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Society has been bombarded with violence from the beginning of time. These concerns about violence in the media have been around way before television was even introduced. Nevertheless, there have been numerous studies, research, and conferences done over the years on television, but the issue still remains. Researchers do acknowledge that violence portrayed on television is a potential danger. One issue is clear though, our focus on television violence should not take attention away from other significant causes of violence in our country such as: drugs, inadequate parenting, availability of weapons, unemployment, etc. It is hard to report on how violent television effects society, since television affects different people in different ways. There is a significant problem with violence on television that we as a society are going to have to acknowledge and face.
First it was newspapers that were thought to cause juvenile crime. Then in the 1920's the movie screen rolled around, and its violent content alarmed many. Following World War II, violence and brutality in comic books was a huge concern in our society. Then came the television, a staple in American households around 1960. Once the television was introduced a lot of questions were raised over what effect this might have on children. Would it corrupt them, or make them more able to deal with the real world around them? Would it change their behavioral patterns? Would it help or hinder their development?
As early as 1958 investigations were being conducted of the effects of television on children. During this time, the researchers found that most of the television content was extremely violent. In almost half of the television hours monitored, the programs main focus contained violence. The common theme that was seen throughout the programs were crime, shooting, fighting, and murder. The universal definition of violence used was, "Any overt depiction of the use of physical force, or the credible threat of such force, to intend to physically harm an animated being or group of beings." In this investigation, Wilbur Schramm concluded that under some conditions, some violent television could effect some children. For the most part, most television is neither helpful or harmful to most kids under most circumstances. As you can see this conclusion is quiet vague, and does not give a lot of crucial information for us to correct and improve. Schramm and his colleagues came up with a solution for parents to provide a warm, loving, secure family environment for their children, and they would have little to worry about.
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The same common themes were seen in television programs years later. The common findings in television violence on children still remain mostly the same. Most television violence happens at a close range, between people that do not know one another, and involving some kind of a weapon. The perpetrator is most commonly young, middle-aged males, white, colored, and foreign. The consequences of television violence is usually unrealistic. In most cases the perpetrator is unpunished for his violent acts, and most victims do not experience any significant amount of pain or harm. The overall message of these programs is that violence is shown and seen on television as a means of resolving problems, and reaching goals. Very few television programs actually focus and emphasize on anti-violence themes.
Most researchers came to the same common conclusion about violence on television and how it effects children. Robert Liebert and Robert Baron concluded, in a laboratory situation, that watching a violent program or scene made children more willing to be aggressors. They also found that children who watch violent acts that are rewarded not punished, were more likely to become violent within their own behavior. Mark Lefkowitz did a study over a 10 year period, that found watching violent t.v. regularly led to aggressive behavior. He even said that the television habits an 8 year old acquires would influence him to have aggressive behavior throughout his childhood and into adolescence. A field study, done by E.D. McCarthy depicted that viewing violence on television directly related to fights, conflicts, and delinquency. Some researchers even tapped into how the brain learns and stores this information. A child could have aggressive behavior which can be learned and then stored for future use. All of these studies, and many more point to a specific connection of viewing television violence and having aggressive behavior.
Ratings and advisories have been introduced to play a role in viewing decisions. Movies are rated according to their content. G, is for general audiences, PG, parental guidance, PG-13, Parental guidance for children under the age of 13, R, parental guidance for children under the age of 18, and NC-17, no children under 17 are admitted. "Parental discretion," and "Viewer discretion," are advisories that are used on television programs on scenes that contain violence, nudity, etc. The sad thing is that these ratings and advisories influence the choices of the children's viewing. For example, boys ages 10-14, who saw "parental discretion" advisories, PG-13, and R ratings on programs found these more attractive. While girls, ages 5-9, saw these advisories and rating to make the show less attractive. Precautionary actions have been introduced to try and reduce this connection between violence on t.v and aggressive behavior, but more could be done.
Violence on t.v. is very common today as it was 30 years ago. It is very difficult to actually say how television violence affects its viewers. Television programs have different effects on different people. There are also a number of other factors that influence the way television affects people such as: attitudes, knowledge, interests, how much t.v. you watch, etc. It cannot be suggested that this phenomenon of television violence is a single, significant cause of the affects on society. We have to consider a large number of factors. It is going to take a lot more than rating, advisories, and cleaning up the t.v. schedule to deal and prevent the problem of violence in America. We should not blame television while ignoring our own responsibilities as parents, caretakers, and adults.
A study of the nature of violence and televison
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility Papers.[List of articles containing TV censorship info]
Information on individual television programming screening.[V-Chip]