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Television Violence and the Effects on Children

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There is no doubt that television has changed the world and how we view it. With just the point and click of a button, the viewing possibilities are endless. Violence on television is practically inescapable for many television viewers as even network television shows often showcase some manner of violence during a season. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), the typical child in America will watch between three and four hours of television daily. The AACAP also suggests that children are highly impressionable, thus increasing the possibility of encouraging acts of violence later in life (Facts for Families 1).The reasons why television affects children can be summed up into three areas: desensitization, imitation, and their moral values.

There has been overwhelming evidence that suggest viewing violent aggressive behavior on television, does in deed directly affect children. Children are great imitators. Imaginary play and modeling their favorite characters are commonplace among the young. Children can and readily do imitate what they see. Just ask any parent whose child has learned their ABC's by watching Sesame Street. They will all tell you that child watched Big bird, Ernie, and other characters reciting the alphabet over and over. After repeated viewing their child began reciting their ABCs from memory. This act alone reinforces the idea that through imitation and repeated exposure children can learn. Learning violence is no exception. It can be imitated and learned in the same manner as how the alphabet was committed to memory. The only difference is when children watch negative behavior, it is that negativity that they learn and mimic. It is not something as harmless as the ABCs. Authorities on child behavior agree that what a child watches does indeed affect their behavior. According to the AACAP, "Extensive viewing of television violence by children causes graters aggressiveness." (Facts for Families 1).

Desensitization can also play a role in a child's negative behavior. It occurs when children become physically and emotionally unresponsive to the violence and aggression they see on television. It is a fact that people react both physically and emotionally when they experience an episode of violence. It is an involuntary response and occurs even if the event is real or being portrayed fictitiously. After repeated exposure to violence, the typical psychological and physical response can cease. Desensitization to violence occurs when a child repeatedly views it on television. Children who continually view violence on television become desensitized and no longer conceder violence in the realm of fear, and can readily accept it as common behavior. This in turn can impact a child in a way that will not hinder him or her from acting out violently or aggressively.

Some people will argue that children actually learn morals and life lessons from some violence on television. In shows such as Power Rangers, X-Men, and Justice League, the good guys always win and the bad guys are always punished. This idea helps children realize that bad acts are punishable. They will more often identify with the heroes in the story, and they themselves will aspire to be one of the good guys. There is no question that children can learn bad acts punishable by watching the so-called good guys win. The problem is it also teaches the children how to handle the wrong doings by the bad guys. More often or not there is a huge battle between good and evil being portrayed on the screen. Those that are identified as being the good guys often use violence to subdue the evil wrong doers. This can include fighting, punching, kicking and other acts of aggression. The fact of the matter is, children are being taught violence solves problems. This fact is evident in a joint statement issued at the Children Congressional Public Health Summit. Several prominent pediatricians claim, "Children who see a lot of violence are more likely to view violence as an effective way of settling conflicts." (Cooke et al. 1) It is also evident in the way children portray their favorite super hero. It is not hard to imagine a child who is pretending to be a super hero. The majority of them will draw their fist, pull out a pretend sword, or take a karate stance as if readying themselves to fight a battle. The reality is that ever super heroes teach children violence is acceptable. This in turn can cause children to act aggressively, even when their intention is to do good.

What about the children who identify with the bad guys? There are those that argue it is actually the child's own negative disposition that causes aggressive behavior. Children aggressive by nature will have a genre of television shows that encompass a large amount of violence. Their predisposition creates an urge for these types of shows. Their hostile behavior is not a result of violence they are viewing, but from their own inclination of violence. This concept might hold true as to why they choose shows with violence. The argument is not what aggressive children choose to watch, but the effects of what they are watching. The fact of the matter is, allowing these types of children to view violence only encourages their own negative behavior. Because



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