The following report was written by Stacey Lannigan for a college graded unit project in Psychology (Social Sciences). Please note that copying any of the following work to pass as your own will be detected by lecturers and is classed as plagarism. However, feel free to consult the references used in the study below!
Rationale and Discipline
The following investigatory project is one which explores the ongoing debate within society in regards to whether or not watching violence on TV influences the levels of aggression in children ages 10-18 years old. The discipline used to study this debate is Psychology and the topic area is change. Psychology is the selected discipline as the project focuses very much on the individual being and the changes in the behaviour of the individual who is exposed to violence in the media.
Violence in the media has been an ongoing debate for many years and research by many Psychologists has been carried out in regards to the issue. However research gathered has proven that whilst such research shows that individuals show short term effects having watched violence in the media there is no current evidence to suggest that the effects could be long term. Unfortunately the long term effects of media violence on children aged 10-18 years old is unable to be studied due to ethical reason which impose restrictions on the research which can be carried out. The issue of the media influence on the levels of aggression in such individuals is worthy of further investigation as the media is increasingly playing a larger part in the everyday lives of the individuals within society and the effects which this has is important to note in the field of Psychology which looks to study the individuals behaviour and what may influence such behaviour shown by those individuals.
Main Research Question and Hypothesis
The aim of this project was to identify if watching violence on TV influences the levels of aggression in children aged 10-18 years old. The hypothesis of this research was that although watching violence on TV may increase the levels of aggression in children aged 10-18 years old in the short term, long term effects are unlikely to exist.
Aims and Objectives
The aims of this project are:
. To explore the various views which Psychologists have in regards to violence in the media.
. To investigate the effects which may occur in an individual in regards to their behaviour having witnessed violence in the media.
. To compare evidence found through research with that found in other research carried out by Psychologists and assess whether there is an increase in the levels of aggression in the individuals.
The objectives of this project are:
. To identify Psychologists who have formed an opinion on the debate regarding violence in the media and its effect.
. To gather stated opinions regarding the issue being investigated.
. In order to begin the investigation the researchers first objective is to create a questionnaire consisting of various questions which the researcher deems important.
. The researcher then will have to carry out the investigation and select a sample of participants to take part in the questionnaire.
. The results given by the participants will then be analysed.
. A comparison will be made between the researchers own results gained and the research gathered from other Psychologists works.
. The hypothesis should then be proved or disproved by stating what both sets of results show and how they help to support or refute the hypothesis created by the researcher.
Resources and Methods Statement
In order to investigate this topic the researcher will take an anti-positivist approach through the means of gathering research through the means of conducting a questionnaire which the parents of the children shall participate in. As well as primary and qualitative data being collected in this way, secondary data will also be collected through the collection and reading of other research regarding the subject carried out by other researchers. In order to gather such research, the researcher will visit the library to consult various books as well as search the internet.
Identification of Key Texts/Articles
American Psychological Association. (2013). Television and Video Violence. Available: http://www.apa.org/action/resources/research-in-action/protect.aspx . Last accessed 21st March 2016.
Archer, D. (2013). Violence, The Media And Your Brain. Available: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/reading-between-the-headlines/201309/violence-the-media-and-your-brain. Last accessed 7th April 2016.
KEY TEXT: Gifford, C (2006). Violence On The Screen. London: Evans Brothers.
Clark, L. (2009). Cartoon violence ‘makes children more aggressive’. Available: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1159766/Cartoon-violence-makes-children-aggressive.html. Last accessed 23rd March 2016.
Dr. Gross, G. (2013). Violence on TV and How It Can Affect Your Children. Available: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-gail-gross/violence-on-tv-children_b_3734764.html. Last accessed 19th March 2016.
MediaSmarts. (2016). Violence – Overview. Available: http://mediasmarts.ca/violence/violence-overview. Last accessed 14th April 2016.
