aggression. The combination of aggression and continued television viewing lead to poor academic standings as well as unpopularity (Kalin). These can cause more aggression and a cycle begins to spin. In another piece of research children who watch a lot of violent television were compared to children who don t. The results were that the children who watched more violent television were more likely to agree that it s okay to hit someone, but only if it were for a good reason. The other group learned that problems can be solved passively, through discussion.

The most important aspect of violence in television is preventing it. There are many ways in which it can be prevented, but not often are many carried out. One such solution is to create conflict without killing. Michael Landon, who starred in and directed Little House on the Prairie, managed to do so in his programs. His goal was to put moral lessons in his show in an attempt to teach while entertaining. On the program The Brady Bunch the conflicts are usually personal and moral matters among the characters. Although some violence does occur in these programs, the theme is not the action, but rather its consequences (Kalin).

Perhaps the most important way to prevent children from watching television violence is to stop it where it starts. The parents should step in and turn the set off when a violent program comes on. The parents are the children s role models from which they learn. If they can learn at an early age that violence on television is bad, then they can turn the set off for themselves when they is older. Education should start at home (Dennings).

Fixing the problems of children and television violence isn t easy. There are many factors that have to be considered and people to be convinced. This problem will, no doubt, never go away and continue to get worse as the years go by. However, there are measures that can be taken to prevent the children from ever being exposed to such things. After all, what s the world going to be like when the people who are now children are running the world?

Works Cited

Consalvo, Mia. Hegemony, domestic violence, and Cops : a critique of concordance. Journal

of Popular Film and Television. Summer, 1998. All rights reserved.

Dennings, Adam. Conflict Resolution. Online. Available.

http://www.nottv.org/NCTV/020/images/communics.com. April 20, 1999.

Grossman, Dave. We are training our kids to kill. The Saturday Evening Post v. 271 no5

(Sept./Oct. 1999) p.54-5.

Kalin, Carla. Television, Violence, and Children. Master of Science, Synthiesis Paper, June,

1997. Dept. of Educational Leadership, Technology, and Administration. All rights reserved.

Lacayo, Richard. Violence Reaction. Time.Volume 145 No. 24. 12, June 1995.

Mudore, Constance Faye. Does TV violence kill? Current Health 2 v. 26 no6 (Feb. 2000) p.24

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