Children and TV Violence- Face the Truth

October 30, 2013

Television can be a powerful influence in developing value systems and shaping behavior. In North America, children watch an average of four hours of TV a day and much of today's television programming is violent.

For years, parents, teachers and psychologists have tried to evaluate the effects of television violence on children and teenagers. Hundreds of studies later they have found that children may:

  • imitate the violence they see on television
  • become "immune" or numb to the horror of violence
  • gradually accept violence as a way to solve problems
  • identify with certain characters, victims and/or the persons demonstrating violence

Children with emotional, behavioral,or learning problems may be more easily influenced by TV violence. The impact of TV violence may show up right away in the child's behavior or may be evident years later. Greater aggressiveness may be the result of extensive viewing of television violence. It has been noted that sometimes watching a single violent program can increase a child's aggressiveness.

The studies certainly do not suggest that viewing violence on television is the only cause of violent behaviour in children. Certainly video games, music videos and music lyrics when layered on top of TV viewing become significant factors.

Parents can play a large role in protecting their children from excessive media violence in the following ways:

  • pay attention to the programs your children are watching and watch some with them
  • set limits on the amount of time children watch television
  • remove TV sets from the children's bedrooms
  • point out that although the actor has not actually been hurt or killed, such violence in real life results in pain or death
  • screen shows known to be violent, and change the channel or turn off the TV set when offensive material comes on, with an explanation of what is wrong with the program

Children need to be spending their leisure time reading, playing with friends, playing sports, developing hobbies and enjoying family time. Although the reality is that parents are exhausted and the television is an easy and cheap babysitter, we can not give into this solution too often. The results can be disastrous.