An alternative way in which the researcher could have carried out their research for this investigation is by conducting a lab experiment. Instead the researcher chose the method of a questionnaire in order to gather the data needed for their research. The reason why the researcher decided to choose the method of a questionnaire rather than conduct a lab experiment is that the latter would have been ultimately more time consuming to carry out in regards to conducting the experiment as well as analysing the data. A questionnaire, on the other hand, had the advantage of being easy to carry out in a short space of time regarding each participant whose answers are then easy to be analysed in more depth due to both time and the type of data produced.
Does Watching Violence On TV Influence The Levels of Aggression in Children Aged 10-18 Years Old?
The researcher would like to thank those in particular who volunteered to participate in the questionnaire which helped to gain the results needed for the individual researchers study.
The purpose of which this research was carried out is to bring attention to the ongoing debate regarding violence in the media and its effects on children ranging from an age of 10-18 years old. The hypothesis of this research was that although watching violence on TV may increase the levels of aggression in children aged 10-18 years old in the short term, long term effects are unlikely to exist. To prove the stated hypothesis, the researcher gathered both primary and secondary sources consisting of research already carried out by various psychologists and their views on the debate as well as carrying out a questionnaire which was answered by the parents of children who chose to participate voluntarily. The researcher then compared their findings to that of the previous research carried out by psychologists to come to the conclusion as to whether the hypothesis was correct or not.
Throughout this investigatory project the researcher will introduce the issue being investigated as well as state an explanation as to why the issue has been chosen. A definition as well as some background concerning the issue will be provided, backed up by previous research carried out in order to study the issue. The researcher will then analyse the research before presenting their own research and comparing it to that already found. The hypothesis in which the researcher is addressing in this investigation is that although watching violence on TV may increase the levels of aggression in children aged 10-18 years old in the short term, long term effects are unlikely to exist. The method in which the research is acquired is through the means of a series of questionnaires in which the individual participants were asked a series of questions regarding their children. The topic chosen to be investigated in this project by the researcher is directly linked to the discipline of psychology as aggression is studied under a branch of psychology known as social psychology (Source: Nordqvist, C. (2015). What is psychology? What are the branches of psychology?.)
In investigating the issue of aggression a definition of the term must first be understood. Baron and Richardson, 1993, defined aggression as ‘any form of behaviour directed towards the goal of harming or injuring another living being who is motivated to avoid such treatment.’. (Source: Eysenck, M (2000). Psychology: A Student’s Handbook.). However although a definition is available it is hard to define aggression indefinitely as there are many types of aggression, both positive and negative. Individuals also have their own definitions of what aggression is and interpret it in ways personal to themselves. Nowadays, there are many forms of aggression in the media ranging from horror movies, real life aggressive acts shown on the news and even acts of aggression shown in a comedic light on cartoon shows such as Tom and Jerry. Today, the media itself when discussing the debate on whether violence on the media increases aggression would have the public believe that the levels of aggression due to what is witnessed on TV is on the rise. In researching whether violence in the media does have an effect on individuals behaviour Psychologists are able to carry out various laboratory experiments in a controlled environment as well as the use of other methods such as questionnaires which allow them to collect data. So far only results showing that short term effects are apparent have been found as no tests can be done to prove if long term effects exist or not due to the issue of ethics being broken in the process.
From the key text, Gifford, C (2006). Violence On The Screen, an introductory statement can be found which highlights the impact which the media has on the lives of individuals as a whole within society. As stated, “Screen images can play a big part in shaping children’s understanding of the world”, the quote describes how what children witness on television plays a vital part in how that child may view their reality as well as helping them to develop the skills and the social norms which they will need when interacting with other members of society. The debate stands to determine whether violence in the media encourages either pro-social behaviour or anti-social behaviour. Children and adolescents are believed to be vulnerable by the general public as they are only just beginning to develop an opinion of the world which they live in. Whilst many psychologists who have researched the issue believe that the media helps to encourage pro-social behaviour, results from various experiments carried out by psychologists have proved that short term effects can be found. These results show an increase in the levels of aggression in children from the ages of 10 years old to 18 years old after witnessing violence in the media. However, for some these results prove to be somewhat alarming as it shows just how the younger generations can be influenced by the behaviour which they see in the media and are therefore vulnerable to the negative effects of witnessing it.
