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The other day while I was in a local McDonalds, I noticed a disturbing scene. A father and two young boys were waiting in line to get an early lunch. The younger of the two boys lay dozing off, while the other more energetic ran around, playing with things as most five years olds do. The young boy walking around saw a toy that was claimed to be included in the infamous Happy Meal. He pleaded quietly with his father, who told him that he would get whatever toy came with the meal. Unsatisfied, the little boy started to cry, and then proceeded to throw a fit.
The father, seemingly at a loss for words told the boy to calm down. The little boy then threw himself on the floor and started to kick. The father stood in obvious amazement as the young boy stood and yelled at the top of his lungs, Ill kick you in the nuts! The words that the young boy said to his father are from a popular contemporary cartoon show called South Park, which airs on the cable comedy station Comedy Central. The show is known to include very obscene language, and content so offensive in nature that a few of the episodes were banned from television. Later on that day I was thinking about what had happened at McDonalds.
I thought of how this little boy, who appeared not to be a day over five years of age, re-enacted a line that has been popularized by a television show. I wondered if this youth had been influenced in any other way by what is aired by popular television programming. I then decided to do some research, and to write my term paper on the effects of television programming on the viewers themselves. I chose to focus on the younger viewers, who are most likely to be influenced.
The following paper provides information that will help to strengthen the highly controversial argument that television, in fact, does contribute to unacceptable behavior, and possibly even to violent behavior that can lead to violent crime. As the numbers of violent crimes rise every year, many researchers are trying to find reasons for this disturbing incline. Not only have overall crime rates increased, but also the crime rate among children and teens ages six to 18 has made a surprising jump in numbers. The percent of child crimes has risen 37 percent in the last ten years. Researchers have spent many years looking for possible causes for this epidemic among the younger generations. Many social scientists and researchers blame this increase in violence on broken homes and single-parent families.
Other researchers blame the increase in violence on individuals who have been victims of abuse and detrimental childhood environments, environments such as projects, gang neighborhoods, poverty, and high drug trafficking areas. Among the less common opinions researchers hold as to why violence has taken over in the younger generations is the opinion that violent programs on television influence children. This possible cause has been debated by many people, and has caused quite a stir among members of television programming corporations. With the recent Columbine school shooting in which 15 people were killed, this issue has been rushed to the political forefront. In the early 1920 s, the government introduced censorship as a means of controlling much of the information and influences that society would be presented with by the media, and a then blooming radio community. Much of the censorship dealt with sexuality and violence, as well as with communist propaganda and political and labor union influences.
These laws were meant to weed out many of the influences that the government found to be inappropriate and detrimental to society. Over the years, censorship has been debated, beaten down with the sticks of many open-minded liberals, and emerged in the 21 st century as almost non-existent. The only areas that censorship covers in the area of television programming are those concerning sexual content, extensive violence, and obscene language. With many of the acts of violence taking place these days appearing to be re-enactments of situations that have been televised, many people believe that censorship should not take a back seat to contemporary entertainment. One of the researchers whose work has been a great influence on this issue is Dr. John Murray.
According to Dr. Murray, Children begin watching television at a very early age, sometimes even as young as 6 months the average child spends up to 25 hours a week watching television. There can no longer be any doubt that heavy exposure to televised violence is one of the causes of aggressive behavior, crime and violence in society. One of Dr.
Murray's main concerns is the amount of violence that is aimed at childrens programming. In one of his studies, he concluded that there are, on average, about 5 acts of violence on regular daytime television shows, as compared to 20 - 25 acts of violence in early morning cartoon shows. Children are said to be the easiest of humans to influence. This is as a result of lack of knowledge and the unstructured state of their value system. With violence being depicted as normal in these shows that are aimed at younger viewers, it is hard to imagine how these images are being retained in memory, and how these experiences might be lived out in real-life situations. Edward Palmer, a researcher who specializes in analyzing childrens cartoon programming has written many books on the subject also.
Palmers book Children in the Cradle of Television turned out to provide a very informative background on the evolution of violent cartoons. Some of the first violent cartoons seem very harmless when compared with many that exist today. Loony Toons was a big hit on Saturday mornings for many years, and much of the content made it seem okay for even animal characters to hurt each other. The animals took on human characteristics: walking on two legs, talking, emotions, and feelings. When these animal characters were presented with human situations, many times they reacted violently. This made it possible for children viewers to create ways to deal with problems, and the harmless way to do this was sometimes violent.
