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Television can be a powerful influence in developing value systems and shaping behavior. Unfortunately, children watch an average of 3-4 hours and sometimes much more of television daily where much of today’s television programming is violent.
Hundreds of studies of the effects of TV violence on children and teenagers have found that children may:
· Become "immune" or numb to the horror of violence
· Gradually accept violence as a way to solve problems
· Imitate the violence they observe on television
· Identify with certain characters, victims and/or victimizers
Extensive viewing of television violence by children causes greater aggressiveness and sometimes watching a single violent program can increase aggressiveness. Also children who view shows in which violence is very realistic frequently repeated or unpunished are more likely to imitate what they see.
Children with emotional, behavioral, learning or impulse control problems may be more easily influenced by TV violence and the impact of TV violence may be immediately evident in the child’s behavior or may surface years later. While TV violence is not the only cause of aggressive or violent behavior it is clearly a significant factor.
Because TV acts as a sedative on active toddlers and preschoolers it is one of the most tempting tools for mothers to use the television as an electronic babysitter but studies show the passive nature of TV viewing can hinder verbal expression and thinking skills.
Parents can protect children from excessive TV violence in the following ways:
· Pay attention to the programs their children are watching and watch some with them.
· Set limits on the amount of time they spend with the television
· Consider removing the TV set from the child’s bedroom
· Point out that although the actor has not actually been hurt or killed, such violence in real life results in pain or death
· Refuse to let the children see shows known to be violent and change the channel or turn off the TV set when offensive material comes on with an explanation of what is wrong with the program.
· Disapprove of the violent episodes in front of the children and stressing the belief that such behavior is not the best way to resolve a problem
· To offset peer pressure among friends and classmates, contact other parents and agree to enforce similar rules about the length of time and type of program the children may watch
The amount of time children watch TV, regardless of content should be moderated because it decreases time spent on more beneficial activities such as reading, playing with friends, and developing hobbies.
Still, there is a concern that given today’s technologically oriented society turning off the television just means that families are trading the television screen for computer games and Game Boy screens, therefore when the TV is off there should be a host of other activities that families should seriously focus on.
The influence of Music & Music Videos:
Singing and music have always played an important role in learning and the communication of culture as children learn from the role models what they see and hear. For many years some children’s television has very effectively used the combination of words, music and fast-paced animation to achieve learning.
Nowadays many parents are concerned about what their young children see and hear but as children grow older parents pay less attention to the music and videos that hold their children’s interest.
Music is often a major part of a teenager’s separate world and it is quite common for teenagers to get pleasure from keeping adults out of their special world causing adults some distress. The concern in the development and growth of teenagers is the negative and destructive themes of some kinds of music (rock, rap, hip-hop, heavy metals) including best-selling albums promoted by many major recording companies.
Examples of troublesome themes include the following:
· Advocating and glamorizing abuse of drugs and alcohol
· Pictures and explicit lyrics presenting suicide as an "alternative" or "solution"
· Graphic violence
· Sex which focuses on control, sadism, children devaluing women, and violence toward women
Parents can help their teenagers by paying attention to their teenager’s purchasing, downloading, listening and viewing patterns, and by helping them identify music that may be destructive whereas an open discussion without criticism may be very helpful.
Music is not usually a danger for a teenager whose life is balanced and healthy but if a teenager is persistently only preoccupied with music that has seriously destructive themes, and there are changes in his behavior such as isolation, depression, alcohol or other drug abuse, evaluation by a qualified mental health professional should be considered.
The Video Games Dilemma:
Depending on what games children play and how often, kids may develop improved hand-eye coordination, visual tracking abilities, strategic thinking and computer skills through playing with some video games. On the other hand persistent engagement in violent video games may:
· Stunt their brain growth
· Exposure to graphic violence
· Think and act aggressively
· Increases feelings of anger or hostility
· Significantly decreases positive helping behavior even in typically non-aggressive kids
· Become a rude or a mean kid
· Withdraw socially
· Lower their grades
· Sleep disturbances
· Physical effects such as obesity, headaches, repetitive stress disorders and even possible addiction
One of the greatest physical concerns is obesity resulting from increased screen time one of the major causes in the increasingly sedentary lifestyle and is widely identified as a major public health issue
“Whether it’s one child or a group playing video games, the only thing getting physical exercise is the joystick”
Studies found that teens who were not “naturally aggressive” but spend a lot of time playing violent video games were almost 10 times more likely to be involved in fights than “non-aggressive” teens who do not play violent video games.” The overall picture is that young people behave more aggressively after exposure to violent video games”
Solutions for Parents:
• Make sure your child has a lot of “real” experiences away from the computer, TV or video game
• Understand that video games are teaching machines, what shows up on the screen your child will learn
• Don’t buy a game because your child wants it check the rating if it’s rated M for mature don’t buy it
• Keep in mind that ratings are not always an accurate indicator of content. T-rated games (for teens) frequently also contain high levels of violence
• When selecting games, ask the following questions:
1. Does the game involve characters trying to harm others?
2. Does this happen frequently, more than once or twice in 30 minutes?
3. Is the harm rewarded in any way?
4. Is the harm portrayed as humorous?
5. Are nonviolent solutions absent or less fun than the violent ones? 6. Are realistic consequences of violence absent from the game?
• Limit screen time no more than two hours a day of total screen time including TV, video, computer and video games
• Limit video game time to no more than 5 or 6 hours/ week
• Keep children’s bedrooms “media free”, children with media in their bedrooms spend 5-6hours more per week in front of the screen than peers without bedroom media and they are also at 31% greater risk of obesity
• Keep violent video games out of your home and explain to your children why such games are harmful
• Teach nonviolent problem solving to your children
• Play the games with your children
• Set ground rules for where, when, what and how long your kids may play games
The biggest problem is most parents don’t believe there is anything they should worry about or that they need to understand what is in these games and that they should screen video games for their children.
“It is a myth that if you can tell it’s not real, it can’t affect you”