PSY101: Introduction to Psychology
Instructor: Hillary Locke
Sept. 28, 2014
Media Violence and Violent Behavior in Children Is violence on television turning our children into violent, destructive, hateful people? Television shows today can be a powerful influence in developing value systems and shaping behavior (Bee, 1998: 261-262). Violence surrounds us due to most of what is on television is violent. For example take Saturday morning cartoons; the level of violence during Saturday morning cartoons is higher than the level of violence during prime time. During prime time there are six to eight violent acts per hour while there are twenty to thirty violent acts during Saturday morning cartoons ("Killing Screens," 1994). Before children finish grade school, they will have witnessed up to eight thousand murders and one hundred thousand violent acts on television (Levine, 1995: 143). Children learn about life through media more than in any other manner. The average child spends approximately twenty-seven hours per week watching television, which means that children spend most of their time only watching television and sleeping (Minow & LaMay, 1995: 32-33). Also, it has been proven by many studies that there is a positive relationship between television violence and behavioral problems in children. The research done by Wood, Wong, and Chachere (1991:378) has shown that "exposure to media violence increase viewers' aggression." This paper will discuss that repetitive exposure of media violence can affect children’s behavior negatively. This destructive behavior can be acted out by imitation of violent acts witnessed on television, by accepting violence as a way to problem solving, and by desensitization to the amount of violence seen on television. This paper will also discuss how parents and teachers can prevent unwarranted viewing of media violence in children and adolescents.
Children ages one to four cannot always differentiate reality from fantasy. Television shows for of all ages of people are more often than not a fantasy world, but younger children do not understand that their favorite character is not real and does not exist in the real world. Because children one to four do not understand between fantasy and reality, one may find children "crawling down storm drains looking for them [Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles]" (Minow & LaMay, 1995: 33). This is an example that clearly represents that children do not understand that their favorite characters are only made-up characters and that they are not real. However, many children will try to imitate them and act like their favorite character.
Children model human behavior instinctively by observation without always possessing the intellect or maturity to determine if the actions are proper or appropriate. Children expressed more aggressive behavior towards the blow-up doll call Bobo when they observed an adult “verbally and physically attach the doll in real life, on film, or in a cartoon” according to Bandura's modeling studies (Westen, 1996: 206). Therefore, there is a unfathomable concern that viewing violent shows will cause children to be more aggressive due to television programs capacity to promote real world violence. The viewing of violent shows on television may promote children to become violent and aggressive towards other children, as well as they may use violence to solve problems, or they may use aggressiveness or violence in their play (Buckingham, 1997: 33; Abbot, 1997: 112).
It has been proposed that children will be more likely to imitate violent acts seen on television and model themselves to the character they like, if "the perpetrator of the violence is rewarded or at least not punished and when violence is presented as justified" (Ledingham et al., 1993:4). A study has shown that children will more likely "pretend" or "imitate" the aggressor from a violent television program, when the aggressor is