What has the world come to these days? It often seems like everywhere one looks, violence rears its ugly head. We see it in our streets, back alleys, school, and even in our own homes. Ironically enough in our own homes sits a television that is arguably on e of the major providers of violence. But does television influence society s attitude towards violent behavior? In order to fully answer this question we must first define what violence is. Violence is the use of one s powers to inflict mental or physical injury upon another; examples of this would be rape or murder. Through the course of this essay it will be proven that violence in television is a major factor in the rise of violence in society. It will be proven that the television and the children who view it are often pulled into its realistic world of violence scenes with sometimes devastating results.
Television with its far-reaching influence spreads across the globe. Its most important role is that of reporting the news and maintaining communication between people around the world. Television s most influential, yet most serious aspect is its shows for entertainment. Violent children s shows like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and adult shows like NYPD Blue and Homicide almost always fail to show human beings being able to resolve their differences in a non-violent manner, instead they show a reckless attitude that promotes violent action first with reflection on the consequences later. In one episode of NYPD Blue three people were murdered in the span of an hour. “Contemporary television creates a seemingly insatiable appetite for amusement of all kinds without regard for social or moral benefits” (Schultze 41). Findings over the past twenty years by groups such as: the Surgeon General, Attorney General s Task Force on family Violence, the American Medical Association, the National Institute of Mental Health, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other medical authorities indicate that televised violence is harmful to all of us, but particularly to the mental health of children (Medved 70-71). In 1989 the results of a five-year study by the American Psychological Association indicated that the average child has witnessed 8,000 murders and 100,000 other acts of violence on television by the time he or she has completed sixth grade. In further studies it was determined that by the time that same child graduates from high school he or she will have spent 22,000 hours watching television, twice as many hours as he or she has spent in school (Bruno 124). These figures a re astonishing and undeniable. And in result have lead to a backlash.
Many studies have been performed to see if any ties could be made to violence on television and the violence in society. In a study by the Centers for Disease Control, published by the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), it was shown that homicide rates had doubled between the introduction of television in the 1950 s and the end of the study in 1994. In that same study other possible causes for the vast increases in violence were studied, “the baby boom effect, trends in urbanization, economic trends, trends in alcohol abuse, the role of capital punishment, civil unrest, the availability of guns, and exposure to television”(Lamson 32). Each of these purposed causes was tested in a variety of ways to see whether it could be eliminated as a credible contributor to doubling the crime rate in the United States, and one by one each of them was eliminated, except for television. Children average four hours of television per day, and in the inner city that increases to as much as eleven hours a day, with an average of eight to twelve violent incidents per hour. It is also interesting to note that violence occurs some fifty-five times more often on television than it does in the real world (Medved 156). FBI and census data shows the homicide arrest rates for seventeen-year-olds more than doubled between 1985 and 1991 and the rates for fifteen-and sixteen-year-olds increased even faster. These figures are only few of the many that are attainable. There is a clear relationship between television violence and the increase in violence in society.
Movies that are shown on TV eventually also add their fair share to the problem of violence in society. “Researchers have established that copycat events are not an unusual. Statistically speaking, they are rare, but predictable occurrences. Television shows and especially movies can trigger copycat violence” (Medved 72). As recently as November of 1995, New York City officials believed that the burning of a toll booth clerk was a result of copycat violence, resulting from a similar scene in the movie Money Train. In 1994, Nathan Martinez shot and killed his stepmother and half sister after watching the movie Natural Born Killers at least six times. Later, Martinez, who had shaved his head and wore granny sun glasses like Natural Born Killer s main character Mickey Knox, reportedly told a friend, “It s nothing like the movies”(Purtell 57). In a 1993 film, The Program, there was a scene showing college football players lying in the center of a highway in an attempt to show their courage and dedication to their sport. This movie was later blamed for inspiring real-life imitators; (one of who died). In numerous experiments based at pre-schools, researchers have observed children playing before and after seeing violent movies and television shows. “Following the violent program the children s play is invariably more aggressive. They are much more likely to hit, punch, kick, and grab to get their way. In other words, violent entertainment teaches children how to use aggression for personal gain” (Medved 75). It is also hard to believe that movies like Rambo III and Terminator 2, which showed countless killings plus nuclear holocausts, have at one time had their own line of children s action figures even though both movies are rated R. One must seriously consider the idea that the movie studios are targeting a younger and easily influenced main audience.
Another piece of research was on children who watch a lot of violent television in comparison to children who don t. Results were that the children who watched more violent television were more likely to agree that it is okay to hit someone if you are mad at them for a good reason in contrast to the other group that solved its problems passively (Cheyney 46). Television violence obviously affects the child s 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. The effects of this violence can be long lasting, if not never-ending. This can force the child into maturing early. As the child matures into an adult, he can become bewildered, have a greater distrust towards others, have a superficial approach to adult problems, and even an unwillingness to become an adult (Carter 14). This is a major problem that can effect a person forever, all caused by violence on television.
So one may wonder why children like the violence that they see on television? Violence is depicted more often and in a vicious manner on television than that which children normally experience, real-life aggression appears bland by comparison (Dorr 127). The violence on television is able to be exaggerated since it is not real, making it 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 don t always realize this is not the way thing are handled in real life, thus come to expect it, and when they don t 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. Resulting in the child s need to create a play world full of violence to keep themselves satisfied (Dorr 127). Also the children find the violent characters on television fun to imitate, these characters are more attractive to the viewer than those the viewer can think up himself (Brown 98). This has been widely seen lately with the advent of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and other shows. Young children cannot seem to get enough of these fictional characters and will portray them often.
These are all negative results of television that must be prevented. With all of this evidence it is hard to ignore the fact that violence in television can cause violence in society. This paper has now shown that there are copycat killers who get the idea for their crimes from movies and TV shows. It has also been shown that the more violent movies and television children watch the more likely they are to become aggressive and violent. With the evidence showing that violence in television uses real life violence, it is very hard to say that violence in entertainment is justifiable. When little children and adults alike, fall victim to television s violent influence it is not justifiable and it is especially not justifiable when violent television creates real life victims.
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. We could shame those who make the violent movies and television shows into having a social conscience, making them less prone to creating violent entertainment. A good example of such entertainment is Michael Landon s Little House on the Prairie, which managed to show conflict without violence. His goal was to put moral lessons in his show in an attempt to teach while entertaining. On the program Hill Street blues 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 49). Teaching children a lesson. 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. Parents are the child s role models from which they learn. If children can learn at an early age that violence on television is bad, then they can turn the set off for themselves when they are older. Education should start at home. And it can all start with a push of a button.
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