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Television and Violence in Children

Abstract

The value, attitudes and behavior of individuals are usually influenced by the type of television programs that they watch. Children are more likely to be affected in a negative way by viewing violent television programmes, in comparison with their adult counterparts, owing to their inability to distinguish between reality and fantasy. This study shall be concerned with the examination of how television violence impacts on children. A qualitative research design shall be adopted, with the subjects being third and fourth grade children. Data collection shall be via the use of interview questionnaires. Accordingly, they will be questioned on the types of programmes that they view, their frequency of viewing, and how they relate with their families and friends. It is hoped that the study shall shed more light on how violent television programmes impacts on children. Data analysis shall be by way of comparing the findings of this study relative to similar studies to establish existing discrepancies. This will then form the basis fro the discussion of the research findings. Ultimately, recommendations for future research studies shall be provided.

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Introduction

Empirical research studies indicate that televised violence impact greatly on the values, attitude and behavior of viewers. This is no different for the children viewers. Canton (2002, p. 1) argues that televised violence contributes to fear, aggression and desensitization of viewers. With regard to aggression, when children constantly view televised violence, there is a high chance that such a tendency could result in the viewers adopting behaviors that are aggressive in nature, in addition to changed values and attitudes. Consequently, there is the likelihood that viewers and more so children could end up applying aggression as a tool to enable them solve conflicts (Canton, 2002, p. 2). On the other hand, viewing of excessive violence on television may result in reduced sensitivity towards violence.

This research proposal is concerned with the exploration of television and violence in children. In this case, the study wishes to assess the impact that televised violence has on children. Accordingly, it is the intention of the study to interview children on the kinds of televised programs that they watch and assess the behavior that they portray to their families and friends. The study wishes to adopt a qualitative research design. In this case, a semi-structured interview questionnaire shall be administered to the study subjects, who will be children in their third and fourth grade of education. Throughout the process of data collection and compilation, ethical consideration shall be followed. The research findings from the study shall then be discussed, relative to similar related studies, and conclusions drawn. Ultimately, this shall pave way for recommendations for future related studies.

Background information

The act of children viewing television programs that are violent in nature, the manner in which children relate to characters on television, and the perceptions that they are bound to harbor on the issue of television violence in not only realistic, but also connected with the possibility of these children eliciting various forms of aggression later in life. This is both true for males and females alike.

A study that was carried out by the Center on Media and Child Health (2009, p. 3) classified those television shows that the respondents (who were all adults) frequently watched as children. In addition, the study participants were asked to provide their opinion on the issue of how realistic the violent situations that they witnessed on these programs were. The study also sought to examine the aggressive behavior of its respondents. According to the research findings of this study, those males who as children, were frequent viewers of television programs that were characterized by violence, had a higher chance of exhibiting various forms of violence to their spouses, such as shoving or pushing them. This was confirmed by interviewing the friends and relatives of the respondents.

In addition, the study, by retrieving from the archives the criminal records of these respondents, revealed that these men were more likely to have been convicted of one form of crime or another in their youths, about thrice the times that their fellow non-violent men were likely to have been convicted (Center on Media and Child Health, 2009, p. 3). What this would appear to suggest is that the effect that viewing of violent television programs has on the viewers differ across the gender divide. In this case, perhaps the question that we ought to ponder over is, are females less affected when they view violent television programmer when compared with their male counterparts?

According to Bushman & Huesmann (2001, P. 224), a gender difference with respect to aggression that is media-related has greatly witnessed a transformation over the years. Over the last 30 years, the sex roles of females in a majority of the industrialized nations have undergone a tremendous change. It is important to note however that such variations in terms of aggression usually builds up right from the young ages of the children. According to Bushman & Huesmann (2001, P. 224), watching of violent television programs has a higher likelihood to enhance the levels of aggression amongst younger viewers, and more so children, when compared with older viewers.

