TV Violence Effects

"The Awful Truth About Television: TV violence has real world effects"

Children witness 16,000 TV Murders

The most commonly cited statistic is that by the age of 18 the average American will have witnessed 16,000 murders and 200,000 violent acts on TV. However, with the increase in viewing time and the trend towards more violence on TV, that statistic will soon need to be revised upwards.

Cartoon violence can lead to misbehavior

Contrary to public perception, cartoons are some of the most violent programs on TV. Cartoon violence is especially pernicious because it trivializes the violence, often making it humorous. For example, after one of his numerous attempts to kill the Roadrunner, Wile E. Coyote plummets to the ground. He gets up, and his body starts wiggling up and down like an accordion. It looks funny, but it teaches children that violence is not serious. It also teaches them that violence does not have serious, genuine consequences.

Your children may not all grow up to be merciless murderers and psychopathic criminals. Nonetheless, according to the American Psychological Association, they may:

• Become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others
• Be more fearful of the world around them
• Behave in aggressive or harmful ways toward others
• Be less likely to see anything wrong with violence

In one study done at Pennsylvania State University, researchers observed approximately 100 preschool children both before and after watching television. Some watched violent cartoons, and others watched completely non-violent programs.

The children who watched the violent cartoons, were “more likely to hit out at their playmates, argue, disobey class rules, leave tasks unfinished, and were less willing to wait for things” than those children who watched nonviolent programs, according to Aletha Huston, Ph.D.

TV violence turns kids into bullies

Another study found that four-year-olds who watched excessive amounts of television were more likely to become bullies. Each hour of television viewed per day increased the likelihood that children engaged in bullying behavior. These finding held even when the authors statistically controlled for previous bullying behavior.

TV violence changes brain function

Still another recent study found an added result from watching violent media. Watching media violence affected a critical brain function, called “executive functioning”. The study examined the violence from both television and video games. It found that violence negatively affected what scientists call “executive functioning”. Executive functioning involves such things as the ability to stay focused on a thought or task, the ability to plan, ignore distractions and to utilize past experiences to control behavior. According to Dr. William G. Kronenberger, “The adolescents in the study with the most media violence exposure had the weakest executive functioning.”

TV Violence causes long term aggression

Watching violence on TV may also have serious long-term consequences. According to a long-term study by Dr. Leonard D. Eron, watching television violence at age 8 was the strongest predictor of aggression 22 years later--stronger even than exhibiting violent behavior as children. The groundbreaking study statistically controlled for initial aggressiveness, intelligence, and social class.

A later study of students from the first through the fourth grade reached similar frightening conclusions. Men, who were heavy viewers of violent TV shows as children, were twice as likely as males, who were light viewers of violent TV, to push, grab, or shove their spouses and three times as likely to be convicted of criminal behavior by the time they were in their early 20s. Women who were heavy viewers of violent programs as children were more than twice as likely as other women were to have thrown something at their spouse and more than four times as likely as other young women to have punched, beaten or choked another adult.

The study statistically controlled for childhood aggressiveness, social class, intelligence and several other factors. The researcher in charge of the University of Michigan study, social psychologist Dr. Huesmann said: "We also found that greater identification with same-sex aggressive characters and a stronger belief that violent shows 'tell it like it is' predicted violent adult behavior."

Even if you are an otherwise ideal parent, by allowing your children to watch violent television, you may be unwittingly setting them up for a violent future.

About 'The Awful Truth About Television' Series:

What happens when the average American spends 4 hours 32 minutes every day watching television? Trash Your TV's 'The Awful Truth About Television' Series explores the multifaceted problems with TV in eleven hard-hitting articles. Read the full series and you will never look at your television set the same way again.

Frederick J. Zimmerman, PhD; Gwen M. Glew, MD; Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH; Wayne Katon, MD “Early Cognitive Stimulation, Emotional Support, and Television Watching as Predictors of Subsequent Bullying Among Grade-School Children.” Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005;159:384-388.
Katherine Westphal is the founder of Trash Your TV! and the author of a revolutionary e-book system, The TV-FREE System. Get in control of your TV watching and create the life you want, whether it is to create the body, the mind, the business, the family, or the community of your dreams.
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