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Facts About Media Violence and Effects on the American Family

 

  • In 1950, only 10% of American homes had a television and by 1960 the percentage had grown to 90%. Today 99% of homes have a television. In fact, more families own a television than a phone. (1)
  • 54% of U.S. children have a television set in their bedrooms. (2)
  • Children spend more time learning about life through media than in any other manner. The average child spends approximately 28 hours a week watching television, which is twice as much time as they spend in school. (3)
  • The average American child will witness over 200,000 acts of violence on television including 16,000 murders before age 18. (4)
  • Polls show further that three-quarters of the public finds television entertainment too violent. When asked to select measures which would reduce violent crime "a lot," Americans chose restrictions on television violence more often than gun control. (5)
  • A study of population data for various countries showed homicide rates doubling within the 10 to 15 years after the introduction of television, even though television was introduced at different times in each site examined. (6)
  • Longitudinal studies tracking viewing habits and behavior patterns of a single individual found that 8-year-old boys, who viewed the most violent programs growing up, were the most likely to engage in aggressive and delinquent behavior by age 18 and serious criminal behavior by age 30. (7)
  • Watching TV has been linked to obesity in children. (8)
  • Studies suggest that higher rates of television viewing are correlated with increased tobacco usage, increased alcohol intake and younger onset of sexual activity. (9,10,11)
  • Potential adverse effects of excessive exposure to media include: increased violent behavior; obesity, decreased physical activity and fitness, increased cholesterol levels and sodium intake; repetitive strain injury (video computer games); insomnia; photic seizures; impaired school performance; increased sexual activity and use of tobacco and alcohol; decreased attention span; decreased family communication; desensitization; excess consumer focus. (9,21)
  • Fifty-five percent of children questioned usually watch television alone or with a friend, but not with their families. (13)
  • According to the National Television Violence Study, the context in which violence is portrayed is as important to its impact as the amount of violence. The study concluded that 66% of children's programming had violence. Of the shows with violent content three-quarters demonstrated unpunished violence and when violence occurred 58% of the time, victims were not shown experiencing pain. (14)
  • Forty-six percent of all television violence identified by the study took place in children's cartoons. Children's programs were least likely to depict the long-term consequences of violence (5%) and they portray violence in a humorous fashion 67% of the time. (14)
  • The use of parental warnings and violence advisories made the programs more of a magnet than they might otherwise have been. Parental Discretion Advised and PG-13 and R ratings significantly increased boys' interest in the shows, although they made girls less interested in watching. (14)

VIDEO GAMES AND CYBERSPACE VIOLENCE

  • The Internet, a global "network of networks" is not governed by a government or private entity. This vacuum leaves no checks or limits on the information maintained or made accessible to users. No person or entity owns the Internet, leaving no one accountable for the accidents which occur on its highways. (15)
  • The incidence of violence on the Internet is difficult to quantify because the technology has moved faster than our capability to monitor it. Evidence of violence is anecdotal rather than statistical mainly because communication on the Internet is private. Reported cases of abuse are relatively infrequent, but as the technology continues to advance, there is potential for great harm as well as great good. (15)
  • The Internet could become a stalking ground for child molesters who have moved from the playground to the Internet attracted by the anonymity it offers. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has documented more than a dozen cases in the last year of cyberspace seduction by pedophiles in which children were lured by on-line predators into traveling to locations hundreds of miles from their homes where they were then sexually assaulted. (16)
  • The Oklahoma bombing suspect obtained a copy of the "Turner Diaries," a book which advocates the violent overthrow of government, off the Internet. Whereas before, one would have had to know exactly where to look and be pre-disposed to search for the book, the Internet made it easily accessible to a global audience. (17)
  • Although there has been less research on the effects of violence in video games and the Internet because they are new and changing technologies, there is little reason to doubt that findings from other media studies will apply here too. Young children instinctively imitate actions they observe, without always possessing the intellect or maturity to determine if such actions are appropriate. Due to their role-modeling capacity to promote real world violence, there is deep concern that playing violent video games, with their fully digitalized human images, will cause children to become more aggressive towards other children and become more tolerant of, and more likely to engage in, real-life violence. (18)

MUSIC VIOLENCE

  • The Parents Music Resource Center reports that American teenagers listen to an estimated 10,500 hours of rock music between the 7th and 12th grades alone - just 500 hours less than they spend in school over twelve years. (19)
  • Entertainment Monitor reported that only 10 of the top 40 popular CDs on sale during the 1995 holiday season were free of profanity, or lyrics dealing with drugs, violence and sex. (19)
  • A recent survey by the Recording Industry Association of America found that many parents do not know what lyrics are contained in the popular music their children listen to. (20)
  • In September 1995, Warner Music Group bowed to public pressure and announced it was severing its 50% stake in Interscope Records, home to Nine Inch Nails and controversial rap artists Snoop Doggy Dog and Dr. Dre. Rap artists simply turned to a different distribution network and their CDs continue to hit the stores with lyrics which glorify guns, rape, and murder. (20)

NOTES :

1. Nielson Media Research, 1995

2. National Television Violence Study, issued by Mediascope, February, 1996.

3. Nielson Media Research, 1993

4. Center for Media and Public Affairs, 1992

5. Lichter, R. S., "Bam! Whoosh! Crack! TV Worth Squelching," The Washington Times, December 19, 1994.

6. Centerwall, BS: Exposure to television as a cause of violence. In Comstock G (ed): Public Communication as Behavior. Orlando, Fla.: Academic Press Inc; 1989, 2:1-58.

7. Dr. Leonard Eron, University of Illinois at Chicago, Testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Subcommittee on Communications, June 12, 1995.

8. Dietz, WH and Gortmacher, SL (1985) Pediatrics, 75,807-812; and Tucker, L.A. (1986) Adolescent, 21, 7970806.

9. Dietz WH, Gortmaker SL. Do we fatten our children at the TV set? Obesity and television viewing in children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 1985;75:807-812.

10. DuRant RH, Baranowski T, Johnson M, et al. The relationship among television watching, physical activity, and body composition of young children. Pediatrics. 1994;94:445-449.

11. Gortmaker SL, Must A, Sobol AM, et al. Television viewing as a cause of increasing obesity among children in the United States, 1986-1990. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1996;150:356-62.

12. Physician Guide to Media Violence, American Medical Association, 1996

13. Statistics compiled by TV-Free America, Washington, DC, April 1996

14. National Television Violence Study, issued by Mediascope, February, 1996.

15. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington, D.C., 1996.

16. National Center For Missing and Exploited Children, Arlington, Virginia, 1996.

17. Militia Task Force/Clan Watch, Southern Poverty Law Center, Montgomery, Alabama, 1996.

18. Robert E. McAfee, M.D., Immediate Past President, American Medical Association, Testimony before House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Finance, June 1994. Provenzo, Eugene. Video Kids: Making Sense of Nintendo. Harvard University Press, 1991.

19. Entertainment Monitor, December 1995.

20. "An Unbiased Voice in the Word War," The Washington Post, November 8, 1995.

21 Anyamwu E, Harding GF, Jeavons PM, et al: "telephillic syndrome" in pattern and photosensitivity epilepsy: report of three cases. East Afr Med J. 1995;72:402-405.

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