Researchers estimate that children in the United States watch television on a daily basis, usually for about three to four hours. This of course causes many to speculate just how great an influence the television set has become, when comparing values expressed on TV with those children oftentimes express. Hand in hand with this wonderment is the concern that an increase in television violence could be at least partially responsible for the apparent surge in childhood and teenage violence that is so often reported on the late night news.
TV Violence Linked to Harmful Problem Solving Skills
Reasons cited for this possible cause and effect phenomenon are legion; most commonly mentioned is the desensitizing effect that blood, guts and gore have on minds of impressionable children who are exposed to it on a daily basis. In addition, since violent acting out is seen as an acceptable method of problem solving, children may be quicker to attack their problems with fists raised than with dialog. Another concern that researchers have expressed is the fact that children tend to identify with the “cool” or heroic character; sometimes, this is the character that does the most shooting and killing, and in the end wins.
The insidious danger of television violence rests in the long term incubation period, if you will, that exists between exposure to unpunished, frequent violence and the acting out of aggressive behavior. Even as some kids may act out the next day on the playground or in the daycare center, some may hold on to these thoughts and feelings for years before exploding in a rage.
Of course, there are other reasons why children and teens may act out with undue aggression, and television has only been identified as one possible component. Nonetheless, since this is one aspect that parents are in the unique position to control, it is crucial to understand how to eliminate this danger from your child’s environment without getting rid of the TV altogether. This presupposes that parents are intimately involved in their children’s lives and also assume control over the remote control.
Monitor the Shows and Television Content Your Child Watches
First and foremost, parents must know what the kids are watching. This may require adults to watch some episodes with the kids just to get a feel for the shows, and then approve or disprove of them. Secondly, limiting the time in front of the TV is a good idea as well. Whenever possible, children should be encouraged to play outside, read, engage in art or music, or simply interact with others in the household. Parents also need to take the initiative to explain that actors play a role, and that on TV the blood is not real and the bullets are pretend. Children need to understand that at the end of the scene, everyone gets back up off the ground. In real life, they don’t.
Learn to Turn Off the TV & Limit How Long Kids Watch
When all else fails, there is nothing wrong with changing the channel, turning off the set altogether, and locking out ratings and certain shows that parents do not believe to be appropriate. Sometimes this will require engaging other parents in the dialog as well, especially those who are a lot more lenient with their rules. For parents who may find it hard to undo years of permissive behavior or who simply need a bit more help, a psychiatrist trained in helping children and adolescents may be of assistance.