Some previous research carried out by psychologists have shown that aggressive behaviour from children in particular is more likely to occur immediately after being exposed to violence on screen. One experiment carried out consisted of a collection of individuals who had been picked at random and were shown either a violent short film or a non-violent short film. The children were then presented with the opportunity to possibly become violent such as whilst playing with others. Results showed that those children who had been exposed to the violent short film were more likely to behave more aggressively immediately after being shown than those who had been exposed to the short film which had not featured any violence. The same type of experiment was later carried out on adolescents who showed similar results with a select few being exposed to violence on screen whilst others were not. Afterwards they were asked to play a game with the other participants who were involved in the experiment. Whilst playing the game, individual participants were presented with the opportunity to expose their opponent to an unpleasant noise and were in control of both the duration in which the noise played as well as the volume. Results from this experiment showed that those who had been exposed to violence on screen were more likely to select both a higher volume and longer duration than those who witnessed the non-violent clips. These experiments carried out further support the hypothesis that although watching violence on TV may increase the levels of aggression in children aged 10-18 years old in the short term, long term effects are unlikely to exist. In both experiments the participants who were exposed to violence in the media were known to act aggressively towards the other participants when made to interact after the experiment had been conducted although any heightened levels of aggression were only apparent in the short term. One of the fall backs with this experiment as with every experiment is that it is made to measure only the short term effects as attempting to measure the long term effects would mean violating ethical guidelines as the researcher would be exposing children and adolescents to violence throughout a long period of time and could bring distress or harm to the individuals or others (Source: Huesmann, L et. al. (2006). The Role of Media Violence in Violent Behaviour.)
One longitudinal piece of research which may act as a form of proof that long term effects do exist was carried out by Eron et al. In 1984. During this study, the amount of television watched by young children was recorded as well as the levels of aggressiveness, the same research was carried out on the same participants several years later. Measuring by the number of criminal convictions by the age of 30 years old, the results showed that the amount of violence which the participants had been exposed to as children predicted the level of aggressiveness which they showed later in live. (Source: Eysenck, M (2000). Psychology: A Student’s Handbook.) However, whilst this research that was carried out may show signs of long term effects existing, it is only one study and can not be generalized to a mass population. Other criticisms can also be made about the research is that it does not take into account other factors which could contribute to the individuals have none or a recorded criminal record.
Another source investigates how children, particularly those of a young age, may be more vulnerable to the effects which watching violence in the media poses.
“We know that for the most part, children learn from both experience and social learning or role modelling. Therefore, when children, especially young children, see violence on television, they have a difficult time differentiating between what is real or what is make believe, and tend to emulate or copy what they are seeing.” (Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-gail-gross/violence-on-tv-children_b_3734764.html)
This quote helps to highlight to readers just how influential the media can be and how that influence may result in negative effects when it comes to the witnessing of violence by young children. However, it has been proven by psychologists that whilst children may be heavily influenced by what they see and hear from a young age, it is not necessarily the media alone which is to blame for the child’s behaviour should they act out aggressively. There are many other factors which play a part in how a child learns to behave such as the behaviour of their parents or how they are raised by their parents. The majority of cases in which children have acted out violently towards themselves or others has involved environmental and sometimes biological factors. Professor Bushman who carried out a study looking in the effects of media violence on children and the causes for aggressive behaviour in children and young adults stated: “Many factors can contribute to increased aggression in children. Things like being male, poverty or having low IQ are not easy to chance, but limiting exposure to violent media can be changed.” (Source: Locker, M. (2014). ‘Broad Consensus’ that Media Violence Can Lead to Increased Child Aggression.)
