Many kids enjoy relaxing in front of the television and taking in their favorite programs, but when these programs are rich in violence, this simple viewing could have a lasting impact. Researchers have long wondered about the impact that viewing violent programs has upon children. In an attempt to prove or disprove this correlation, researchers from an assortment of organizations, including the American Academy of Children and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Medical Association have dedicated themselves to studying this phenomenon, and their work havs yielded some results that could be important to parents.
Impact of Violence on TV
During childhood, Americans view a copious amount of violence. As the American Medical Association reports, before the age of 18, youths will view approximately 200,000 acts of violence on television. The study that yielded these results found that not only does this excessive amount of violence have an impact on children, it has more of an impact on children than it would on adults, as children are more impressionable and prone to becoming desensitized than adults.
Reason for Impact
Children feel the effects of violence on television more than adults because they lack the real-world experience that guides adult interactions with violence. Children see things more literally, reports LimitTV.org. This means that children may struggle to understand that the violence that they see on television isn’t the same as violence in the real world. They may also struggle to understand that violence in the real world results in real-world consequences, unlike the temporary consequences they see on television.
Just as small children will attempt to repeat words that they hear others utter, children often mimic acts of violence that they see on television. Because they do not see the potential consequences of these acts when they view them on television, it doesn’t appear to them that their mimicry could result in another that would injure them or others.
As children grow, they determine how they will react to different situations. The development of this plan is called “cognitive scripting.” As LimitTV.org reports, viewing violent programming can have a negative impact on the cognitive scripts that children develop. When they see every conflict dealt with through violence, they develop the idea that this is the way to deal with conflict.
Parents can do much to reduce the impact that the viewing of violent programs has on their children. The American Academy of Children and Adolescent Psychiatry recommends that parents monitor their children’s television viewing and try to select programs that are not rich in violence. When children do view violence, parents can minimize the impact of this viewing by discussing this with them and explaining the difference between real and make-believe, potentially helping their children realize that what they see on TV differs from what they may experience in the real world.