"It's Just Harmless Entertainment"
Over 1000 studies –including a Surgeon General's special report in 1972 and a National Institute of Mental Health report 10 years later – attest to a causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children. Studies show that the more "real-life" the violence portrayed, the greater the likelihood that it will be "learned."
By age 18, a U.S. youth will have seen 16,000 simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, "The debate is over… For the last three decades, the one predominant finding in research on the mass media is that exposure to media portrayals of violence increases aggressive behavior in children."
The average youth living in the U.S. watches television 25 hours a week and plays computer games an additional seven hours.
Media violence may cause aggressive and antisocial behavior, desensitize viewers to future violence and increase perceptions that they are living "in a mean and dangerous world."
Children younger than 8 "cannot uniformly discriminate between real life and fantasy/entertainment… They quickly learn that violence is an acceptable solution to resolving even complex problems, particularly if the aggressor is the hero."
Television alone is responsible for 10% of youth violence.
"Violence is like the nicotine in cigarettes. The reason why the media has to pump ever more violence into us is because we've built up a tolerance. In order to get the same high, we need ever-higher levels… The television industry has gained its market share through an addictive and toxic ingredient."
Two overviews of existing studies conducted by the Surgeon General's office in 1972 and 1982 called television violence "a contributing factor to increases in violent crime and antisocial behavior."
"Not every child who watches a lot of violence or plays a lot of violent games will grow up to be violent. Other forces must converge, as they did recently in Colorado. But just as every cigarette increases the chance that someday you will get lung cancer, every exposure to violence increases the chances that some day a child will behave more violently than they otherwise would."
"A steady diet of violent content over time creates a culture that tells kids that violence is the accepted way we solve our problems."
Television violence can lead to imitation.
Witnessing repeated violent acts can lead to desensitization and a lack of empathy for human suffering.
The cumulative impact of violence-laden imagery can lead to a "mean-world" perspective, in which viewers have an unrealistically dark view of life.
66% of children (ages 10 to 16) surveyed say that their peers are influenced by TV shows.
65% say that shows like The Simpsons and Married… With Children encourage kids to disrespect parents.
62% say that sex on TV shows and movies influences kids to have sex when they are too young.
77% say there is too much sex before marriage on television.
44% of kids say they watch something different when they're alone than with their parents (25% choose MTV).
54% of kids have a TV in their bedroom.
Children spend more time watching television than in any other activity except sleep.
Television reaches children at a younger age and for more time than any other socializing institution except the family.
Research has shown that "mindless" television or video games may idle and impoverish the development of the pre-frontal cortex, or that portion of the brain that is responsible for planning, organizing and sequencing behavior for self-control, moral judgment and attention.
Children often behave differently after they've been watching violent programs on television. Children who watched violent shows were more likely to strike out at playmates, argue, disobey authority and were less willing to wait for things that children who watched nonviolent programs.
Reducing the amount of time grade-school children spend watching television games and watching television can make them less aggressive toward their peers.
In considering decisions about contraceptives, STDs and sexual health choices, teens are almost as likely to get their information from TV (60%) as from a health care provider (62%). [Kaiser Family Foundation, 5/23/01]
Please visit the PTC website at www.parentstv.org for more info.