Therefore whilst the research carried out by this individual researcher is useful in that it helps to highlight the potential problems as well as provide possible solutions for parents who may be concerned about how much violence in the media which there child is being exposed to it fails to accept that children are in fact able to differentiate. Whilst children of a young age such as pre-schoolers may not be able to distinguish between fantasy and reality, there are cases in which children of a young age are able to such as Psychology Professor, Jacqueline Woolley’s discovery that “by the age of four, children learn to use the context in which new information is presented to distinguish between fact and fiction.” (Source: Woolley, J. (2006). Young Children Learn to Distinguish Between Fact and Fiction, Research at University of Texas at Austin Finds.)
This discovery in fact proves that whilst children may wish fantasy was reality, they do in fact know the difference between what is real and what is not.
“Early research on the effects of viewing violence on television – especially among children – found a desensitizing effect and the potential for aggression”. (Source: American Psychological Association. (2013). Violence in the Media.) Desensitization is the term used to describe the occurrence when an individual after being exposed to violence in the media begins to see what they are witnessing as more acceptable. The individual becomes almost immune to the violence they see and may stop reacting in a way that one may act after being exposed to violence for the first time. A study carried out by Drabman and Thomas in 1974 confirmed that children who were exposed to violence on screen took a longer period of time in fetching an adult when faced with a potential aggressive scenario than those who were not exposed to violence on screen. (Source: WordPress. (2012). Does Media Violence affect our Children?.)
This study helps to reinstate the existence of the desensitization process which affects children after they have been exposed to violence in the media. The process shows a change in the behaviour of children and may be the link as to why heightened levels of aggression exist in the short term after the child has been exposed to violence in the media.
“Cartoons aimed at children, such as Scooby Doo, contain more brutality than programmes meant for general audiences.”
Results from the study also showed that young children were prone to mimicking what they witnessed on television and this case it was the negative behaviour shown on screen. Psychologists in the United States also carried out research in which they quizzed a total of 95 girls aged ten and eleven years old on their favourite television shows, rating them for the violent content which featured in the individual shows. The researchers results showed that their favourite TV shows did in fact have violence features in various forms. They also discovered that ‘26 acts of aggression an hour compared with just five in shows aimed at general audiences and nine in programmes deemed unsuitable for under-14s. (Source: Clark, L. (2009). Cartoon violence ‘makes children more aggressive’.) This conclusion reached by Psychologists after carrying out a variety of studies into cartoons and the effects which the violence shown has on the children who watch them highlights an important part of the debate as to whether media violence affects children in society. With cartoons available to entertain children throughout the day, allowing the parents to go about freely without having to mind their child’s every action, it is a worrying thought that the violence featured in these cartoons is affecting children’s behaviour. What is believed to be one of the major problems in the media today is that the violence portrayed in cartoons is done so in a comedic light, such as the aggressive acts shown in the famous cartoon ‘Tom and Jerry’. Result from a such studies investigating the levels of aggression shown in children after being exposed to such violent cartoons show that there is an increase in the short term as they have a tendency to identify with particular fantasy characters seen in cartoons as older children may do with screen actors.
In trying to prove the hypothesis right the researcher selected a random sample of individuals to participate in a questionnaire which featured a series of questions regarding the participant’s child or children who ranged from the ages of 10-18 years old and how many hours a day they spent in front of the TV and whether any signs of aggression were visible and the time period which they were visible for.
The first participant stated that their son who was 18 years of age had a tendency to watch on average 6-8 hours of TV per day and they were fully aware of what their child was watching. Of those 6-8 hours per day, five hours of what their child was watching consisted of TV shows and films which they would consider to be violent. After being exposed to the violence on TV, the participant confirmed that their child showed an increased level of aggression which lasted for at least half an hour after witnessing the violence on TV.
The second participant who took part in the questionnaire answered the questions in regards to their daughter who was 11 years old. Her daughter who watched at least 4 hours of TV per day watched only 1 hour of what the parent considered to be violent. However, the parent who was participating in the questionnaire was only aware of 1 hour of what their child was watching on TV out of the 4 hours they spent watching TV. The parent stated that after watching the violence on screen their child had a tendency to show increased levels of vocal aggression, although not physical aggression, for a short period of time.
