Some experts believe that when it comes to violence, the media exert as much influence as family and peers (Levin, 1998; Slaby, 1997). Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold provide vivid anecdotal evidence for this opinion: The teenagers who killed 13 students and teachers at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999 played the video game Doom obsessively (Bai, 1999).
Children spend an average of 35 hours a week in front of the television—more time than they spend doing anything but sleeping (Levin, 1998). One-year-olds watch an average of 2.2 hours a day (Christakis, Zimmerman, DiGiuseppe, and McCarty, 2004), and 26 percent of children under 2 years have a television set in their bedroom (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2003). African American children watch more than European American children, and children in poor families watch more than children in affluent families (Slaby, 1997).
In 1972, the Surgeon General’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior concluded that there is a direct, causal link between seeing violence on television and aggressive behavior. In 2000, six major professional societies—including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychiatric Association—officially concurred, saying that “the data point overwhelmingly to a causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children” (“Joint Statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children,” 2000). Meta-reviews of the most rigorous studies indicate that the effects of television violence are very strong (Coie and Dodge, 1998).
Children are the most susceptible viewers because they are the least able to evaluate what they see (Slaby, 1997). Researchers (Coie and Dodge, 1998; Donnerstein, Slaby, and Eron, 1994; Slaby, 1997) have documented at least four main effects:
- Aggressor effect. Children who watch violent media are more likely to engage in aggressive behavior, especially if they identify with aggressive characters or find the violence realistic and relevant to their own lives. They may come to think that aggression is an acceptable way to resolve conflict. The more violence a child watches, the more aggressive the child’s behavior is likely to become.
- Victim effect. Watching television violence makes some children more fearful. Most vulnerable are those who identify with the victim and perceive the violence as realistic. Heavy viewers of violence can acquire “mean-world syndrome,” mistrusting people and seeing the world as more dangerous than it really is.
- Bystander effect. Watching media violence desensitizes children and leads them to think that violence is normal, especially when programs present it as acceptable and without consequences. Instead of responding to real-life pain and suffering with sympathy, child viewers of violence remain indifferent. In one experiment, children who had watched a violent program were far less likely to intervene or call for help when fighting broke out among the children they were “babysitting” (Thomas and Drabman, 1975).
- Increased appetite effect. When television violence is fun and exciting, children crave more of it. Children who behave aggressively watch more violent television in order to justify their behavior.
© ______ 2007, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Child Development Theories
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- The Homework Debate
- Social Cognitive Theory
- First Grade Sight Words List
- GED Math Practice Test 1