Okay, as a nation, we’re talking about guns.
We’re talking (at least a bit more) about mental health.
Isn’t time we also talked about violence in our culture?
Especially in the media, which both reflects and shapes our culture?
We’re more than willing to acknowledge the effect that the language we use, the activities we participate in, and the general environment at home, school and play, has an effect on the development of children.
We’re more than willing to encourage children to watch educational television shows (who doesn’t love Sesame Street still, after more than 40 years?)
We believe that team sports, music and art lessons, and even science and math clubs, make enjoyable yet meaningful after-school learning, so much so that parents spend a lot of money and time on these activities.
We understand that encouraging reading isn’t enough—if we want to develop critical thinking skills, creativity, and other abilities, what children read is as important as the fact that they are reading.
Educators, from early learning through high school and beyond, spend incredible amounts of time developing curricula using a variety of tools: video, film, computer, audio, and of course the spoken and written word because these are all effective ways of delivering content which inspires, educates, and influences.
We’re beginning to realize that use of video games (especially those of the violent sort), can actually be an addiction, one which leads to anxiety, depression, social phobia, and poorer grades in school, not just because of studies‘ results, but because of personal experience. Anyone who has ever tried to set healthy time limits with an adolescent who’s played video games without time limits before, will tell you how hard this is to achieve.
We know instinctively (not just because of studies which show the deleterious effects), that parking a toddler or older child in front of the TV or computer for hours, no matter how educational the program may be, isn’t the way to raise children.
(You can weigh in on our TV for kids on our poll.)
We’ve got to admit it: violent movies, television programs and video games do have an effect on our children, and, our culture.
In 2003 the American Psychological Association released the results of a 15 year study which shows that childhood exposure to violent media predicts aggressive behavior in young adults.
The Surgeon General weighed in too, saying that the landmark 1982 study done by the National Institute of Mental Health on the effects of violence on television show that: Children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others, children may be more fearful of the world around them, and that children may be more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways toward others.
In a hearing before the U.S. Senate in 2007, Dale Kunkel, PhD reported on a major study done during the 1990s about the effects of violence in media and the effect on children. He said:
The statistical relationship between children’s exposure to violent portrayals and their subsequent aggressive behavior has been shown to be stronger than the relationship between asbestos exposure and the risk of laryngeal cancer; the relationship between condom use and the risk of contracting HIV; and exposure to second-hand smoke in the workplace and the risk of lung cancer.
There is no controversy in the medical, public health, and social science communities about the risk of harmful effects from children’s exposure to media violence. Rather, there is strong consensus that exposure to media violence is a significant public health concern.
(You can read the full report about the presentation to the Senate on Television and Violence at the American Psychological Association web site.)
Kunkel also said:
…in reviewing the totality of empirical evidence regarding the impact of media violence, the conclusion that exposure to violent portrayals poses a risk of harmful effects on children has been reached by the U.S. Surgeon General, the National Institutes of Mental Health, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and a host of other scientific and public health agencies and organizations.
The American Pediatric Association’s policy statement on media violence says:
Exposure to violence in media, including television, movies, music, and video games, represents a significant risk to the health of children and adolescents.* Extensive research evidence indicates that media violence can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed.
What say the rest of us?
*Emphasis, ours. You can read the policy statement, here.
This statement at Princeton-Brookings Future of Children organization is pointed and decisive:
Despite many reports that exposure to violent media is a causal risk factor, the U.S. public remains largely unaware of these risks, and youth exposure to violent media remains extremely high.
Read the full statement.
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Last reviewed: 4 Feb 2013