Television can be a powerful influence in developing value systems and shaping behavior in young children. The typical American household has a TV set turned on for about seven hours a day. American youth watch an average of three to four hours of television daily. Unfortunately, much of today’s programming portrays violence with the hero kicking, stabbing, or beating a person violently. Many parents seem oblivious to this fact and use the television as a babysitter. In one hour of viewing on Saturday morning, parents subject their offspring to 20 to 25 acts of violence. This has a very negative impact on the young. Television violence influences children in many negative ways.
In a study conducted by a group of researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara on the effects of television violence on young children, the study concluded that, “57 percent of TV programs contained violence.” The researchers warned, “The risks of viewing the most common depiction of televised violence include, “…becoming more desensitized to the harmful consequence of violence…” The study also concluded, …”Forty-seven percent of violent situations present no harm to the victims and fifty-eight percent depict no pain…” Television distances children from the events and even trivializes the events. Just as children become used to knowing that pain on television is not real, they become used to thinking that the pain experienced by other people is not real. Viewing repeated violence only brings the child to become accustomed to it, with it having less impact each time viewed.
Researchers who conduct the studies of the effects of violence on young children come to the same common conclusion, watching a violent program or scene makes children more willing to be aggressors. It has also been concluded that children who watch violent acts that are rewarded not punished, were more likely to become violent within their own behavior. Researcher Mark Lefkowitz did a study over a ten-year period and found that, “watching violent t.v. regularly lead to aggressive behavior in young children. He further concluded that, “the television habits an eight year old acquires would influence him to have aggressive behavior throughout his childhood and into adolescence.” Many studies have depicted that young children viewing violence on television directly relates to fights, conflicts, and delinquency. If a child views violence today, the result many be stored in the brain and used in the future. Parents, who claim that violence viewed by their children does not cause them harm, may not actually see the aggressive result for some time. It is increasingly clear that there is a specific connection between viewing television violence and having aggressive behavior.
“Children do imitate the behavior of models such as those portrayed in television, movies, etc. they do so because the ideas that are shown to them on television are more attractive to the young viewer then those the viewer can think up himself” This is the conclusion of researcher F. Howe. Eric Claptons six-year-old son after watching a cartoon where the character was able to fly proceeded to jump out of the thirty-second floor of their New York apartment. In addition, “in New York, a young boy broke into a cellar. When the police caught him and asked him why he was wearing gloves, he replied he had learned to do so to not leave fingerprints and that he discovered this on television. In Alabama, a nine-year old boy received a bad report card from his teacher. He suggested sending the teacher poisoned candy as revenge as he had seen on television the night before. In California, a seven-year-old boy sprinkled ground-up glass into the lamb stew the family was to eat for dinner. When asked why, he relied that he wanted to see if the results would be the same in real as they were on television.” (F. Howe) Another example is the increase of gun accidents involving young children. They imitate shooting others not realizing, as conveyed on television, that guns kill. They have no concept of the action only what television has shown. These are just some of the numerous examples of children imitating what they see on television.
The results of the research conducted support that television violence influences young children in many negative ways. With the number of violent acts viewed in a one hour sitting today, the audience can expect increasing violent scenes as time moves forward. We already see this in the real life dramas, such as, “The Osborne’s,” “Survivor,” MTV’S “Fear” and “Real World.” Our future generations are also viewing these programs. Perhaps it is time for all parents to introduce their young to adventures far beyond the 27″ scene. Introduce them to the world of great imagination, open a book.