The Effects of Television Violence on Children
Children and Televison Violence
What has the world come to these days? It often seems like
everywhere one looks, violence rears its ugly head. We see it in the
streets, back alleys, school, and even at home. The last of these is a
major source of violence. In many peoplesÕ living rooms there sits an
outlet for violence that often goes unnoticed. It is the television,
and the children who view it are often pulled into its realistic world
of violence scenes with sometimes devastating results.
Much research has gone into showing why children are so
mesmerized by this big glowing box and the action that takes place
within it. Research shows that it is definitely a major source of
violent behavior in children. The research proves time and time again
that aggression and television viewing do go hand in hand.
The truth about television violence and children has been shown.
Some are trying to fight this problem. Others are ignoring it and
hoping it will go away. Still others donÕt even seem to care. However,
the facts are undeniable. The studies have been carried out and all the
results point to one conclusion: Television violence causes children to
be violent and the effects can be life-long.
The information canÕt be ignored. Violent television viewing
does affect children. The effects have been seen in a number of cases.
In New York, a 16-year-old boy broke into a cellar. When the police
caught him and asked him why he was wearing gloves he replied that he
had learned to do so to not leave fingerprints and that he discovered
this on television. In Alabama, a nine-year-old boy received a bad
report card from his teacher. He suggested sending the teacher poisoned
candy as revenge as he had seen on television the night before. In
California, a seven-year-old boy sprinkled ground-up glass into the the
lamb stew the family was to eat for dinner. When asked why he did it he
replied that he wanted to see if the results would be the same in real
life as they were on television (Howe 72). These are certainly
startling examples of how television can affect the child. It must be
pointed out that all of these situations were directly caused by
children watching violent television.
Not only does television violence affect the childÕs youth, but
it can also affect his or her adulthood. Some psychologists and
psychiatrists feel that continued exposure to such violence might
unnaturally speed up the impact of the adult world on the child. This
can force the child into a kind of premature maturity. As the child
matures into an adult, he can become bewildered, have a greater distrust
towards others, a superficial approach to adult problems, and even an
unwillingness to become an adult (Carter 14).
Television violence can destroy a young childÕs mind. The
effects of this violence can be long-lasting, if not never-ending.
For some, television at its worst, is an assault on a
childÕs mind, an insidious influence tat upsets moral
balance and makes a child prone to aggressive behavior
as it warps his or her perception of the real world.
Other see television as an unhealthy intrusion into a
childÕs learning process, substituting easy pictures for
the discipline of reading and concentrating and
transforming the young viewer into a hypnotized
nonthinker (Langone 48).
As you can see, television violence can disrupt a childÕs learning and
thinking ability which will cause life long problems. If a child cannot
do well in school, his or her whole future is at stake.
Why do children like the violence that they see on television?
ÒSince media violence is much more vicious than that which children
normally experience, real-life aggression appears bland by comparisonÓ
(Dorr 127). The violence on television is able to be more exciting and
enthralling than the violence that is normally viewed on the streets.
Instead of just seeing a police officer handing a ticket to a speeding
violator, he can beat the offender bloody on television. However,
children donÕt always realize this is not the way thing are handled in
real life. They come to expect it, and when they donÕt see it the world
becomes bland and in need of violence. The children then can create the
violence that their mind craves.
The television violence can cause actual violence in a number of
ways. As explained above, after viewing television violence the world
becomes bland in comparison. The child needs to create violence to keep
himself satisfied (Dorr 127). Also the children find the violent
characters on television fun to imitate. ÒChildren do imitate the
behavior of models such as those portrayed in television, movies, etc.
They do so because the ideas that are shown to them on television are
more attractive to the viewer than those the viewer can think up
himselfÓ (Brown 98). This has been widely seen lately with the advent
of the Mighty MorphinÕ Power Rangers. Young children cannot seem to get
enough of these fictional characters and will portray them often.
Another reason why television violence causes violence in
children is apparent in the big cities. ÒAggressive behavior was more
acceptable in the city, where a childÕs popularity rating with
classmates was not hampered by his or her aggressionÓ (Huesmann 166).
In the bigger cities, crime and violence is inevitable, expected and,
therefore, is left unchecked and out of line.
Much research into the topic of children and television violence
has been conducted. All of the results seem to point in the same
direction. There are undeniable correlations between violent television
and aggression. This result was obtained in a survey of London
schoolchildren in 1975. Greensberg found a significant relationship
between violence viewing and aggression (Dorr 160),
In Israel 74 children from farms were tested as well as 112
schoolchildren from the city of Tel Aviv. The researchers found that
the city children watched far more television than their farmland
counterparts. However, both groups of children were just as likely to
choose a violent program to watch when watching television. The city
children had a greater tendency to regard violent television programs as
accurate reflections of real life than the farm children. Likewise, the
city boys identified most with characters from violent programs than did
those living on the farms (Huesmann 166).
The government also did research in this area. They conducted
an experiment where children were left alone in a room with a monitor
playing a videotape of other children at play. Soon, things got Òout of
handÓ and progressive mayhem began to take place. Children who had just
seen commercial violence accepted much higher levels of aggression than
other children. The results were published in a report. ÒA Sergon
GeneralÕs report found some Ôpreliminary indications of a casual
relationship between television viewing and aggressive behavior in
childrenÕÓ (Langone 50).
In other research among U.S. children it was discovered that
aggression, academic problems, unpopularity with peers and violence feed
off each other. This promotes violent behavior in the children
(Huesmann 166). The child watches violence which causes aggression.
The combination of aggression and continued television viewing lead to
poor academic standings as well as unpopularity. These can cause more
aggression and a vicious cycle begins to spin.
In yet another piece if research children who watch a lot of
violent television were compared to children who donÕt. The results
were that the children who watched more violent television were more
likely to agree that ÒitÕs okay to hit someone if youÕre mad at them for
a good reason.Ó The other group learned that problems can be solved
passively, through discussion and authority (Cheyney 46).
The most important aspect of violence in television is
preventing it. There are many ways in which it can be prevented, but
not often are many carried out. These solutions are easy to implement,
but are often overlooked because of commercial purposes.
One such solution is to Òcreate conflict without killing.Ó
Michael Landon, who starred in and directed ÒLittle House on the
PrairieÓ managed to do so in his programs. His goal was to put moral
lessons in his show in an attempt to teach while entertaining. On the
program ÒHill Street BluesÓ the conflicts are usually personal and
political matters among the characters. Although some violence does
occur, the theme is not the action, but rather its consequences (Cheyney
Perhaps the most important way to prevent children from watching
television violence is to stop it where it starts. The parents should
step in and turn the set off when a violent program comes on. The
parents are the childÕs role models from which he learns. If he can
learn at an early age that violence on television is bad, then he can
turn the set off for himself when he is older. Education should start
Fixing the problems of children and television violence isnÕt
easy. There are many factors that have to be considered and people to
be convinced. This problem will, no doubt, never go away and continue
to get worse as the years go by. However, there are measures that can
be taken to prevent the children from ever being exposed to such things.
After all, whatÕs the world going to be like when the people who are now
children are running the world?
Langone, John. Violence. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1984.
Cheyney, Glenn Alan. Television in American Society. New York:
Franklin Watts Co., 1983.
Howe, Michael J. A. Television and Children. London: New
University Education, 1977.
Husemann, L. Rowell. ÒSocial Channels Tune T.V.Õs effects.Ó
Science News 14 Sept. 1985: 166.
Door, Palmer. Children and the Faces of Television. New York:
Academic Press, 1980.
Carter, Douglass. T.V. Violence and the Child. New York: Russel
Sage Foundation, 1977.