The third participant answered questions in regards to their daughter also and stated that the 14 year old watched on average 3 hours of TV per day of which the parent was fully aware of what was being viewed. At least 2 of the 3 hours spent in front of the TV was done so witnessing violence on screen. After witnessing violence on screen next to no increase in the levels of aggression and that which was noticeable to the parent lasted at least for 15 minutes.
The fourth participant answered questions on behalf of their two children who were aged 10 and 13. Their son aged 13 years old watched on average 5 hours of TV per day and, only aware of three hours of what their son watched, they labelled 2 of those hours violent in terms of what was being viewed. The effects were apparent to the parent as they saw an increase in the levels of aggression in their son which lasted for at least an hour after viewing. As for the participants daughter who watched 3 hours of TV, only one hour was considered violent by the parent who was aware of what was being viewed at all times. The daughter showed no heightened signs of aggression at all.
The fifth and final participant who took part in the questionnaire answered on behalf of their 17 year old son who watched an average of 8 hours of TV per day. The parent was only aware of 4 hours of what their child was watching however for the entirety of the time in which the parent was aware of what their child was watching the participant considered to be violent. The participant stated that an increase was noticeable in their children’s levels of aggression after witnessing the violence on TV and lasted for an hour or just over at the most.
Overall from the results which the researcher was able to gather it can be concluded that watching violence on TV does influence the levels of aggression in children aged 10-18 as the majority has shown increases in the levels of aggression in many of the individuals according to their parents. However, although there appears to be a heightened level of aggression in the majority of the children examined in the research it is clear that the increase in the levels of aggression shown lasts only for a short period of time. In comparing it to the research gathered prior to conducting research the researcher was able to notice a clear similarity in regards to the findings as summarized above. Viewing the number of hours in which children spend in front of the TV from the researcher’s own research it can be supported from previous research that TV and the media in general play a big part in the lives of individuals – especially young children and adolescents. The findings that any levels of heightened aggression which occurs due to witnessing violence on TV also proves to be only in the short term lasting for an hour of just over at the most according to the statements made by the participants. Contrary to the research found by the researcher, the research carried out shows that adolescents are more likely to have heightened levels of aggression after being exposed to violence in the media. However, this may be due to other factors such as hormones and the amount of TV watched as well as what the difference in hours in which the parents are able to say they know what their child is watching. The research gathered previously by the researcher also touches on the issue as to what is considered violence and how cartoons are considered by some to be violent, this may be overlooked by the parents who participated in the questionnaire who may not consider the cartoons which their younger children watch to be violent in nature at all.
The aims of the researcher were as follows, in investigating the issue of violence in the media the researcher aimed to explore the various views which Psychologists have in regards to violence in the media. Another aim of the researcher was to investigate the effects which may occur in an individual in regards to their behaviour having witnessed violence in the media. The final aim which the researcher hoped to achieve was comparing the evidence found through research with that found in the other research carried out by Psychologists and assess whether there is an increase in the levels of aggression in the individuals. The data which was collected by the researcher was successful in meeting all of the aims previously set by the researcher as can be shown throughout the investigatory report.