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Bushman & Huesmann, (2001, p. 227) have provided a number of reasons as to why children are especially more vulnerable to violent television programs, as compared to adults. To start with, it is quite hard for children to draw a line between reality and fantasy, at a time when everything they see appears real to them. Accordingly, there is a high chance amongst youngsters to attempt to ape impractical violence as aired by for example, fantasy shows and cartoons, when compared to say, the youth or adults. The latter group is especially less inclined to look at crime show for example, as being somewhat unrealistic. Those children that harbor the belief that violence aired on television is real as opposed to a fantasy have a higher likelihood of adopting violent behavior later in life. Preceding research studies indicate that violence as displayed on television through various programs is capable of enhancing aggression amongst children. This is especially the case when the forms of violence being aired are usually viewed as justified, as opposed to unjustified.

There is a need to appreciate the fact that younger children unlike adults are usually hard-pressed to comprehend for example, aggressive motives portrayed by cartoons aired on television. A number of researchers on the effect that television violence has on children have attempted to explore the possibility of children experiencing increased aggression after they have viewed violent music on television. Accordingly, these authors are of the opinion that music videos whose themes is mainly violence end up enhancing aggression. Separately, Bushman and Huesmann (2001, p. 227) have explored the role that is played by violent news programs with respect to the impact that they have on the level of aggression of children viewers. This is in comparison with other kinds of violence. The authors arrived at a conclusion that indeed, the levels of aggression amongst viewers usually increase following episodes of watching violent news. In addition, the authors contend that when children watch sports programmes that are aggressive in nature, there is a likelihood that the aggression levels of the children views could increase.

Literature review

According to the finding of psychological research studies hat have been carried out to assess the issue of children and televised violence, there are a multitude of effects that televised violence will have on children’s behavior. Some of these effects includes amongst others, copycat violence (that is, violence and crime imitation), lowered inhibition against aggressive behaviors, priming (that is, “triggering” of aggression impulsive acts), activities displaying (for example, interaction of children with adults, and socialization with the rest of the children). In addition, research indicates that television violence usually impacts in a negative way on the emotional balance of children (Bushman & Huesmann, 2001, p. 228). Accordingly, there is a chance that children who are overexposed to television violence may view the world around them as a scary and amen place to be in. There is also the chance that such children could expect that other individuals shall usually settle for physical violence as a means to resolving any conflict that they may find themselves in.

Even as a number of preceding research studies may have indicated that televised violence may enable the viewers to give vent to disparaging urges via fantasy, as opposed to acting these out relative to the targets in real-life, nevertheless present studies appears to opposed what they term as “catharsis hypothesis” (Bushman & Huesmann, 2001, p. 228). A majority of these studies have tended to lay more emphasis on the effect that television express higher levels of physical aggression, in addition to various forms of social behaviors following episodes of viewing violence on television, when compared with children that are between the ages of 9 and 10 years. As children approaches adolescence, the impact that violent television programmes have on the viewers (and more so physical aggression) appears to be more in the case of boys. The reverse is also true in the case of girls.

An article that was published in 2005 by Associated Press in Chicago reports on a school-based program whose intention is to dampen the use of video games and television amongst children. The article further indicates that as a result, there is the likelihood of children becoming less aggressive. This study had children in their fourth grade of study as the respondents. They were required to indicate the programs that they watched, and then asked by the lead researcher to keep off these programs for a period of 10 days (Associated Press, 2005, par. 4). In this case, the researcher attached to the television sets that the children watched a control device to discourage excessive viewing by children. This article would be useful to the study in hand, bearing in mind that it has attempted to draw a correlation between acts of aggression, and link these with increased viewing levels of televised violence.

Cantor (2002, par. 8) has explored the misunderstanding, at least from the point of view of the general public, regarding media violence. In this case, the article has cited research methodology on media violence by explaining that researchers into this area are not in a position to undertake for example, cohort studies of children exposed to various televised violence doses, and then after say, 15 years, when the children are now adults, assess whether or not there is a correlation between crimes committed by children, and the levels to which they were exposed to televised violence as children.

