Children's Entertainment
A 1982 report by the National Institute of Mental Health confirmed an earlier study done by the Surgeon General and concluded that "Violent programs on television lead to aggressive behaviour by children and teenagers who watch those programs."

The American Psychological Association passed a resolution in February 1985 warning the public of the potential dangers of children watching violent television programs.

The Research Showed children who watch a lot of violence on television are:

  • more likely to become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others.
  • more fearful of the world around them.
  • more likely to behave in aggressive ways toward others.
  • more likely to act out the violence they see on TV in playing.
  • more likely to commit violent acts.
  • less bothered by violence in general.
  • more likely to eventually commit crimes.

Kids who watched violent programs were slower to intervene or to call for help when they saw younger children fighting or playing destructively than kids who watched non-violent ones.

Studies by George Gerbner, Ph.D., at the University of Pennsylvania, showed that children's TV shows contain about 20 violent acts each hour.

Another study determined that children's TV show had about four times more violent acts than occurred in general audience programming.

Children have often been observed behaving differently after they've watched violent programs. In a study by Pennsylvania State University, "about 100 preschool children were observed both before and after watching television; some watched cartoons that had a lot of aggressive and violent acts in them, and others watched shows that didn't have any kind of violence. The researchers noticed real differences between the kids who watched the violent shows and those who watched non-violent ones." "Children who watched the violent shows, even 'just funny' cartoons, were more likely to hit out at their playmates, argue, disobey class rules, leave tasks unfinished, than those who watched the non-violent programs," says Aletha Huston, Ph.D., now at the University of Kansas.

Leonard Eron, Ph.D., and his associates at the University of Illinois, found that "children who watched many hours of TV violence when they were in elementary school tended to also show a higher level of aggressive behaviour when they became teenagers." By observing these kids until they were 30 years old, Dr. Eron found that "the ones who'd watched a lot of TV when they were eight years old were more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for criminal acts as adults."

1992, the American Psychological Association's Task Force on Television and Society published a report called, Big World, Small Screen: The Role of Television in American Society, that confirms the harmful effects of TV violence.

Conversely, studies show that programs that demonstrate helping, caring and cooperation can influence children to become more kind and considerate.

The U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher recently released a report on youth violence which found that: "Exposure to violent media plays an important causal role in this societal problem" of youth violence, the draft report states. "From a public-health perspective, today's [media] consumption patterns are far from optimal. And for many children they are clearly harmful."
  The LA Times reported(1) that the study found that: "Men who as boys had watched violence most frequently, that study found, had "pushed, grabbed or shoved their spouse" at twice the rate of other men and had been convicted of crimes at three times the rate of other men. Similar effects were found for women.
     In another study cited by the authors, college students who played the violent video game "Marathon 2" generated 43% more aggressive responses in later tests than those who played a non-violent game. And in another study, researchers found that young black men who watched a violent rap music video were more likely to endorse the use of violence in a hypothetical conflict situation than those who watched a non-violent rap video."
     "The scientific evidence is murky. The conclusions of some of these people don't measure up," said Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Assn. of America. Valenti added that many violence studies are flawed because they are usually done in laboratories, and that it is impossible to predict future behaviour based on exposure to violence."
     "You can be a football player and be aggressive. That doesn't mean that when you grow up you want to blow somebody's head off," Valenti said.(1)

From the National Institute on Media and the Family:

  • By the time an average child (one who watches two to four hours of television daily) leaves elementary school, he or she will have witnessed 8,000 murders and over 100,000 other acts of violence (Huston, 1992).
  • By the time a child is 18 years old, he or she will witness (with average viewing time) 200,000 acts of violence including 40,000 murders (Huston, 1992).
  • On an individual day, there are about 5 to 6 violent acts per hour on prime-time television, and 20 to 25 acts of violence on Saturday morning children's television (Gerbner, 1990).
  • Weekly, in the United States, this adds up to about 188 hours of violent programs or about 15% of the program time (Huesmann, 1992).
  • Many popular R-rated films available on video contain far more violence than seen on commercial television.
  • Children with VCR or cable access have seen more R-rated films than their non-cable, non-VCR counterparts (Huston, 1992).
  • Since 1955, reports, studies and congressional testimonies by experts in the field have overwhelming concluded that "the mass media are significant contributors to the aggressive behaviour and aggression related attitudes of many children, adolescents and adults" (Surgeon General, 1972; National Institute of Mental Health, 1982; American Psychological Association, 1992).
  • Two large meta analysis studies have been conducted on research linking media violence to aggression in children. One looked at 67 studies and over 30,000 subjects (Andison, 1977). The other looked at 230 studies and almost 100,000 subjects (Hearold, 1986). Both supported a number of conclusions: "First, there is a positive association between televised violence exposure and behaviour. Second, exposure to violent programming not only increases aggressive behaviour, but is associated with lower levels of prosocial behaviour."

