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TV Violence: Does the public portray the media
or does the media portray the public?
Does the violence you see on TV effect how you operate during the day? Does violence seen on TV effect the brain and behavior of our nation’s youth? That is the question on hand for this essay. The study of TV violence is important to our communities and nation not only because it is influential to the way our children think and perceive the world, but also because it needs to come to a stop. What is extremely interesting is how long this has been an issue in our communities. Not only that, but there are statistics, stories of mom’s about their children and their influences, a TV Ratings System, Web-Sites, editorials, and more circulating the Internet and literature worlds with information about TV Violence. It is time for you to join the circulation.
According to the American Psychological Association, “the average American has seen 8,000 televised murders and 100,000 acts of violence by the end of elementary school and has watched about 22,000 hours of TV and approximately 18,000 murders in the media by the end of high school”(Sherrow, 7). It is stated that “25 million households in the United States experience a violent crime or theft in a given year. And As of 1993, there were about 24,500 murders each year (on average, 470 a week) in America” (Sherrow, 10). And from the same book are the following upsetting facts: “Thirteen children, on average, die each day in a murder, suicide, or accident involving guns… School violence has risen with more than 100,000 cases of students assaulting teachers and more than 3 million assaults, rapes, and thefts each year. Damage to school property totals about $600 million annually” (Sherrow 10).
The question is, are television programs behind the increase in youth violence? According to this quote, “You will be seeing much less violence on your television screens. Public reaction against brutality and murder has forced sponsors, agencies and networks to crack down hard.” That line was printed in a 1960 issue of TV Guide; proving that the concern of violence is not a new one (Levine, 7). It has also been pointed out that “violence has always been a part of human history, from the Bible to public punishment in Colonial America, to the news stories we see and hear today” (Levine, 26.) The problem that we come to is how can it be deciphered if the public portrays the media, or if the media portrays the public?
The following are a few short stories of people that have placed the blame of their children‘s actions on programs from TV. “In 1993, two teenage boys… saw the… film The Program. They later mimicked a daring scene in which an actor lies down on the center line of a highway in the path of an oncoming car. While the actor lived, in real life both boys were run over and died.” And as a result of this incident, the producers of The Program ended up cutting that highway scene (Sherrow, 17). The same year a five-year-old was playing with matches, and his two-year-old sister died from that fire. Their mother claimed that this happened all after the 5 year old watched MTV’s Beavis and Butthead playing with matches, and got the idea from them. As a result of this incident, as well as plenty of other complaints about matches from parents, MTV moved Beavis and Butthead to a later timeslot (Sherrow, 19).
According to Madeline Levine, Ph.D. and the author of the book Viewing Violence, “the debate is over. Violence on television and in the movies is damaging to children… children at younger and younger ages are using violence as a first, not a last, resort to conflict” (Levine, 3). According to a study done at Penn State University, “100 pre-school children were observed both before and after watching television. Some watched cartoons with violent and aggressive acts, and the others watched TV with absolutly no violence. The children who watched the violent shows were mosre likely to strike out oat playmates, argue… and less willing to wait for things than those who watched the non-violent programs” (Gerbner). Two psychologists from the University of Michigan; Leonard Eron and Rowell Huesmann have come to the conclusion that “watching violence on television is the single factor most closely associated with aggressive behavior; more than poverty, race, or parental behavior” (Gerbner).
One major invention to counteract this problem, is the TV Ratings System. This was developed in 1996 in response to strong public pressure (Rarey). From the Michigan State web-site, it states that all programs are rated according to six age categories. #1) TV Y7 that means the materiel is suited for children 7 years and younger. The shows are geared towards learning, have no violence, and no offensive dialogue. The content consists mostly of songs, learning, bright images, and interaction, like Teletubbies. #2) TV Y means that it is appropriate for all children, and does not contain violence or offensive material, like Howie Mandell’s Bobby’s World. #3) TV G is appropriate for the general audience and is suitable for all ages. It mirrors the G rating used for movies, like the Lion King. #4) TV PG shows that should be watched with parents. It may contain some non-graphic violence, minor adult flirting, or comic puns, like found in the show Lois and Clark. #5) TV 14 strongly cautions parents about children watching the program. Shows usually contain suggestive language, violence, and adult themes like sex, commonly shown in Beverly Hills, 90210. #6) TV MA means that it is for mature audiences only; reserved for sexual themes, partial nudity, graphic violence, and extreme language, like South Park (MSU). There is also L which is offensive language like live comedy shows with no previous censorship, FV stands for fantasy violence which normally entails animated violence, costumed characters, gore, etc. V obviously stands for violence, and shows with this rating contain gore, and graphic materiel. D stands for Offensive Dialogue; possible racial slurs, sexual innuendos, etc. (MSU).
