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How much time does your child spend in front of the television? What are theyre watching? These are two very important questions for parents to ask themselves. Why? Studies have shown that children are learning more about life from media than in any other manner. (Nielson Media Research, 1993) Now, that is a sad truth. One would think that this information alone would be enough to make a parent stop, take a step back and evaluate how their children are spending their time. Evidently it isnt, because the average American child continues to spend approximately twenty-eight hours a week in front of a T.V. (Nielson Media Research. 1993) As long as the mothers and fathers of Americas youth continue to drag their feet in identifying, evaluating and taking a proactive approach to eliminating the bombardment of entirely way to much violence into the 99% of American homes in which televisions reside (Nielson Media Research,1995) our children will continue to get dumber, lazier, fatter and not to mention more violent.
The consumption of violence through television has been on an upward trend since the 1950s. At that time only 10% of American homes had televisions and the programming consisted of shows such as I Love Lucy, Lassie and Father Knows Best. (tqjunior.thinkquest.org/5676/history.html) By the 1960s the number of people with televisions in their homes had increased to fifty million and the programming now consisted of violent demonstrations, presidential assassinations and the Vietnam War. (tqjunior.thinkquest.org/5676/history.html) Now here we are forty-one years later. The number of televisions in the home has increased to 99%, in fact more families own a television than a phone. (Nielson Media Research, 1995)
A number of studies have been conducted in the past thirty years to mark the correlation between television and violence. One of which was by a man named Brandon
Centerwall from the University of Washington who conducted studies in the U.S., Canada and South Africa linking exposure to violent television with increased physical aggressiveness and violent criminal behavior among children. (www.benton.org/News/Extra/media061799.html) As a matter of fact, another study of population data for various countries showed homicide rates doubling within 10 to 15 years after the introduction of television, even though television was introduced at different times in each site examined. (Centerwall, BS: Exposure to television as a cause of violence. In Comstock G (ed): Public Communications Behavior. Orlando, Fla.: Academic Press Inc; 1989, 2: 1-58) If T.V. violence can be linked to increased physical aggressiveness more so than poverty, race, or parental behavior (Leonard Eron and Rowell Huesmann, www.abelard.org/tv/tv.html); and homicide rates doubled within 10 to 15 years of introducing television in various countries; and the number of households in America who own a television has increased by more than 80% in the last forty one years, then maybe just maybe parents should be at least somewhat concerned with the amount of T.V their child is viewing not to mention the subject matter in which they are being exposed.
A startling study revealed that the average American child will witness over 100,000 acts of violence including more than 8,000 murders via television by their 13th birthday. (Center for Media and Public Affairs, 1992) Parents might ask themselves, which programs could my child be watching. Deceivingly enough 46% of all T.V. violence takes place in cartoons. (National Television Violence Study, issued by Mediascope, February, 1996.) If cartoons contain almost half of all violence aired on television and those types of programs are predominately viewed by children under the age of 13, who is truly at risk here? According to psychologist Rowell Huesmann of the University of
Michigan our children are. He and others say that the most delicate and critical years in a childs development occur between the ages of six and eight. At this time, he says, youngsters are learning social behavior that will last them throughout their life. (www.abelgard.org/tv/tv.htm) A study conducted by Leonard Eron, a colleague of Huessmans, in 1960 that lasted twenty-two years validates Huessmans ideas. Eron conducted a longitudinal study involving over 800 eight-year-old boys. By tracking their viewing habits and behavior patterns, Eron concluded that those youngsters who viewed the most violent programs growing up, were the most likely to engage in aggressive and delinquent behavior by the age of 18 and serious criminal behavior by the age of 30. (www.abelard.org/tv/tv.htm) One final study should be noted in order to remove any remaining doubt in the minds of parents or critics who still believe television is harmless. The CDCs Youth Risk Behavior Survey is a school-based survey designed to produce a nationally representative sample of risk behaviors among students in grades 9-12. Between July 1, 1994 and June30, 1998 a survey was conducted in order to identify youth violence in schools. Their findings yielded 173 separate incidents; the majority of which were homicides and involved the use of firearms. (www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/schoolvi.htm) All of the cited are absolutely overwhelming. It is fair to say that not all of the 173 violent incidents reported by the CDC were directly related to a particular television program that drove the perpetrator to commit an act of violence against a fellow classmate. Nonetheless, something must be done to restrict the flow of violence into our homes if we so desire it.
In 1989 an engineering student at Simon Fraser University spent fourteen days cooped up in his dorm room watching movies. After this, he massacred fourteen students on campus. Obviously there was more to this than some guy watching a few movies then going on a killing spree. Nonetheless this prompted another engineering student by the name of Tim Collins to invent what is known as the V-chip or violence ship. (tqjunior.thinkquest.org/5676/collings.html) The purpose of the V-chip is to block television shows with inappropriate content or violence. The V-chip reads the rating code, created by a committee made up of parents, television broadcasters, television programming producers, cable operators and public interest groups, given for the television shows, except for news, sports, and premium cable channels, interprets them and compares the it to the values preset by the parents. Next, it sends a signal to your television giving it instructions to block shows whose rating exceeds the preset values given by the parents. If kids try to break or disconnect the device, the television screen will show the word, TAMPER. (tqjunior.thinkquest.org/5676/vchip.html)
On February 8, 1996 President Clinton and Vice President Gore signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, also known as the V-chip bill, that among other things has forced the enactment of the rating system for television shows. (tqjunior.thinkquest.org/5676/markey.html) Also, as of last year all new television set that are 13in or greater were required to have a V-chip installed. (tqjunior.thinkquest.org/5676/vchip.html) Parents should know that theyre not alone in the fight against violence and other inappropriate behavior being accessed by their children at home via their television. Along with former President Bill Clinton, Representative Markey from Massachusetts, Senator John McCain of Arizona and Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut as well as others in Washington who all believe restrictions are needed, parents have the support as well as the opportunity to rid their children of inappropriate television programming. The fact still remains. It is up to the parents to discipline their children. Whether it be to turn of the television during family meals or placing limits on what your children can watch and how much, some sort of discipline is needed.
Next time your child sits down to watch television take an hour out of your busy schedule to sit down with them and really watch some of the programs they are watching and youll see that what I am telling you is true.
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