Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Violence in the Media

The National Television Violence Study found that 60% of television programs contain violence. Another study concluded that when the average American child completes elementary school, he/she will have viewed 8,000 murders and more than 100,000 other acts of violence on TV (Huston, Donnerstein, Fairchild, Feshbach, Katz, & Murray, 1992).

What effects does all of this violence have on its viewers? In an article entitled "Media and Violence," Bushman tells us of four different types of effects violence has on viewers:
  • Aggressor effect- increases aggressive behavior. Numerous studies have been done to back this up.
  • Victim effect- increases fear of becoming a victim of violence. People who watch greater quantities of TV tend to be more distrustful and see the world as a more dangerous place.
  • Bystander effect- decreases sympathy to victims of violence. Viewers of violence become desensitized to it.
  • Appetite effect- increases desire to watch more violence. As viewers watch violence, they tend to want to see more extreme acts of violence.
Judging from the above list, I think most people would agree that the effects of watching violence are not desirable for us or for our children. What can parents do to help their families combat this problem? The following ideas come from the Bushman article mentioned above:
  • Become educated from reliable resources on violence and its effects.
  • Hold a family meeting and decide what the media standards are in your home.
  • Be selective about what you watch. Check the TV program ratings. Try to avoid turning on the TV just to channel surf. Plan ahead for what you would like to watch.
  • Set a good example for your children in your own media choices.
  • Limit the amount of TV, video game, and internet time your children have.
  • Have TVs and computers out in the open in your home, not in bedrooms. This will allow parents to better monitor what their children view.
  • If you happen to see a violent act while watching TV with your child, explain to them why the person used violence and how they could have solved the problem more effectively.
  • Let the television networks know when you are offended or frustrated with violent programming.
Hopefully we can set good media standards in our homes so that our children won't suffer from the negative effects of viewing violence. Although challenging, parents can help to counteract the influence of violent media.
How do you combat violent media in your own home? In what ways have you seen violent media affect individuals that you know?
The article "Media and Violence" by Brad Bushman can be found in the book Helping and Healing Our Families (2005).

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