A typical child in the US watches 28 hours of TV weekly seeing as many as 8000 murders by the time he or she finishes elementary education (Science Daily March12, 2008). This means that they are exposed to violence at a very tender age. For purposes of this essay, violence will be defined as any overt depiction of a credible threat of physical force or actual use of force intended to harm an animate being or a group of beings as a result of unseen violent means (Anderson C, Carnagey N & Eubanks J, 2002, pp 22).
Television violence on the other hand should be understood to refer to all the violence appearing on TV screens. It includes material broadcast over the air, distributed by cable and satellite systems, and available on videocassettes and disks (The Media Awareness Network). Columbine massacre On April 22, 1999, in a small suburban town of Littleton two high school seniors, Dylan Kleboid and Eric Harris enacted an all-out assault on Columbine High School during the middle of the school day. With guns, knives and a multitude of Bombs, the two boys walked in the hallways and killed.
At the end of it, twelve students, one teacher and the two killers were dead. The question that haunts many is why did they do it, and secondly where did they get this idea from? Well as if that is not enough just the other day in Michigan, a first grader brought a gun to school and shot at a fellow classmate killing him instantly. These tragedies can be seen as a result of many different factors one of them, which happens to be the major one being the violence that is daily seen on television. Types of violent television There exist three types of television violence.
The first one is the violence on television portrayed in form of violent movies and programs. Secondly there are violent video games and lastly the violent music lyrics. (Anderson. A et al, 2002 pp26) All these affect both children and adults but the effect is more pronounced on the children. This piece strives to identify some of the effects of watching violent television. The effects are many but this essay will only major on its desensitization effect on children to violence, promotion of poor problem solving skills and its effect on socialization. Desensitizes children to violence
Violent television desensitizes children to violence since the scenes involve vicarious conditionings of emotional reactions. Through classical conditioning, fear or anger can become linked to with specific stimuli after only a few exposures. The emotions then influence behavior in social settings away from the media source through stimulus generalizations making a child to react with inappropriate anger or fear in a TV situation that he or she has observed in the media. This habituation of emotional reactions as a result of repeated exposure to media is what we refer to as desensitization.
The child then becomes meaner, more aggressive and violent. They will also be willing to tolerate the ever increasing levels of violence in society. Video games for instance make a child more aggressive because there is active involvement in the aggressive activities, there is a reward for aggression and the aggressive acts are repeated over and over. The child also identifies with the aggressor and in the process of the playing (Anderson. A et al, 2002 pp 64). Violent lyrics on the other hand affect both children and adults by increasing aggression related thoughts and emotions.
This effect is directly related to the violent content of the lyrics. In short, exposing children to large doses of violent scenes will give hem violent heroes to imitate and also show them that violence is the only way to solve conflicts. Violence begets more violence. The effects of fearful of fearful effects on the other hand may be increased by a number of features like, unjustified violence, realistic violence or graphic violence. (Phyllis A, 2000 pp 206). Realistic depictions of brutality can increase viewers’ fears.
Research and other studies indicate that children have a difficulty distinguishing reality from fantasy on TV. What seems unrealistic to a mature viewer may seem to be quote real to a young child. This therefore explains why young children will readily imitate violent characters (Phyllis A, 2000 pp 209). The child is then desensitized to real world and fantasy world since he or she views the world as it is depicted on TV. Promotes poor problem solving skills The choices the child makes will also be affected by the content of the TV.
Since his psychological arousal will be increased, it will tend to trigger an automatic tendency to imitate observed behaviors. These hildren who watch too much of television will be deprived of social opportunities to develop skills that that promote problem solving skills, conflict resolution and prosocial skills rather than aggression. ( Gunter B, 2004 pp 19) This viewing of violent programs also increases the fear of becoming a victim of violence with a resultant increase in self protective behaviors and mistrust of others.
They tend to see the world as a scary place, become more scared and thus initiate more self protective behaviors (Gunter B, 2004 pp 21). These protective behaviors constitute aggression and according to research, these children are more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for criminal acts as adults. There are also claims that young males who spend much of their time in front of the screen are more likely to smoke marijuana (Gidwani P, 2002, 505). TV and violent video games is also a predicator of grades.
Due to abnormal sleeping patterns as a result of fearful condition expressed as a general sense that the world is through nightmares and other disturbances (Hancox R, 2005, 614-8). They then become less alert during the day and their concentration is adversely affected. Discourages socialization Excessive time spent on TV interferes with normal socialization between the child and his peers and also with his family. Some psychologists and psychiatrists feel that continued exposure to such violence might unnaturally speed up the impact of adult world on the child.
This can then force the child in to some kind of premature maturity. As the child matures in to adulthood, he can become bewildered; have a greater distrust towards others, a superficial approach to adult problems and even an unwillingness to become an adult (Phyllis A, 2000 pp 210). The violence may also make the child immune to brutality and aggression, while others may become fearful of living in such a dangerous society. The child will then become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others and also behave in aggressive ways towards others.
This in turn will isolate him from his peers and will greatly interfere with play activities where the social skills are developed and refined (Center for Media and Public Affairs of television violence, May 16, 2003) as he will spend much of his time in front of the screen alone. Other effects There are also claims that increased exposure to television results in to high blood pressure, and obesity. The child becomes lazy since his or her play time is consumed by the media. What then ought to be done? Firstly parents have a great role to play.
Some of the steps to take include, turning off the TV when no one is watching, getting televisions out of children’s bedrooms and setting rules about how much time their children can spend with the media. Stations should also air a reasonable amount of programming that ‘furthers the educational needs of children in any respect including children’s intellectual and social needs. They must contain both direct and indirect messages that foster cooperation and compassion rather than aggression. (Gunter B, 2004 pp, 54-57). Conclusion It is thus evident that television content matters and it determines a lot as far as personality is concerned.
This should be clear to all parents, children and consumers. For better or worse, violent media is having a detrimental effect on the well being of children. It is therefore prudent that they be considerably regulated if we are to save this generation and the generations to come. Remember you are what you watch and violence begets more violence.
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