The research method used by the researcher was a questionnaire which can have both a number of advantages and disadvantages of being used. One of the main advantages of using a questionnaire is that it is a method which has a format that is familiar to most respondents. It is also a method which is easy to carry out in regards to the researcher developing the questions and the participants responding to them. Another advantage of using a questionnaire is that the results which are collected from its use are relatively easy to analyse. A disadvantage however would be that there is no way in which the researcher can fully determine how truthful a respondent is being in their answers. Another disadvantage is that the individuals who participate in the questionnaire are likely to read and interpret the questions and therefore will respond in their own way. As well as those disadvantages, another is that in conducting a questionnaire there is a level of researcher imposition. This is a disadvantage as the researcher creates the questionnaire based on the questions which they believe to be of importance therefore missing out the opportunity to ask other questions which may be of importance also. The researcher used primary sources in gathering their research for the investigatory report conducted. An advantage of doing so is that primary sources as useful in that they give the researcher data which is rich in detail as the past events are taken into account whilst the data is being created. However, a disadvantage of primary sources is that the findings could be bias. To counteract the issues which using primary sources alone could produce, the researcher also used secondary sources in gathering previous research. An advantage of using secondary sources in gathering previous research is that it is ultimately cheaper in price and also takes less time to collect than that of primary data. A disadvantage however is that the research may also be bias as researchers tend to allow their own opinion to reflect on the reports which they create. In using primary sources, quantitative data was gathered which is advantageous to the researcher as the results are easy to analyse and generalize. However, quantitative being numerical data lacks detailed description and therefore is potentially superficial. The use of secondary sources through the means of gathering previous research allowed the researcher to maintain a steady balance of both types of data. Qualitative data, being descriptive data, was rich in detail giving the researcher a lot of information to analyse. However a disadvantage of qualitative data is that it is generally difficult to generalize to a wider populace.
In carrying out the research certain modifications could be made which would allow the research regarding the investigation to be more efficient in terms of both collecting and analysing the data. For example, should the research be carried out again a larger sample size could be used and especially a sample size which spreads across a wider area in terms of location. Another method which could be used opposed to the questionnaire which the researcher could have used is the lab experiment. The lab experiment is the more scientific experiment which a social scientist can carry out, it produces quantitative data which can be easily generalized to a wider populace as well being easily replicated by others to increase reliability. Another advantage of having used a lab experiment if the researcher had done so is that it allows for the researcher to have control over extraneous and independent variables. However, there are also disadvantages to the lab experiment such as the results not reflecting that which would occur in real life. This would mean that the results lacked ecological validity. Another disadvantage is that that demand characteristics could be a problem should the participants attempt to answer questions or act in a way that they believe the researcher wishes them to.
The research carried out by the researcher throughout the investigatory report could act as a starting point for future research to be carried out. It also helps to further highlight the issue of violence in the media and its effect on children, particularly those aged 10-18 years old.
The skills which the researcher gained in conducting this investigation consist of newly acquired skills such as the ability to organize research, reference sources and structure the report.
In conclusion, by following the objectives set the researcher was able to achieve the aims which resulted in the investigation being carried out in a structured manner as well as the project being organized in a way which is hopefully comprehensible.
APPENDIX 1 – Book used for key text: (Gifford, C (2006). Violence On The Screen. London: Evans Brothers.)
Early research on the effects of viewing violence on television — especially among children — found a desensitizing effect and the potential for aggression. Is the same true for those who play violent video games? Psychological researchers are studying the question.
‘Television and Video Violence’
Virtually since the dawn of television, parents, teachers, legislators and mental health
professionals have wanted to understand the impact of television programs, particularly on children. Of special concern has been the portrayal of violence, particularly given psychologist Albert Bandura’s work in the 1970s on social learning and the tendency of children to imitate what they see. As a result of 15 years of “consistently disturbing” findings about the violent content of
children’s programs, the Surgeon General’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior was formed in 1969 to assess the impact of violence on the attitudes, values and behavior of viewers. The resulting report and a follow-up report in 1982 by the National Institute of Mental Health identified these major effects of seeing violence on television:
Children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others.
Children may be more fearful of the world around them.
Children may be more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways toward others.
Research by psychologists L. Rowell Huesmann, Leonard Eron and others starting in the 1980s found that children who watched many hours of violence on television when they were in elementary school tended to show higher levels of aggressive behavior when they became teenagers. By observing these participants into adulthood, Huesmann and Eron found that the ones who’d watched a lot of TV violence when they were 8 years old were more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for criminal acts as adults. Interestingly, being aggressive as a child did not predict watching more violent TV as a teenager, suggesting that TV watching could be a cause rather than a consequence of aggressive behavior. However, later research by psychologists Douglas Gentile and Brad Bushman, among others, suggested that exposure to media violence is just one of several factors that can contribute to aggressive behavior. Other research has found that exposure to media violence can desensitize people to violence in the real world and that, for some people, watching violence in the media becomes enjoyable and does not result in the anxious arousal that would be expected from seeing such imagery.