The National Association for the Education of Young Children focuses on three effects of media violence on children:

  • "Children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others" (desensitisation).
  • Children "may be more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways towards others" (increases aggression).
  • Children "may become more fearful of the world around them" (Mean World syndrome).

Many factors in the portrayal of media violence contribute to its affect on children and teens (Comstock, 1994):

  • Is the aggressive behaviour on screen rewarded or punished?
  • Is the violence gratuitous, is it justified or does it lack consequences?
  • Does the viewer identify with the aggressor or the victim?
  • Does the viewer become engaged with or aroused by the violence on screen?
  • What is the age of the child? Although violence affects children of all ages, middle childhood, ages 8 to 12, seem particularly sensitive.
  • What is the total amount of television watched?
  • Does the child see television violence as realistic?

From the National PTA:

The final year of the three year National Television Violence Study, released April 16, 1998, finds that TV violence continues to pose a serious risk of harm to children. Some of the major findings were:

  • There was no change in the overall level of violence in reality programming across the three seasons. In the 1996-97 season, 39 percent of reality programs contained visually depicted violence compared with 37 percent in the 1995-96 season and 39 percent in the 1994-95 season.
  • Ratings based on age-like those used for movies and not television shows-actually increased children's interest in restricted programs, but none of the content-based systems had this effect.
  • The violence on television is still frequently glamorised. Physical aggression is frequently condoned. Over 37% of violent programs feature "bad" characters who are never or rarely punished anywhere in the plot, and good characters are hardly ever criticized for violence. 75% of violent scenes contain no form of punishment for the aggression. This glamorisation of violence poses risks for the audience. Children will imitate violent characters who are heroic or attractive.
  • Plots that can encourage aggression in young children are concentrated in programs and channels targeted to young viewers. In a typical week, there are over 800 violent portrayals that qualify as high risk for children under 7. Cartoons are primarily responsible.
  • Plots that can encourage aggression in older children and teens are concentrated in movies and dramas. Unlike younger children, adolescents are capable of discounting portrayals of violence that are highly fantastic, such as cartoons. Older viewers are susceptible primarily to more realistic portrayals of violence. In a typical week, there are nearly 400 episodes of violence that are considered high risk for teens.
  • Most violence on television remains sanitized. Violence is typically shown with little or no harm to the victim. In fact, more than half of the violent incidents on television depict no physical injury or pain to the victim.

Social science research conducted over the past 40 years supports the conclusion that viewing violent television programming has negative consequences for children, and research suggests three areas in which watching violent television programs can impact young viewers:

  • Media violence can encourage children to learn aggressive behaviour and attitudes.
  • Media violence can cultivate fearful or pessimistic attitudes in children about the non-television world.
  • Media violence can desensitise children to real world and fantasy violence.

Some statistics from the Centre for Media Education (CME):

  • Most children watch an average of 3 to 4 hours of TV per day, approximately 28 hours each week.
  • Each year, most children spend about 1500 hours in front of the TV and 900 hours in the classroom.
  • By age 70, most people will have spent about 10 years watching TV.
  • Prime-time TV contains about 5 violent acts per hour compared to an average of 26 violent acts per hour during Saturday morning children's TV.

1 - Surgeon Gen. Links TV, Real Violence - Jeff Leeds; Los Angeles Times: Jan. 17, 2001
*Andison, F.S. "TV violence and viewer aggression: A cumulation of study results". Public Opinion Quarterly, 1977, 41, pp. 314-331.
*Comstock, G.A. and Paik, H. "The effects of television violence on antisocial behaviour: A meta-analysis," Communication Research, 1994, 21, pp. 516-546.
*Hearold, S. "A synthesis of 1043 effects of television on social behaviour" in Comstock's Public Communication and Behaviour (Vol. 1), San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1986.
*Huesmann, L.R. Violence in the mass media, paper presented at the Third International Conference on Film Regulation, London, England, 1992.
*Huston, A.C., et al. Big world, small screen: The role of television in American society. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1992.
*Gerbner, G. and Signorielli, N. Violence profile, 1967 through 1988-89: Enduring patterns, Annenberg School of Communication, 1990.
*National Institute of Mental Health. Television and behaviour: ten years of scientific progress and implications for the eighties, summary report (Vol. 1). Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1982.
*National Association for the Education of Young Children. Young children, 1990, 45(5), pp.18-21.
*Surgeon General's Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behaviour. Television and growing up: The impact of televised violence. Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1972.

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