Violence on Television
Violence on Television
“Television can be a powerful influence in developing value systems and shaping behavior,” (number 4).
The violence that children are constantly subjected to on television can have very harmful affects if not monitored carefully. More and more often parents are using television as a means of entertaining their children when they are unable to, and the amount of television that children are watching is a growing concern in our society. While a large part of the concern is the quantity of television that young people are viewing, a more pressing issue is the quality that is offered to them. While cartoons may seem to be harmless and humorous, that is not always the case. A good portion of the violence that is on television is captured in Saturday morning cartoons, when children are most likely to be captivated by them. This proves to be highly dangerous with young minds because some children at tender ages are unable to understand or grasp the concept of reality versus fantasy. This leaves children at risk of understanding cartoons to be real life and ‘copy catting’ their heroes, that were praised for their actions. As society begins to realize the full impact of violence on television for young children they are starting to work towards making parents more aware of what their child is viewing while they are out of the room. Because every child and every household is different it is difficult to measure how a single child will be impacted, by viewing excessive violence on the screen. This is why it is imperative that parents are the ones to take responsibility for what their child is viewing as they are growing up, so that they are not negatively subjected to anything that they are not yet prepared for. Television can be a very suggestive influence that should not be taken lightly when young children are concerned.
” 98% of homes in Canada have a television,” (number 3).
In the average home it is more unusual to find a family without a television then is it is to find one with more than one (Budd, p98). Children between the ages of three and four on average watch approximately four hours of television a day (number 3). This is a large amount and takes time from other activities that would be more beneficial to these children when their minds are in the stages of growth. If a child is inside in front of their television set they are not outside socializing with other children their own age, or spending time with their family doing other activities to stimulate their minds. It is important to realize that children are not born with their personalities and their values, but rather they develop them with the help of their surroundings and environment. If a child is learning these values from a character on a show, a parent cannot always be sure what morals a child is going to pick up. A study done by William and Handford in 1986 found that after television was introduced into a small Canadian town, people spent less time; sleeping; at social gatherings outside and in the home in conversation; in leisure activities such as reading and writing; doing household tasks, and involved in community activities and sports. (number 3) Society is beginning to recognize the need to monitor the amount of television a child is watching because of the situations it may demonstrate to younger generations. When parents simply sit their child down in front of the screen they are letting characters do part of the raising and they cannot be completely aware of exactly what is being taught. Nor do people realize the amount of violence that is portrayed to children during their normal daytime television.
“By the age of 18 the average American child will have viewed 200, 000 acts of violence on television alone, (number 2).
There have been a number of studies done to determine the amount of violence in television shows that are easily accessible to children and it is a common misperception that cartoons are safe. It has been found that the level of violence during Saturday morning cartoons is higher than during Prime Time. Prime Time includes approximately three to five acts of violence per hour, whereas cartoons will easy involve twenty to twenty five in one hour. (number two) One might still argue that the acts of violence during these two times are still quite different and that perhaps the ones in cartoons are more easily overlooked because they are not real life. However to children cartoons are a way of life and can teach them a great deal about the real world that they have yet to discover. The content of the violence in children’s programs can actually be more destructive because it is targeted at children. Cartoons are found to rarely demonstrate any negative consequences of violence, and often the violence is displayed as humorous. (number two) This gives children their first outlook into what the real world is like and can often shape the values that they will begin to use in their daily experiences. If people stopped to take a real look into the violence that is portrayed on television they would be astounded at the amount and the context of it. Not only are heroes rewarded for the death of the villain, but violence is often showed as the answer to solving problems. So it is not hard to see why many children are found to resort to these measures when confronted with a ‘bad guy’, or a problem that can be changed by using tactics learned from their favourite programs. It is hard to know what a child is going to be subjected to when they turn on their television set, especially when many of the programs that contain the most violence are aimed at their age group as the prime audience.
Every television program has a direct audience that they are targeting, and it is easy to understand why the majority of cartoons are centered on children. Cartoons display a different form of reality that is easily detectable for an adult but often obscured by a child. The violence that is depicted in many children’s programs is often with the aim of attracting younger viewer’s attention. With the use of loud music to help create a setting for the final fight in a show, or color enhancement to help make punches more vivid, violence on television is often displayed as ‘right’ and exciting, when in truth, in real life it is anything but that. The Social Learning Theory would argue that children would imitate the model’s behavior because the model was praised for theirs. This is displayed in children’s programs when the superhero ‘beats-up’ the villains and is then thanked by the mayor for saving the city. (Number three.) Children learn a great deal simply from observation, and seeing this would tell them that the proper way to settle a dispute is with violence, so that the next time they are confronted with a conflict they will look back to what their hero did. The producers of children’s programming know this and that is why they specifically enhance their programs to grab children’s attention and hold them captivated by the glory of it. They understand that to children the world of make believe is a lot more real than the world around them.
