Most parents think that violence in the media is fairly harmless.
Recent research has shown that:
1. There is a 12% increase in aggressive behavior after watching violent television.
2. Heavy television viewers (4 or more hours a day) put in less effort at school, have poorer reading skills, play less friendly with friends, have fewer hobbies and activities, and are more likely to be overweight.
3. There is a connection between playing violent video games and aggressive behavior.
The American Psychological Association states there are 3 major effects of watching violence in the media (i.e., video games, movies, television):
- kids tend to be more fearful of the world around them
- kids tend to be more likely to behave in aggressive or hurtful ways toward others
- kids tend to become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others
Everything that kids see or hear in the media early on in their lives affects them in some way. Parents are told that -- in the best interest of their kids -- they should limit their exposure to violent acts. Unfortunately, violence is one of the most popular forms of entertainment. Over 60% of television shows being shown in prime time contain some form of violence.
Current research tends to argue that violent media is associated with aggressive behavior, for example:
- decreased emotional response to the portrayal of violence and injury that lead to violent behavior through imitation
- increased feelings of hostility
- lack of remorse for consequences
- violence against others
The Academy of Pediatrics states that more than 1,000 scientific studies and reviews conclude that significant exposure to media violence:
- desensitizes kids to violence
- increases the risk of aggressive behavior in certain kids
- makes kids believe that the world is a “meaner and scarier” place than it is
If kids begin to think that this type of violence is normal behavior these thoughts are often said to be difficult to change later on in life. This is similar to the studies of domestic violence where kids who are exposed to violence either become offenders or victims because they believe that what they are exposed to is the norm.
Another view from researchers suggests that performing violent acts in video games may be more influential to kid's aggression than passively watching violent acts on television. According to this view, the more kids “practice” violent acts, the more likely they are to perform violent acts.
The National Coalition on Television Violence reported there has been a consistent increase in the number of violent themed video games. These games increased from 53% in 1985 to 82% in1988. The agreement among researchers on television violence is that there is a significant increase (from 3% to 15%) in individuals' aggressive behavior after watching violent television.
It should be noted that violent media are not the only cause of kids committing violent acts. The involvement of moms and dads in what their kids watch, how the family interacts with each other, and what the kids are exposed to in their environment are additional indicators of how they will behave and what value system they will follow.
Violent behavior in kids and teens can include a wide range of behaviors:
- cruelty toward animals
- explosive temper tantrums
- fire setting
- homicidal thoughts
- intentional destruction of property
- physical aggression
- threats or attempts to hurt others
- use of weapons
Parents and teachers should be careful not to minimize these behaviors in kids. Whenever a parent or other adult is concerned, they should immediately arrange for a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified mental health professional. Early treatment by a professional can often help.
The goals of treatment typically focus on helping the youngster to:
- accept consequences
- address family conflicts and school problems
- be responsible for his/her actions
- express anger and frustrations in appropriate ways
- learn how to control his/her anger
In addition, the following strategies can lessen or prevent violent behavior:
- Early intervention programs for violent youngsters
- Family support programs
- Monitoring youngster's viewing of violence on TV/videos/movies
- Parent training
- Prevention of youngster abuse
- Sex education and parenting programs for adolescents
Help for Parents with Violent Children and Teens