An article that has been written by the Center on Media and Child Health (2009) has examined how numerous studies have attempted to draw a correlation between on the one hand, prolonged exposure of children to violent media and one the other hand, detrimental health effects. In addition, this particular article by the Center on Media and Child Health has gone a step further, and explored how race and gender could impact on those children that frequently access televised violence. Further, the article exposes the fact that children that are overexposed to media violence performance dismally in school. Besides, they are also more likely to turn aggressive towards their peers, when compared with their counterparts that views violent programs at a lesser rate.

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Johnson, Cohen, Smailes, Kasen and Brook (2002, p. 2469) have endeavored to draw a correlation between on the one hand, acts of aggression amongst adults who as children were extensively exposed to violent television viewing. In this regard, the article provides evidence to support the claim that there is an association between televised violence and aggressive behavior. In addition, the article reports of a study that followed a group of individuals for a total of 17 years, to asses their television viewing trends, and their subsequent aggressive behaviors (or lack of) later in life. This is one of the advantages that this article has over other related studies, a majority of which do not report of follow-up studies that exceed a period of one year. Furthermore, the article illustrates how cohort studies that take more than five years are difficult to follow, both in terms of funding, and the consistency of the respondents. As a result, they are usually fraught with high rates of attrition. The authors of this article have however focused less on the issue of the specific television programs that are attributed more with acts of aggression and violence amongst viewers as children and later, in adulthood.

The Kaiser Family Foundation (2006) have published an article on television violence has endeavored to explore the issue of television violence. By borrowing from numerous research studies on the same area, this article has underscored the fact that various public health and scientific communities are of the opinion that when children are exposed to televised violence, this poses a risk to the psychological health, with the possibility of impacting on their behavior later in life (p. 5). One of the benefits of this article is that it has complied statistical evidence from child psychologist, on the issue of effects of televised violence on children. Moreover, the rate of prevalence of televised violence in the United States has been explored, based on the statistics of ‘The national televisions Violence Study’. Further, a number of scientific studies on the effects that television violence usually has on children have been examined as well. These studies have been backed by results from field and laboratory experiments, in effect making it a resource worth considering for inclusion in a study on children and television violence.

Moeller (2005, p. 10), through his article titled, “How ‘Unequivocal’ is the Evidence Regarding Television Violence and Children’s Aggression?” has attempted to criticize other writers on the issue of the influence that television violence normally has on children. To start with, the author has taken issues with an article titled, “The Influence of Media Violence on Youth,” and which received a publication in the Journal of psychological science. Moeller takes issue with this article when it asserts that in both the long-term and the short-term film and television violence could contribute to violent and aggressive behavior of its viewers, and more so the teenagers. In this case, Moeller has highlighted a number of problems that characterized the publication, one of which is the inability by its authors to give the exact descriptions of fundamental procedural elements of principle studies that the article may have borrowed from.

Moeller has noted that the authors of the publication were rather selective with respect to supporting their claims, yet they did not make room for other related studies which sought to contrast their position. As a result, these authors have arrived at a conclusion that the existing evidence that could implicate aggressive behavior to the act of viewing violent television programs could at best be regarded as weak. At this point, the article cautions the readers to be wary of such research studies that fail to take into account the views and opinions of proponents and opponents alike on televised violence.

An article written by the National Institute on Media and the Family has tackled the issue of children and media by first underscoring the impact of prolonged televised violence exposure to children and increased levels of aggressiveness as teenagers. In additional statistics on violent acts as witnessed in television programs meant for children have been highlighted. The article has indicated the percentage number of television programs meant for children that have been rated as violent. In addition, the article has drawn a positive correlation between on the one hand, media violence and on the other hand, aggressive ideas, behavior, anger and arousal amongst children.

Power (2009, par. 5) points out that children are more attracted to such a television entertainment programs as cartoons, but further opines that out of curiosity, there is a chance that the children could as well watch television programs that are full of violence. In this case, the article brings out the role that parents needs to play to ensure that their children are not exposed to televised violence. The article has further examined the inception of televised violence, and how over the years, television programs that are violent in nature have increased. Accordingly, the choice of this article would provide a rich knowledge of evidence regarding the issue of children and televised violence.

