Television Violence and It's Effects on Children

Television Violence and It's Effects on Children

What is the most violent act they have seen on television? It could have been a massacre, a fatal explosion or a cartoon. Whatever it may be, the probabilities of those images being imprinted in memory are substantial. As mature adults, the violent imagery may not cause any damage. Reed (2001), “The U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary produced a report entitled "Children, Violence, and the Media" in September of 1999. This report summarized its findings with a number of statistics, including the fact that "by age 18 an American child will have seen 16,000 simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence” (para. 2). It is unbelievable that these images will not create an impression on the minds of the children who watch them. On July 2, 1999, in a small community in Dallas, Texas a seven year old boy was accidently killed by his brother while attempting the “clothesline” maneuver as seen on TV. More important, it was seen while watching the popular wrestling matches on television. This opened the nation’s eyes to the fact that children’s exposure to television violence results in aggressive behaviors.

It would seem as though, the violence viewed on television programs these days is graphic and troubling than in television of yesterday. Television at present is horrific, outrageous, and disturbing. The days are long gone for shows as I Love Lucy, Little House on the Prairie or Marcus Welby M.D. TV of yesterday is soft by comparison to the hard programs of the present. One key element is, media outlets freedom to operate as violent as possible has been exclusive of any government supervision. Assigning responsibility for television programming and its viewing has become a daunting task within mainstream society. Parents blame the broadcast corporations, or the producers, and the broadcast corporation or the producers reverse the same arguments back to the parents.

Think about what society is watching on TV, or at the movies, the hero of the film (who always wins by any means necessary) carries a gun. What he or she does with the gun next shocks no one, round after round pumped into the bad guy until he or she is dead complete with blood galore, and close up shots of the action. To an adult, they are already numb to the gory, Hollywood violence but a five- year- old boy or girl next to an adult sees the action, and also sees the lack of remorse from the hero. A study generated by the Center for Media and Public Affairs in June 1999 concludes that television displays a heavy content of violence; it rarely shows its outcome.

According to the Center for Media and Public Affairs (1999), “We found that despite the high volume of televised violence, viewers rarely see it causing adverse effects. The report found serious acts of violence--murder, rape, kidnapping, and assault with a deadly weapon--occurred once every four minutes on the major TV networks. However, it notes that “no physical harm was shown three quarters (75 percent) of the time violence occurred on broadcast series and over two-thirds (68 percent) of the time it occurred on cable programs” (Major Findings, para 1.).Violence is not always visible in television programs, especially to young, undeveloped, and unsuspecting minds.

According to American Academy of Pediatrics (2011), “The average child watches 3 hours of TV a day--2 hours of quality programming is the maximum recommended by the Academy. Active play time is needed to develop mental, physical and social skills. Children who watch violence on TV are more likely to display aggressive behavior”. (Turning children on to Smart TV, para. 3). Sometimes young family members portray themselves with heroes and in many scenes characters receive rewards for their aggressive deeds.

Dr. Howard Spivak (2002) reported that “even though both criminals and police can both commit justifiable violence, television is still a simple medium.” TV presents "good guys" and "bad guys." On average, there are 15 minutes of commercials for every one hour of TV programming, so producers have a short amount of time in which to establish plot, story, characters, and resolution. Good characters and bad characters must be quickly and simply established. This means that they can cram as much violence and gore as possible into the remaining 45 minutes, and the result is young, impressible minds are taking it in, every minute that they sit and watch the show. What kind of message does this send to the viewing public who sits and monitors the violence on TV? What is it telling them about society, and it’s “thumbs up” to simulated violence, rape, and gore? It tells them, “Hey, good job for monitoring our show, stay tuned for more.” That is not the message according to research that needs to be sent into America households.
When a nine –year- old boy grabs a NERF bat and beats his sister to death because he saw it on TV, the blames shifts back and forth. Parents and broadcast companies are constantly at odds on this issue. Where does the blame ultimately fall? The blame falls on both parties; the parents have a responsibility to ensure that their children are watching programs suited for them, as directed by the TV ratings at the beginning of each show, and in the lower corners of the TV during each program. The broadcast company has a responsibility to ensure that violent programs air only at certain times during the evening! It has been said that broadcast companies and parents need to obtain the same level of thinking because the amount of exposure to violence that children are obtaining, is in a sense, “brainwashing” and numbing them to the effects of said violence.