Unlike adults, children have not yet grasped the concept of deciphering between what is fantasy and what is reality. “Though not all children will imitate media violence, certain children who are exposed to repeated depictions of a particular nature are at risk of such learning,” (number 1). Violence can be especially damaging to children under the age of eight because they have not yet had enough real world experience to be able to distinguish what is realistic and what isn’t. (number two) During the younger years children’s sense of reality is what is in their daily surroundings and for many of them that doesn’t go much farther than their own backyard, or grandma’s house. So to them, the programs that they are watching repeatedly from day to day are in fact their reality. It is hard for them to understand why if their favorite character, who is known for ’saving the day,’ can solve all of their problems by simply using some karate moves on the enemy, why, they can’t just kick and punch to get what they feel that they need or deserve. It is confusing to try and explain to children that what they see on television is not the same as real life because to young children those programs are their life, or at least the way that they would dream it to be. The heroes on television become role models for these children and they want to model their behavior to match that of their favorite superhero. If children are not taught very carefully at a young age how to know what is real and what is ‘television’ they can have a very distorted view of the world around them.
“Hundreds of studies of the effects of TV violence on children and teenagers have found that children may * Become “immune” to the horror of violence, * Gradually accept violence as a way to solve problems, * Imitate the violence they observe on television; and * Identify with certain characters, victims and/or victimizers,” (number 4).
There are numerous ways that children’s perceptions of the world around them could be much different if they are exposed harmful television. It has been found that children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others because they have watched fighting and deaths on television They see that the good guy is always going to win, they just don’t understand that the ‘bad guy’ doesn’t always have to be destroyed. Children who observe a vast amount of violence when they are young are more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways towards others. Another characteristic of children that are constantly left unattended in front of the television screen is that they may become fearful of the world around them, since they have observed all of the violence happening between the characters in their programs they begin to fear those that surround them. (number 3) Many people have just not taken into consideration yet how much of an impact television can have on young children’s sense of reality, and by the time that they begin to see the after effects it is much more difficult to reverse the outcome. However society is beginning to realize what is happening and is taking steps forward in reversing this problem, but much of the solution is in the home.
It is a safe assumption to say that there will most likely always be violence on television, simply because it is entertaining, nomatter how it affects some people. But that is not to say the television network can’t do some screening to help solve a piece of the problem. “The Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission is determined to protect children from the harmful affects of television violence, while preserving freedom of expression for creators and freedom of choice for adult viewers,” (number five). What they have set up is a rating system that will categorize shows based on their context, which should help parents make some decisions on what shows are appropriate for their children. They are aware that this won’t solve all of the problems but it will help if parents are willing to meet them halfway and make sure that their children aren’t watching programs that they cannot handle. By placing shows into categories, the networks will be helping parents to narrow down the choices that children are given, but they are still going to have to do their part in watching with their children and explaining what is going on. The network is hoping to change the attitudes of people through public awareness, but they are unable to do this on their own. They are encouraging the involvement of all of the broadcasting industry, teachers, doctors, all of the community, especially the parents to control this problem. They are aware that simply placing shows into certain ratings won’t stop some children from being introduced to them, because all they are doing is trying to make parents more aware of the danger that some shows may hold. The real power to stop this cycle is held at home.
Legal guardians are the ones that hold the most control over whether children will be affected negatively by the violence that they watch on television. They hold all of the power to stop the harmful effects that viewing violence can have on young and impressionable minds. There are many ways that a parent or a legal guardian can put a stop to this problem without eliminating all of the violence that children’s programs hold. The most important thing that they can do for their children is to monitor what they are watching at all times, and make sure that they understand what is going on in the program and that it is suitable for their age group or maturity level. Sometimes it may be necessary to ban certain programs from the screen because young children are too impressionable for them, where as other times it may take some simple explaining to help the child understand that what they are seeing is not real. The key is for parents to take an interest in their children’s viewing habits and to sit down and discuss what they are watching and the implications of what they are seeing as well as monitoring the amount of time that they are spending in front of the television set. Children need to learn more from their environment than they are from the television and it is important to encourage children to go elsewhere for answers. Television does not have to be harmful to young children and often there are programs that are worthwhile, that will actually help them and teach them, as long as what they are watching is being monitored for them and explained to them by more than just characters or heroes.
Above all else television should not be used as a cheap mode of babysitting. Parents should not leave their child alone in front of the set without knowing what they are watching for long extended periods of time, because the truth is what they could learn may turn out to be harmful and dangerous. Children today are spending an excessive amount of time in front of the television set and with the amount of violence that they are witnessing, without proper supervision they could be picking up the wrong information. When children are young and even as they grow they are highly impressionable and are seeking answers to questions constantly and if there is no one to give them these answers they are going to go to the easiest source, and sometimes the television is not going to be the most accurate. With the inability to decipher the fantasy world from reality children may pick up many of the violent ways that are demonstrated by their heroes in their favorite programs. They may even begin to have an unrealistic view of the world that they live in. Without proper control, the television can be a very powerful and very suggestive and dangerous mode of information. The violence that children are constantly subjected to on television can have very harmful effects if not monitored carefully. What kind of world would we live in we all solved our problems by pulling out a sword and fighting to the death, or kicking our opponents until eventually they disappeared into a cloud of dust?