Thoughtful Parenting: Negative effects of violence on television
When thinking about writing an article on this topic that is near and dear to my heart, I wondered, how do I make a difference that will grab the attention on a subject so important and taken so for granted?
Since the late 1950s, intuition followed by research has confirmed the harmful effects of television on children. I am referring to very prestigious entities, including the U.S. surgeon general, the National Institutes of Mental Health, the National Academy of Sciences to name just a few who have poured dollars into scientifically studying the effects of violence on kids.
And if you are not inclined to read a lot research papers, then just look at today’s headlines describing the violence in the world that is often perpetrated by young people who exhibit no sense of empathy or sensitivity towards their fellow human beings. I would be naïve to say that it all stems from watching television violence, but research has shown that that kind of frequent exposure does play a significant part on a child’s developing brain.
The harmful effects can be grouped in three primary categories: Children learning aggressive attitudes and behaviors, desensitization or callousness towards victims of violence and increased or exaggerated fear of being victimized by violence
The statistical relationship between children’s exposure to violence and their subsequent aggressive behavior has been shown to be stronger than asbestos and the risk of laryngeal cancer or the use of condoms and the risk of contracting HIV. Among public health professionals and medical and social science communities, there is consensus that media violence exposure is a major societal problem.
There are three overwhelming conclusions that can be drawn from a National Television Violence Study:
• Violence is pervasive on television. 60 percent of 10,000 programs, over 23 channels both broadcast and cable sampled by the study were found to contain lethal acts.
• Most violence is portrayed in a manner that sterilizes or glamorizes the effects of the violent activities. What I am referring to by “sterilizing the effect,” the injury the victim would realistically suffer is hardly ever shown. “Glamorizing” the effects is having the perpetrator of the violence portrayed often by a handsome or beautiful model who shows no remorse or regret of his or her actions.
• The amount of violence portrayed has remained consistent over the years, only varying a percentage point or two since this alarm over violence in the media.
Now comes the rub. Because we are a country that values free speech and abhors regulating what people can read, see or hear, the onus is upon public awareness that is just as pervasive and diligent about the researched and proven effects of television violence.
If there is frequent and open discussion about the relationship between our children’s exposure to this widespread issue — and we encourage parents to pay attention to the harm that is occurring to their child’s development — we will be more effective in the long run. The long-term picture of having a society that values more non-violent behavior and respecting the health and wellbeing of fellow human beings will benefit all.
When monitoring your children’s screen time, please keep in mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under the age of 2, and Live Well’s 5210 Initiative recommends a maximum of two hours of recreational screen time for ages 2 and older.
Hope Cook is a public health nurse with the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association and is a member of Routt County’s Early Childhood Council, First Impressions of Routt County.
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