Media Violence In Children’s Lives Media Violence in Children’s Lives During the past decade, America has witnessed an alarming increase in the incidence of violence in the lives of children. On a daily basis, children in America are victims of violence, as witnesses to violent acts in their homes or communities, or as victims of abuse, neglect, or personal assault. The causes of violent behavior in society are complex and interrelated. Among the significant contributors are poverty, racism, unemployment, illegal drugs, inadequate or abusive parenting practices, and real-life adult models of violent problem-solving behavior. At the same time that there has been an increase in the number of reported violent acts directed at children, there has been an increase in the amount and severity of violent acts observed by children through the media, including television, movies, computer games, and videotapes, and an increase in the manufacture and distribution of weapon-like toys and other products directly linked to violent programming. In response, Governing Board appointed a panel of experts to guide the development of initiatives and resources to assist teachers and parents in confronting the issue of violence in the lives of children.
This position statement addresses one aspect of the proble — media violence — and is the first in a series of projects the Association plans to address this important issue. We have chosen to address the issue of media violence first because, of all the sources and manifestations of violence in children’s lives, it is perhaps the most easily corrected. The media industry ought to serve the public interest and ought to be subject to government regulation. The responsibility of adults and of public policy to protect children from unnecessary and potentially harmful exposure to violence through the media and to protect children from television content and advertising practices that exploit their special vulnerability (Huston, Watkins, & Kunkel, 1989). Television and other media have the potential to be very effective educational tools for children. Research demonstrates that television viewing is a highly complex, cognitive activity, during which children are actively involved in learning (Anderson & Collins, 1988). Therefore, supports efforts to use media constructively to expand children’s knowledge and promote the development of positive social values.
Supports measures that can be taken by responsible adults to limit children’s exposure to violence through the media is an important details Such efforts include but are not limited to: legislation requiring reinstatement of guidelines for children’s television by the Federal Communication Commission, including requirements for videotapes and elimination of television programs linked to toys legislation limiting advertising on children’s programming, and standards for toys to ensure that they are not only physically safe but also psychologically safe legislation enabling the development of voluntary television-industry standards to alleviate violence in programming, specifically exempting such efforts from anti-trust regulation promotion of more developmentally appropriate, educational programming that meets children’s diverse needs for information, entertainment, aesthetic appreciation, positive role models, and knowledge about the world (Huston et al., 1989) development and dissemination of curriculum for teachers to improve children’s critical viewing skills and to teach nonviolent strategies for resolving conflicts development of resources to assist parents in the constructive and educational use of media with their children During early childhood, the foundation is laid for future social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development. During this formative period, young children are particularly vulnerable to negative influences. In most instances, children have no control over the environmental messages they receive. Up until age seven or eight, children have great difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality, and their ability to comprehend nuances of behavior, motivation, or moral complexity is limited. This special vulnerability of children necessitates increased vigilance to protect them from potentially negative influences. Parents are ultimately responsible for monitoring their children’s viewing habits; however, parents cannot be omniscient and omnipresent in their children’s lives.
Parents need assistance in protecting their children from unhealthy exposure to violence. Therefore, limits must be placed on the content of programming directed at children. Restricting violence in children’s programming should not be considered censorship, any more than is protecting children form exposure to pornography (Carlsson-Paige & Levin, 1990). Likewise, industry standards to limit violence in children’s programming should be developed as action taken in the public interest. Rationale This position statement is based on research examining the amount of violence present in the media as well as the effect of exposure to violent programming on children’s development. Data clearly indicate that violence in the media has increased since 1980 and continues to increase.
In addition, there is clear evidence to support the negative impact of viewing violence on children’s development. How violent are the media for children? The problem of violence in the media is not new but has become much worse since the Federal Communication Commission’s decision to deregulate children’s commercial television in 1982. For example, air time for war cartoons jumped from 1-1/2 hours per week in 1982 to 43 hours per week in 1986 (Carlsson-Paige & Levin, 1987; Tuscherer, 1988). Children’s programs featured 18.6 violent acts per hour a decade ago and now have about 26.4 violent acts each hour (Gerbner, 1990). Adults need to recognize that the content of programming has changed, and as a result the potential for negative effects on children’s development is greater. Next to family, television and other media may be the most important sources of information for children, rivaling the school as a principal factor influencing their development. How do violent media affect children’s development? Research consistently identifies three problems associated with heavy viewing of television violence: Children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others; they may become more fearful of the world around them; and they may be more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways toward others (National Institute of Mental Health, 1982; Singer & Singer, 1984, 1986; Singer, Singer, & Rapaczynski, 1984; Rule & Ferguson, 1986; Simon, 1989).
Exposure to media violence leads children to see violence as a normal response to stress and as an acceptable means for resolving conflict. Of great concern to early childhood educators is the negative effect of viewing violent programs on children’s play. The importance of children’s imaginative play to their cognitive and language development is well documented (Piaget, 1962, 1963; Johnson, Christie, & Yawkey, 1987). Research demonstrates that watching violent programs is related to less imaginative play and more imitative play in which the child simply mimics the aggressive acts observed on television (NIMH, 1982). In addition, many media productions that regularly that regularly depict violence also promote program-based toys, which encourage children to imitate and reproduce in their play the actual behaviors seen on television or in movi …