Washington (2005, par. 2) argues that television viewing usually has a negative impact on children. In this case, Washington has supported his claim based on psychological studies that have been carried out to assess the behavior of children. Accordingly, the author contends that out of the habit of children watching violence on television, this ensures that the suffering and pain of others is somewhat less sensitive, in the eyes of the children. The implication as Washington has noted, is that the attitude of such children towards others is one that is fraught with aggression. By the estimation of Washington, the average American child watches on a daily basis between three and four programs on television. Nevertheless, the author has recognized the crucial positive role that the television may play; that of shaping individual behavior, in addition to influencing in a powerful way value systems development by the viewers. Children too are not an exception.

Sadly though, as Washington has pointed out, many of the programs that the present day television stations air are usually violent in nature. Further, this article has highlighted the fact that those children that have formed the habit of watching programs that are full of violence may be inclined to imitate these kinds of violence. Washington has also underscored the fact that those children that have problems with controlling their learning behavior, emotional impulse and behavioral controls have a higher likelihood of being influenced with ease by television programs that are violent in nature.

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Young (2008, par. 3) has highlighted three significant impacts that television programs that are violent usually have on children. To start with, Young notes that there is a high likelihood that the suffering and pain of others, at least in the eyes of children, could lead to their becoming less sensitive. Secondly, the article provides that acts of violence, as displayed on television, may result in children harboring a deep-seated sense of fear, with respect to the larger world in which they live in. Finally, another significant impact that television viewing may have on children according to this article, is the likelihood of children embracing behaviors that are rather aggressive, at a time when they are interacting with not just their peers, but also with the larger society as well.

The article has further asserted that following a number of episodes of watching television programs that are violent in nature, this results in children adopting behaviors that are somewhat different. In this case, the article has quoted a research study that was undertaken by Pennsylvania State University. This study, the article provides, sought to observe 100 preschool children, prior to and following episodes of television watching. In this case, there were those children that watched cartons characterized by violent and aggressive acts. On the other hand, there were also a group of children that watched programs that were free of violence. Accordingly, the researchers were able to identify real differences in terms of the levels of violence between these groups of children. Children that had watched more violent programs were also noted to be more inclined towards being rude to their playmates, impatient, and in deviance of authority.

This article has highlighted an important element in terms of behavioral adaptations; that of a role model. In this case, the author notes that over the years, role models have played a crucial role in terms of influencing the behavior of the viewers, and more so to the children. The article has further highlighted the strategies that the Obama government is keen on implementing, so that the contents that are aired by television stations for viewing by children may be rated. In addition, article has provided crucial steps that parents may adopt in order to ensure that they have a control over those programs that their children view.

Research questions

  • Are children who view more violent televisions programmes likely to portray aggressive behavior, in comparison to their counterparts that views less aggressive television programmes?
  • Is there a gender variation with respect to the preference for violent television programmes amongst children?
  • Does social class have an impact on the choice of television programmes?
  • Is there a correlation between increased viewing of violent television programmes, and aggressive behavior amongst children?

Limitations of the literature review

Even as a majority of the literature reviews by scholars in the field of television violence and children have endeavored to explore the effects that violent television programmes have on children, nevertheless there are gaps that need to be addressed by preceding research studies into the same area. To start with, most of the available literature has not addressed the role that the television programmes regulators are playing in regulating the number of violent television programmes regarded as violent, and which targets children. A number of the authors are also seen to dwell too much on the criticism of the publications of other authors. Therefore, we are not in a position to get a comprehensive view regarding the position of these authors on the issue of television and violence in children.

Furthermore, not many sources in literature have pointed out the specific television programmes that are more likely to result in violent children. Moreover, there is a gap in literature on television violence and children on how economic status may influence the choice of television programs to watch and by extension, enhance violence amongst children. This is a gap that requires to be filled by subsequent research studies. There are also a limited number of research studies that highlights the impact that televised violence has on children viewers in terms of their attitudes and behaviors. Further, we have a limitation in literature with regard to how television violence impacts on children from different grades. It therefore becomes quite difficult to tell whether there is a certain age group that is impacted more negatively by viewing violent television programmes that another. Also, not many sources have examined how role models on television may negatively influence children viewers, who may wish to imitate them.