Solid evidence suggests an association linking exposure to violent television and movies to aggressive behavior. Mattison (2011), “Researchers have found that children are more physically and verbally aggressive immediately after watching violent television and movies," reports the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center (Aggressive Behavior, para. 1). A small amount of viable studies have concluded that experiencing media brutality in the early stages of life, the long term effects are not clear as the child grows older. A large percentage of parents present a concern regarding what their young ones see and hear, however as they age, parents attention to the music and videos that seize and grasp his or her children's interest decreases.
According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2001), “A relatively small amount of research has focused on the impact of music videos with violent or antisocial themes…Randomized experiments indicate that exposure to violent or antisocial rap videos can increase aggressive thinking, but no research has yet tested how such exposure directly affects physical aggression” (Violence in Other Media, para. 1).

Use of video games by children is pervasive. The numbers are staggering within this report. Woodard (2000), "74% of families with school-age children own video game equipment and school-age children play video games an average of 53 minutes per day. Although most parents (88%) report regularly supervising their children's use of television, only about half report regularly supervising their children's use of video games (48%). A 2001 review of the 70 top-selling video games found 89% contained some kind of violence” (Media in the Home, p.10).

Many researchers share a growing concern over young people’s extensive use on brutal gaming. The extensive use of brutal video games for researchers continues to be a growing concern. Apprehension is thought by many researchers on the theory that, the interchangeable roles from the games may boost the chances for children acquiring destructive habits also their ever-increasing practicality may persuade recognition or likeness of the imagery, thus producing replication of the actions of the game characters.

An essential key for parents is to be familiar with what their children are viewing and shield them against violent programming. Although watching television with children is the greatest approach to supervise what they view, parents are not always in a position to be with their children 24/7. Fyfe (2011), “Parents often take it for granted that children's programs are, by definition, child-friendly. This clearly is not always the case. Unfortunately this faulty assumption has led many parents to let their guard down and allow their children to spend hours watching television unsupervised” (Executive Summary, para. 8). Numerous tools are obtainable to assist parents and caregivers in guarding their children against unsuitable programs.

One popular tool is already in place to assist parents in monitoring their children’s viewing. According to Federal Communications Commission (2011), “The V-chip allows parents or other caregivers to block programming on their televisions that they don’t want children to watch. The rating is encoded with the program before it airs. Parents can use the remote control to program the V-chip to block the display of programs that carry certain ratings” (Background, para.1).

As the day ends, and the shoes are coming off to relax from a hard day at work, remember where morals and instincts as a parent are. Violence within TV programs goes missing because its presentation is in a humorous or superhuman manner. Children often have limited capabilities to comprehend the distinction between imagination and realism. Violence is abounding in America, and it is the responsibility, as parents, and decent human beings to give children the chance to grow up and not be desensitized to the horrors of the world. The power of control rests within parents who should be the chief influence in his or her children's lives, not the characters on television.


American Academy of Pediatrics. (2011). Smart Guide to Kid's TV. Retrieved from
Center for Media and Public Affairs. (1999). Merchanizing Mayhem-Violence in Popular Entertainment. Retrieved from
Federal Communications Commission. (2011). V-Chip - Putting Restrictions on What Your Children Watch. Retrieved from
Fyfe, K. (2011). Wolves in Sheep's Clothing: A Content Analysis of Children's Television. Parents Television Council. Retrieved from

Mattison, R. (2011). The Effect of Media Violence on Youth. Retrieved from
Reed, L.W. (2001). Government, the Media, and Youth Violence. Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Retrieved from

Spivak, H. (2002). Parenting Methods. Suite 101. Retrieved from
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2001). Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General. Retrieved from