One of the most controversial musicians in pop culture today just happens to be one of the leaders of the point of view that violence and other actions should not be blamed on TV programs or song lyrics. He says in an article published in Rolling Stone Magazine in 1999, “Times have not become more violent. They have just become more televised… When it comes down to who’s to blame for the high school murders in Littleton, Colorado, throw a rock and you’ll hit someone who’s guilty. We’re the people who sit back and tolerate children owning guns, and we’re the ones who tune in to watch the up-to-the-minute details of what they do with them… Man’s greatest fear is chaos… and so a scapegoat was needed… Did we look for James Huberty’s explanation when he gunned people down at McDonalds? What did Timothy McVeith like to watch? What inspires Bill Clinton to blow up people in Kosovo? Was it something that Monica Lewinsky said to him? Isn’t killing just killing, regardless if it’s in Vietnam or Jonesboro, Arkansas? America loves to find an icon to hang its guilt on…they want to blame entertainment” (Manson). The author of these quotes was, believe it or not, Marilyn Manson. And to further agree with Manson, Kevin Durkin, who wrote Television Violence Does Not Cause Societal Violence says, “There is no scientific basis for assuming [media violence] plays a major role in the development of aggression, and history provides countless examples of whole societies that became extraordinarily good at aggression before the advent of the movies or television” (Durkin, 26).
On the other side, picture this cartoon. There is a mother and a child in a room with a television. The mother has stood up; about to turn the TV off, while at the same time saying, “A new study says TV desensitizes children by not showing the consequences of violence, so lets turn it off…” but before she can finish her sentence the little boy has a gun in his hand pointed right at his mom, saying “Back away. Slowly” (Saunders, 21). That image is exactly what author Kevin W. Saunders shapes his argument around. He says “ the evidence seems strong that viewing violent television causes aggression” (Saunders, 25). Madeline Levine goes further to say, “Children are great imitators… and are not particularly selective in what they imitate; countless parents have been reminded to pay attention to their language when their 3-year-old utters ‘Oh *censored*’ in frustration. Given that children are relentless in their imitation of people around them, it is logical that they would also imitate people they see on television and in the movies” (Levine, 102).
Throughout this research, I changed my side regularly, but I have to say, after the ratio of information from each side, that there is no other logical choice, except to side with the mom’s, and the population of people that know and feel that TV violence has got to get under control. Although you may have just read this, comparing it to topics such as World Peace or the Death Penalty, but this issue is one of great importance and controversy. Cutting down on TV Violence could be an indirect start to World Peace. Letting TV violence go, could cause a hug increase in jail occupancy. What we do know now needs to be used, to ensure the safety of our nation’s future.
Durkin, Kevin. “Television Violence Causes Societal Violence.” Mass Media: Opposing Viewpoints. Ed. Byron L. Stay. San Diego: Greenhaven Press. 1999.
Gerbner, George. Abstract. “2 Research Sources.” .
Manson, Marilyn. Columbine: Whose Fault Is It?. Gurl-Pages.com. First published Rollingstone Magazine, Issue 815, June 24th, 1999. .
Levine, Madeline. Viewing Violence: How Media Violence Affects Your Child’s and Adolescent’s Development. New York: Double Day. 1996.
Michigan State University (MSU). Interactive Guide for Parent’s on Television Content Ratings. .
Rarey, Matthew A. Find Articles.com. “V-Chip Investment.” .
Saunders, Kevin. “Television Violence Causes Societal Violence.” Mass Media: Opposing Viewpoints. Ed. Byron L. Stay. San Diego: Greenhaven Press. 1999.
Sherrow, Victoria. Violence and the Media: The Question of Cause and Effect. Brookfield: The Millbrook Press. 1996.
University of Indiana School of Journalism. Good Guys, Bad Guys and TV News: How Television and Other Media Promote Police Violence.
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