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Violence as Depicted In the Media

There is endless controversy today concerning the way society is effected by media violence. The National Association for the Education of Young Children reports that violence in the media has been on the rise since 1980 and continues to increase. This is in correlation with actual violent acts and many studies that link television violence to imitations across the nation. In recent years, violence and portrayals of violent acts have increased in the media. Network television shows depict murder, rape and beatings. Before completing elementary school, the average child will witness 100,000 acts of violence and 8,000 murders. By the age of 18, those figures will have doubled.

Years of research show that exposure to media violence causes children to behave more aggressively, both immediately and in their adult years. This aggressiveness has lead to violent acts in the past. Many of these events could have been avoided if violence was not viewed on television. The United States Constitution states in an amendment that all citizens have freedom of speech and press. In other words, it is acceptable to portrait violence in the media and let it have its effect on society without being legally responsible for what is shown.

Aggression is not the only issue involved. Statistics show that children who spend more time watching violent TV programming are rated more poorly by their teachers, rated more poorly by their peers, and have an inadequate ability to use problem solving skills. Media professionals dispute this, and tell us that television has no effects other than those intended. They conclude that television does not lead to aggressive behavior, yet they have no formal research on which to base their claims. Do these media executives and professionals truly believe what they are saying, or is it more like Phillip-Morris claiming nicotine is not addictive? The media will always fight to keep its freedom to air just about anything, but when it comes to school shootings, violent cartoons and grotesque murder scenes, the line must be drawn on what to show, and how many times the network will be allowed to show it.

Some believe that history has shown us that violence issues will not influence a child's mind. Society cannot continue to allow our future generations to be exposed to violence portrayed in the media today. The United States government needs to set limitations to the amount of violence depicted on television. Violent programs should be moved to later time slots, and channel blocking chips should become standard in all TVs. The need for change and action regarding this matter is constantly growing greater, and will continue to do so until the problem is remedied.

If fewer children are growing up watching violence on television, society will gradually progress in a less aggressive nature. The violence today depicted on television has already affected our country. When children kill, it makes the news, and more children see those events on the news and believe that violence may be the solution. Power Rangers is a television show in which there is constant hand to hand and gun fighting until the very end where a very weak attempt at moral education is offered. Children have been known to imitate such things, and a few of the incidents of Power Ranger imitation have caused injury to one or more of the children. If these violent programs continue to run, we may find ourselves with more frequent and more violent acts of aggression.

Television violence does kill. As a result of television violence, people have died and crimes have been committed. In the past two years, the criticism for MTV’s Jackass has forced the network to pull the show because of increasing imitation and pressure from parents and organizations. However, before the show was removed from its timeslot, and most likely the largest cause of Jackass’s removal was the two young boys who after watching an episode where a trained professional put on a fireproof suit and barbecued himself, poured gasoline on each other and then struck a match.

In Nevada, one teen-aged child was killed and two others seriously injured while lying down along the centerline of a highway. The boys admitted that they were imitating a scene from the Touchstone movie, "The Program". The accident and publicity made Touchstone remove the scene from the movie, yet they left other violent scenes, including one in which a student purposely smashes his head through a car window.

In Ontario, a five year-old boy set his house on fire, killing his younger sister. The boy's mother blamed his actions on the MTV show "Beavis and Butthead". Several incidents of violence on school grounds have occurred over the past year. One incident relating TV violence to real-life violence is the school yard killing of five people in Arkansas. Two young boys aged 11 and 13 killed four schoolgirls and a teacher. Mark Huckabee, the Arkansas Governor blamed a national culture of violence "fueled by film and television" for the killing. He told CNN the following:

"I think what makes all of us angry is that our culture would create the kind of atmosphere where an 11 or 13 year old student could feel that the way to respond to whatever kind of anger is inside of them, is to take weapons and shoot their fellow students and teachers. But I'm not sure we could expect a whole lot else in a culture where these children are exposed to tens of thousands of murders on television and movies and we desensitized human life."

These few of many incidents prove to us that society is obviously being influenced due the violence featured on television. Some so-called experts say that violent children's programming is no different from fairy tales, and back then when there were no televisions extremely violent tales of heroes and villains had no effect on the children. However, television is very different from fairy tales, and stories told by people for many reasons. First, children are visual learners. Television is more visual, more striking, and more intense than tales that are read to children. Having tales read to by parents allows commenting and discussion about what happened in the story, and what could have been done. Reading stories out loud gives parents the opportunity to share family values with their children.

Some believe that television does not lead to aggressive behavior, yet hundreds of studies have shown that acts of aggression are the result of witnessing violence on television. Unfortunately, many children have come to see violence as a normal and accepted way of life. Researchers have determined that the high level of real violence in our society is worsened by so many children having a regular habit of watching media violence. The Media scope National Television Violence Study proves that there are three main effects that TV violence has on children; learning aggressive attitudes and behaviors, becoming desensitized to real world violence, and developing a fear of being victimized by violence.

On television, violence is the attractive, effective, and the preferred solution to conflicts. Often, the hero of the movie or show is not the hero until the enemy is killed. If two children are playing and both want to be the hero, one must “kill” the other to become victorious. It is when this play-fighting goes too far that children get hurt, or even killed. Dr. D. Pearl of the National Institute of Mental Health argues that “television tells people to be violent” The viewers watch so many violent acts on television, it causes them to think violence is an accepted way of life. A study has shown that “young children in a group that watched a Power Rangers episode committed seven times more aggressive acts in a following two minute play period than did a control group.”

Children who often view violence on television may lose the capability to deal, protest, and become distressed by real acts of violence. They become less bothered by violence and see nothing wrong with it. For example, in several case studies children who view a violent television program instead of a nonviolent one were slow to intervene or to call for assistance when they saw younger children fighting or playing harmfully. As a result of the tremendous amount of research done in the past years, we can conclude that violence on television is clearly influencing the youth of our nation in negative ways. Violence illustrated in the media today poses a threat to our society, our children and generations to come.

We can continue to ignore the issues and let the media control the future of our world, yet the consequences are deadly. Children have always been more vulnerable to influence, thus the future of society depends on how our children view the world. By limiting the amount of violence children view, our world can become a safer place for everyone, and the generations to come can grow up peacefully. We all value our personal safety, and by allowing children to view such things promotes a more aggressive culture, we endanger that safety.

This is not to say that the complete elimination of violence is the answer. Rather, a gradual reduction in the violence shown on television during the children’s viewing hours coupled with parental supervision and early detection of aggressive imitation is what I advocate. So we must control the things children watch, ensure that they do not imitate violence in their play, and become better parents.

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