Brainwashing America’s Youth
Over many years of research, studies have found that the television violence has increased. Certain “role model” type characters initiate most of these violent behaviors. These are usually very aggressive incidents and they very often include humor. “The average American preschooler who watches mostly cartoons is exposed to over 500 high-risk portrayals of violence each year” (DeGaetano). Youth violence has been growing throughout the years. Some effects noticeable in children are mean behavior towards others, aggressive actions while playing with classmates and toys, and also fear.
Television has an important influence in the lives of children today. In many households it is the center of activity for the children, or acts as a baby-sitter. What goes on during these shows can have a great influence on a child’s behavior, as children often imitate what they see. Three different types of shows include educational, cartoons, and all a prime-time comedies. A young audience watches all these. Television shows that I viewed included Barney and Friends, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and The Simpsons. Barney and Friends is a show on PBS, and the show is geared at preschoolers. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a cartoon watched mostly by young boys. The Simpsons is a show which airs both at primetime and in syndication during early evening hours, more likely to be geared at an adult audience but children watch it too. Some acts of verbal and physical aggressions in these television shows are included in these programs, which were not really appropriate for children.
Barney and Friends focuses on a big purple dinosaur playing with little children in a classroom. This was the least violent show, lacking any physical or verbal aggression. This show was basically about the children getting along with each other, sharing and singing. There was no name-calling or anything offensive for children’s eyes. Some simple learning lessons were incorporated into this program, such as the days of the week and counting. This is a show which really only has the appeal of preschoolers, not going on to much of an older age group. Perhaps the lack of violence in this show may not get the attention of an older audience. More shows like this with an educational influence are needed on Television.
A show like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to be more violent for children, but very fictional. This show is centered on four-foot tall turtles that are “good guys” and fight off enemies with their karate moves and special weapons. The verbal aggression might include name-calling such as “little brat” and threatening each other but in a very silly manner. Some of the physical aggression shown are rats getting electrocuted, running from the police, and fighting off the evil villains with their skilled karate moves. The turtles are made out to be heroes in fighting off the enemies and proving victorious. I would say that this show generally would have the appeal of boys ten and under. The physical aggression is there but it is very much a fantasy, with turtles doing the fighting.
The most offensive for children would have to be a show like The Simpsons. This show is a comical satire cartoon that is geared at an adult audience, but is on early enough for children to watch it. A man keeling over and dying during a contest to eat a sixteen pound steak, birds pecking at Milhouse, a young boy character, or Homer taking an overdose of crank to keep himself awake, and an overdose of sleeping pills simultaneously are definitely some aggressive acts that children should not be viewing. Many acts of violence on the show include battles between truck drivers, in which they were slashing each other’s tires, threatening each other, and almost purposely crashing the truck. Homer also got a big laugh as he attempted to run over an old lady. I feel this show is really meant for a more mature audience, not young children.
The amount of aggression increases with the average age of the audience. Barney geared at the youngest audience had zero aggression, whereas the Simpson’s geared at adults, had countless acts. The Simpson’s acts of verbal and physical aggression were about equal with each other. In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the acts of verbal aggression were lower than the physical aggression. I feel that these numbers are pretty accurate with the popular beliefs on children’s programs today. Parents feel safer with a PBS program that is educational than anything does that is on during prime time on a big networks nowadays, and with good reason.
Being that the aggression take place in cartoons, it was very much fantasy. Cartoon characters can suffer many violent accidents without a scrape, yet we all know that’s not the same for a human. Characters were either cheered on or got many laughs out of the violence they inflicted. Children may not only learn violence from these programs, but they may also learn to think that there are not consequences for their actions. They may think they can violate one another without being punished, or without inflicted any pain, because cartoons do not suffer realistically.
I would want to place some limitations upon my own children’s television viewing. I would base these rules on the age and the maturity of my child. If my child were at a young and influential age I would not really want him viewing any adult programs such as the Simpson’s. I feel that as a parent it is also important to place time restrictions on a child to ensure that they are not watching too much television These time restrictions may include the hours a child can watch, and until what time are appropriate programs on. I would also want to take the time out to see what exactly my children were watching, so I could judge for myself. The television should not be the only influence a child has to learn values from, that is the job of a parent.
These ideas are usually hard for the average, busy parent or teacher. Some advice given from the author in the article is not allowing screen violence in the home or classroom. Cartoons with violence or “R” rated movies should not be allowed. Knowing your children is the best idea. Make sure they are old enough to distinguish the difference between fantasy and real life. When they get to a certain age, like around 9 years old, they can learn to “understand, discuss, and appreciate sensitive portrayals of media violence which can teach empathy and respect for life” (DeGaetano). Violence gathers a big audience, people are interested in looking at blood and gore. The thing about children is that they don’t realize that imitating these acts of violence could result in harm or death.
Some other advice given to parents is not buying violent video games. Waiting until the child is over the age of 12 to even get a system is a good idea. This way they won’t be that interested in the violent games. The author feels that if everyone takes out a little time to help the problem it will decrease. The audience needs to act smarter than the media producers. “Pick an action. Take action. It’s the only way what we imagine can be our reality” (DeGaetano).