Methodology

Research design

According to Creswell (2008, p. 235), a research design could be viewed at as a framework that researchers utilize to collect data during a research study. In this case, Creswell opines that a research study should ideally enable a researcher to obtained desirable results with a great level of accuracy, in order to better inform the research questions of the study. It is the intention of this study to undertake a qualitative research, for purposes of exploring the issue of children and television violence.

Maxwell (2005, p. 178) is of the opinion that research design may be categorized as a detailed and in-depth assessment of a limited group of cases that principally relies on observational techniques that are subjective in nature. In this case, observation interviews, expert review and cognitive interviews are all regarded as being qualitative in nature. It is important to appreciate the fact that we have a number of authors who are of the opinion that by and large qualitative methods of research are subjective in nature.

The reason behind this researcher wishing to settle for a research design that is qualitative in nature is with the intention of better understanding into how exposure to televised violence impacts on the behavior of children. Moreover, Patton (2002, p 193) argues that compared with other forms of research design, a qualitative design often yields a more detailed and profound analysis of the situation in hand. Accordingly, this researcher anticipates gaining further insight into the study at hand by employing a qualitative design.

Participants

The intention of this study is to have children in third and fourth grade as its respondents. In this regard, the children will be interviewed on their favorite television programs, to enable the researchers assess the levels of violence that are characterized by such programs.

Data collection

The researcher hopes to administer the survey in the form of an interview questionnaire to the study respondents at their various institutions of learning. In addition, the researcher shall also endeavor to interview the teachers on the behaviors that are portrayed on the various students surveyed. This is with a view to assessing if there is a correlation between the behavior and educational performance of the students, and their levels of exposure to television violence. Further, the friends and playmates of the study respondents shall also be interviewed, to assess whether the children so interviewed demonstrates any form of aggressiveness or violence during playtime with their colleagues.

Sample population

It is the intention of this researcher to interview a total of 80 third and fourth grade students.

Data analysis

The resulting research findings shall be analyzed relative to similar studies, with the intention of evaluating possible discrepancies. Ultimately, such discrepancies shall from the basis for the discussion of the study, in effect paving way for the conclusion of the study. This will also help to form recommendations that the future research studies in the same area of study could adopt.

Presentation of research findings

The emerging results out of the survey carried out by the study shall be presented in tabular form to enable ease of a discussion of the results, relative to preceding research studies on the same field.

Ethical considerations

During the time of carrying out this research study, the researcher will ensure that the relevant authorities are consulted. Therefore, the school administration will be formally requested to allow the researcher carry out the study. In addition, the parents to the children being interviewed for the study shall be requested to give their consent as well. Moreover, following the collection of the data, the information obtained shall be handled in strict confidence, and it will only be utilized for purposes of informing this study.

Reference list

Associated Press (2005). Study: cutting TV reduces violence in children. Web.

Bushman, J., & Huesmann, R. L. (2001). in Handbook of Children and the Media, D.

Singer, J. Singer, Eds. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Cantor, J. (2002). The Psychological Effects of Media Violence on Children and Adolescents. Web.

Center on Media and Child Health. (2009). Does TV Violence Affect Children of Different Races and Genders Differently? Web.

Creswell, J. (2008). Research design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed. Methods Approaches (Third Edition). London: Sage Publications.

Johnson, J. G., Cohen, P., Smailes, E. M., Kasen, S., & Brook, J. S. (2002). Television viewing and aggressive behavior during adolescence and adulthood. Science, 295, 2468-2471.

Kaiser Family Foundation. TV Violence. 2006. Web.

Moeller, T. G. (2005). How ‘Unequivocal’ is the Evidence Regarding Television Violence and Children’s Aggression? Association for Psychological Observer, 18(10).

Maxwell, J. A. (2005). Qualitative research design: an interactive approach. London: Sage

National Institute on Media and the Family. 2009. Web.

Power, J. The effects of television violence on children.  Web.

Washington, S. (2005). Does Television Cause Violence? Web.

Young, K. (2008). Impact of Television Violence on Children. Web.

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