High levels of violence in cartoons such as Scooby-Doo can make children more aggressive, researchers claimed yesterday. They found that animated shows aimed at youngsters often have more brutality than programmes broadcast for general audiences. And they said children copied and identified with fantasy characters just as much as they would with screen actors. The study also found that youngsters tended to mimic the negative behaviour they saw on TV such as rumour-spreading, gossiping and eye-rolling. The U.S. psychologists quizzed 95 girls aged ten and 11 about their favourite TV shows, rating them for violent content and verbal and indirect aggression. The shows included Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, American Idol, Scooby-Doo and Pokemon. The researchers found that output aimed at children as young as seven, which included a number of cartoons, had the highest levels of violence. They recorded 26 acts of aggression an hour compared with just five in shows aimed at general audiences and nine in programmes deemed unsuitable for under-14s. ‘Results indicated that there are higher levels of physical aggression in children’s programmes than in programmes for general audiences,’ the study said. It added that the TV industry distinguished between animated violence and non-animated violence and appeared to rate the former as less harmful. ‘There is ample evidence that animated, sanitised and fantasy violence has an effect on children,’ the study’s authors said. ‘Research on the effects of violent video games, which are all animated, indicates that they have the same effects on children’s aggressive thoughts, feelings and behaviours that violent TV shows have demonstrated. ‘In fact, even cartoonish children’s games increase aggression. Labelling certain types of media violence as “fantasy” violence is misleading and may actually serve to increase children’s access to harmful violent content by reducing parental concern.’ The study, by academics at Iowa State University and published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, also found that children copied at school the verbal aggression they had seen on TV. It said: ‘In addition, the effects of televised physical aggression were extensive, such that exposure to televised physical aggression was associated with a variety of negative behaviours in girls.’ This anti-social behaviour included verbal and physical aggression and excluding others from friendship groups. Co-author Jennifer Linder said: ‘There is ample evidence that physical aggression on TV is associated with increases in aggressive behaviour, but there was little until this study that has shown a link between televised aggression and resulting aggression among children.’ Professor Douglas Gentile, who led the study, said content ratings on TV programmes should provide detailed information on the aggression shown. The U.S. introduced a ratings system in the mid-1990s but the idea has not been picked up in Britain.
Studies show that violence on television does have an adverse affect on children and the way they think and act. This is true not only for young children, but some recent studies indicate that watching violence on television can even impact adults. We know that for the most part, children learn from both experience and social learning or role modeling. Therefore, when children, especially young children, see violence on television, they have a difficult time differentiating between what is real or what is make believe, and tend to emulate or copy what they are seeing. Furthermore, there is a chemical change in the brain, similar to that which is seen in post-traumatic stress disorder; if enough violence is viewed, the brain reacts as if the person doing the viewing has actually been abused. This is especially true if the violence is one sided, as in the case of sadistic violence. Now add to this the fact that children who watch violence on television have brains that are still developing, and you can see how really dangerous TV viewing can be. We know, for instance, that children are psychologically affected by having less empathy, a characteristic we see in bullies; that they are more likely to use aggressive strategies to solve their problems rather than to search for more peaceful methods of conflict resolution; that they tend to be more reactive rather than proactive — relying more on knee-jerk reactions to resolve frustrations; and finally, that they appear to be more fearful of social relationships which make them bite before they can be bitten. This perception of danger, when coupled with a lack of empathy, can lead to sadistic behavior. Moreover, children seeing too much violence on TV are more likely to be argumentative, as they have dispensed with the slow caution of inhibitors. These children act out in class and are more likely to be the class bully. Since they seem to be less patient than their counterparts, studies show that children who watch too much violence on TV appear to be more unwilling to cooperate, and delay gratification. Therefore, they seem to demonstrate a strong sense of entitlement. In addition, there are other potential dangers to violent TV viewing and one of the most disturbing is that young children become more violent themselves as teenagers, and tend to have more encounters with the law as adults. What can parents do about it? Parents have a number of remedies at their disposal and they include:
- Parents have the power to moderate their children’s TV viewing. Parents are entitled to parent and that includes checking in every once and a while to monitor what their children are actually watching on TV.
