In light of recent violent activities around the world, many people are back to the dated paradigm that the reason kids are so violent today is because of the exposure to violent TV shows, movies, and video games that are targeted to young audiences.
According to the Media Awareness Network, a group that monitors violent and graphic material in the media – TV shows in truth have become more violent. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that as children are exposed to media violence on TV shows and video games – they become immune and insensitive to the violence that they see and are more prone to act out with aggression. Experts believe that today, by the time a child is 11 years old, they have seen nearly 8,000 murders through media. Sure, some of this is because parents allow their children to watch adult prime time crime shows, or play video games laced with murderous acts. But is there really too much violence on CHILDRENS TV? Or is this just a way that society blames the behaviors of children on something aside from parental conditioning?
If you look back to the shows that you used to watch as a child – there was plenty of violence hidden in episodes of Bugs Bunny or the Road Runner. Sure, it was animated – but the violence was evident just the same. Today, in fact – kids shows on children’s networks are more censored than they were two decades ago – and many of the shows DIRECTED toward children are humor based and show no violence at all. If you compare the violence in an episode of SpongeBob as compared to an episode of the Road Runner – you might be surprised to find out that today’s CHILDRENS shows, are actually fairly calm in comparison.
The problem is that despite the TV rating system which is now government regulated and extremely diligent about imposing rules of TV responsibility – parents are allowing their children not just TOO much time in front of the TV, but too much time unsupervised in front of the TV.
Its ironic really, that with all the TV controls available to parents today (which were NOT available just a decade ago) – most parents allow their child to sit in front of the TV unsupervised for longer periods of time than ever reported since the invention of TV. TV has become the new age babysitter, and parents today are slack in turning off the boob tube. In fact, in most households, a television is ALWAYS on, and few parents utilize all the parental controls at their fingertips that can inhibit young children from seeing violence on TV.
For children under the age of 7, even the nightly news can be too graphic and violent. And yet it sets the background music for dinnertime for the average family. And the video games that are rated T or M (Mature ratings) are most often purchased for young children BY their own parents. A recent moviegoer’s poll by Parenting Magazine revealed that more than 3/4ths of all parents have taken their young children (under 13) to a PG-13 rated movie. If parents are buying the media and taking their children to see the movies on the big screen, and allowing shows in their home to be watched that they feel are violent to be watched in the home – than the fault, quite frankly, lies on the parent.
Watchdog groups and websites by the droves are easily accessible for parents so that they can get reviews and advice from non-profit groups on nearly every piece of media that their child may be exposed to. One particularly popular group is www.commonsensemedia.com which provides parents with not just demographics, but reviews and trailers of TV shows, movies and video games so that parents can make informed decisions about what their children are watching BEFORE they watch it.
According to the FTC, broader rules and stricter regulations exist NOW than ever before – and even encompass the types of companies and products that can be marketed to children or marketed during primetime when kids ‘may’ be watching as well as during during youth programming. Major league baseball players are no longer allowed to use tobacco during games because of the perceived impact this would have on young fans. New ratings for everything from TV shows to movies to video games are coming out each and every year as a tool to make media safer for children. And computers come standard with controls that can restrict media from being accessed online by a child.
Yet parents aren’t using any of these tools, and watchdog groups and society simply place blame on the entertainment industry for being a violent role model for our children.
The problem of placing the blame is that it takes one important figure out of the equation. The parents. If you have a 7 year old in your home – or even a 13 year old, you have complete control over what they watch on TV. Just because a show is airing, does not imply that you have to watch it or allow your child to watch. The beautiful thing about TV and video games is that there is a convenient off switch, easily utilized by the remote control. The burden of responsibility needs to be placed back on parental shoulders. And there are no laws that require parents to install 200 channel paid programming from cable providers in the home either.
Bottom line! Monitor what your child watches. If you notice that your child has a negative reaction to certain shows or has sensitivity to violence or graphic scenes – then simply avoid them altogether. And remember that children have been role playing cowboys and Indians since the Wild West days. While society may be becoming a more violent place than it was years ago, the truth is that parents hold the key in keeping the exposure to violence at a bare minimum for their child.