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Studies have indicated that before the age of four, children often do not distinguish between fact and fiction. Hence, exposure to virtual violence from such a vulnerable age may end up normalizing it for them. This normalization is aided by the fact that in children’s media, violence is shown in a ‘justifiable’ light – it is a means for conflict resolution where the good guy uses violent means to “knock off the bad guy”. This may encourage children to think that it is okay to resort to violent means when they feel threatened. Further, this can also desensitize children to others’ pain and suffering the lead them to believe that the world is generally a dangerous place. In a 2009 Policy Statement on Media Violence, the American Academy of Paediatrics said, “Extensive research evidence indicates that media violence can contribute to aggressive behaviour, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed.”
The Media Violence Commission of the International Society for Research on Aggression (ISRA) in its report on media violence said, “Over the past 50 years, a large number of studies conducted around the world have shown that watching violent television, watching violent films, or playing violent video games increases the likelihood for aggressive behaviour.” Research prior to 1990 documented that children learn behaviours and have their value systems shaped by media.
The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) has recommended guidelines, revised recently, to address television violence (2009):
The AAP also makes recommendations to the entertainment industry to avoid violent content that when violence is present, there are adequate warnings provided to the public.
No such guidelines exist in India. The Indian Academy of Paediatrics should take the lead in formulating and implementing the guidelines to help parents and children to develop healthy media using habits (Ray and Jat 2010).
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