Palmer states, The general message of problem resolution by physical aggression had now gained model prominence for youth (Palmer 65). The emergence of even more violent cartoons did not slow down, and the magnitude of violence has escalated into uncontrollable proportions. The violent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and very many similar shows took on a new form for Saturday morning cartoons, and they would never again be the same. Another researcher, James Hamilton, has also done work to bring this issue out into the open. He has written many books concerning televised violence, and is considered one of the main experts on this subject. Hamilton's approach to televised violence is more media based.
In his book Television Violence and Public Policy, he gives examples of how the media glorifies the violence that occurs, making it breaking news, and giving the criminal hero status. According to Hamilton, televised violence is a catalyst because the violent act is presented in a fantastic image [that] can be used as potential harms to children of all ages (Hamilton 14). When children see an image of a person who has committed a crime on television, that person is more likely to get idolized for being on television, totally discounting whatever crime he or she has committed. Not only are the criminals themselves being idolized, but their acts are also being repeated, and aggression is being mimicked. Hamilton states The Surgeon Generals Report concluded that there was a consistent and significant correlation between viewing televised violence and subsequent aggression (Hamilton 16). This means that viewers are seeing the violence, and acting it out in life.
Contemporary crime has exploded with copycat crimes, especially in the younger generations. As mentioned previously, the Columbine High School massacre is thought to be a copycat killing of sorts. In the movie Basketball Diaries, the main character goes on a murderous rampage in one of the scenes. The two individuals who did the shooting at Columbine, Eric Harris and Dylan Kle bold, wore trench coats and were armed with semi-automatic weapons almost identical to those used in the movie.
Many people believe that the movie was influential in the planning, and in the overall carrying out of the tragedy at Columbine. Many researchers contend that the movie was not the catalyst for the crime, but it may have contributed to the idea of how it was carried out. The major initial experimental studies of the cause and effect relation between television violence and aggressive behavior were conducted by Bandura and his colleagues (Bandura, Ross & Ross, 4) working with young children. In a typical early study conducted by Bandura (Bandura, Ross & Ross, 1963), a young child was presented with a film, back-projected on a television screen, of a model who kicked and punished an inflated plastic doll. The child was then placed in a playroom setting and the incidence of aggressive behavior was recorded. The results of these early studies indicated that children who had viewed the aggressive film were more aggressive in the playroom than those children who had not observed the aggressive model.
These early studies were criticized on the grounds that the aggressive behavior was not meaningful within the social context and that the stimulus materials were not representative of available television programming. Subsequent studies have used more typical television programs and more realistic measures of aggression, but basically Bandura's early findings still stand. One of the problems presented by television is the way it shapes the world of its viewers. John Summer, another researcher, contends that the viewing audience in this case, children, adopts the principles, morals, and values presented by the many television shows and movies. The symbolic environment presented on prime-time television has laws, both social and natural, and barely distinguishable from these laws are values and norms it is in these types which there is the greatest potential for the construction of hegemonic frameworks (Summer 28).
Summer is explaining that we adopt the values depicted on television, and use them to frame our whole value system. This can lead to a very warped sense of reality according to Summer. Television shows are not about people who shop for groceries, who feel trapped in dead-end jobs, who lead quiet satisfies lives, or even those who have intellectually exciting but non-action-oriented jobs[but they create the illusion that all] cops, commandos, firefighters, and emergency room surgeons catch criminals, raid enemy territory, fight fires, and save lives every second of the day (Summer 30). Sumser's beliefs are even more relevant to children, considering the incomplete belief structures they already have. When children are presented with an idea, and not informed of the right or wrong ways of dealing with certain situations, they will find out themselves, even if it means finding out the hard way, or the wrong way. Far more important than why these crimes are occurring, however, is how we can stop them.
There are obviously more than a few reasons why a human being would turn violent, and television violence does not cover all of the reasons. Other causes for this destructive phenomenon may be as justified as televised violence, but something as simple as letting a child watch a violent, bloody movie or television show is something that can be controlled, starting in the home. We cannot all go out and stop the violence that occurs in every city, every day, but if the aggression that triggers violent crimes is held at bay, and the way of non-violent conflict resolution is instilled as values, then there will be a significant drop in the rate of violent crimes not just for children, but also for everyone. Bibliography:
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Research essay sample on Acts Of Violence Televised Violence