- Parents can and should establish house rules for TV viewing. This means how many hours a week, where TV is to be watched, as well as what kind of programming.
- Parents should supervise their children’s TV viewing by watching at least one episode of whatever their children’s selections are so that the parents decide if the programming is appropriate.
- Parents should monitor news programs. Repetitive violence in the news is very disturbing to a young mind. Such violent overload can be directly linked to changes in the brain similar to that seen in abuse. In fact, these changes can actually be viewed on an MRI.
- Parents should view current events on television with their children so that they can explain any confusing or inappropriate material to their children.
- Just say “no” to offensive programming. That is what it is to be a parent.
- Encourage your children to spend their free time in ways other than TV watching, such as reading a good book during the week and watching TV only on the weekends; outdoor sports; arts and crafts; journal writing and playdates with peers can alter, and even break, the hypnotic TV habit.
- Boundaries are important to you and your children. Set them by creating new models for family time that are interactive rather than passive.
- Show your children the inspirational part of TV, such as the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, Biography, and Nova.
- Finally, parents must be what they want to see. Modeling is an essential part of parenting, and since we know that violence on TV negatively affects adults as well, lead your family to healthier viewing and happier living together.
Appendix 5 – Questionnaire featuring the questions which the participants who volunteered were asked.
- What age is your child?
- What gender is your child?
- How many hours of TV does your child watch per day?
- Of those hours how many hours would you consider what your child watches to be violent?
- How many hours are you aware of what your child is watching on TV?
- Does your child show any heightened signs of aggression after being exposed to the violence which they witness on TV?
- If so, does that aggression last for a short period of time or along period of time?
Appendix 6 – Participant 1’s response
- 6-8 hours per day
- 5 hours
- Fully aware, they tend to watch TV as a family and he rarely spends time watching TV whilst alone turning to other means of entertainment.
- Yes, there is an increase in his levels of aggression. Mainly vocal but tends to be physical signs of increased aggression such as fighting roughly with siblings.
- Half an hour, at the least.
Appendix 7 – Participant 2’s response
- 11 years old
- 4 hours per day.
- 1 hour at the most.
- Again, only 1 hour.
- At times increased levels of aggression in terms of how to speak to others but not physical.
- A short period of time.
Appendix 8 – Participant 3’s response:
- 14 years old
- 3 hours per day.
- All 3.
- The majority of the time, I think what she watched is violent but not all of the time so 2 hours max.
- Next to no signs of heightened aggression the majority of the time but at times yes.
- On the rare occasion I do see signs of heightened levels of aggression it doesn’t tend to last long, short term.
Appendix 9 – Participant 4’s response:
- I have two children, one aged 10 and my eldest is 13 years old.
- My daughter is 10 and my son is 13.
- My son watches about 5 hours a day but my daughter only watches around 3 hours per day.
- 2 for my son’s TV shows and at least half of that for what my daughter watches.
- I’m only really aware for about 3 hours of what my son watches but all the time for my daughter.
- My son does but not my daughter.
- My son – for at least half an hour after viewing
Appendix 10 – Participant 5’s response:
- 17 years old.
- 8 hours per day
- 4 hours
- The hours I’m aware of what he’s watching on TV, he always seems to be watching violent TV shows.
- There’s a noticeable increase, yes.
- An hour, sometimes a little longer but not very long after an hour, really.
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