As part of technological advancements, televisions first developed as instruments for audio-visual communication and entertainment. The positive and beneficial effects of television on the societies are easily identifiable and cognizable. The negative side of television disguises as entertainment and complicates the process of identification, deconstruction, and understanding. The violence shown on television programs are among the dangerous contents usually disguised as entertainment. The actual impact of the televised violent programs on societies has remained controversial considering the existence of two factions; one supporting and another dissenting that televised violent programs affect children negatively. However, many research conducted by competent sociological and psychological personalities have proved that televised violence has negative effects on the behaviors of children.
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry reports that research on the association between violent behaviors among youths and televised violence is over 30 years old. Unlike in 1950 when a meager 10% of households in America had a set of television, 99% of the current American households have at least one set of television. Over a half of the entire American children population have television sets in bedrooms. This development means that children have a great probability of watching television without the supervision of parents. According to American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, children spend approximately 28 hours weekly watching television. By the age of 18, a typical American child views over 200,000 violent acts and 16000 murders. On average, television programs show 812 violent acts per hour, with cartoon programs averaging to 20 acts of violence per hour.
Researchers have demonstrated that young children exposed to violent television programs are likely to imitate the violence when playing with other children. Before the age of four, children cannot differentiate between fantasies and facts, and may grow considering violence as normal events. In many cases, violent television shows and movies convey a strategy of resolving conflicts. Heroic characters are usually violent and often receive a reward for their violent acts. In this way, the violent heroes gain role model position in the perception and views of the children. Through the perception of heroic characters, children learn that it is normal to pick a gun or a crude weapon and hit a bad person (Gunter and McAleer 101). Such presentations of using acts of violence for righteous causes can stick into children’s mind, and become a justification for using violence against the perceived victimizers. As a result, vulnerable youths facing victimization may consider the use of violent means to resolve their problems.
As demonstrated by Gunter and McAleer, the research conducted by Albert Bandura in 1963 and published on gives clear and practical evidence on the effects of televised violent programs on children (102). Bandura’s experiment involved placing a group of children to view a televised video showing a model kicking and punishing a plastic doll called Bobo. After the show, Bandura placed the sample children in a room with other children who did not watch the television video. Bandura then observed that the children that watched the video behaved aggressively against those who never watched the video. When given the Bobo doll, children that watched the video tended to kick, throw, and hit the doll. The sample children became, even more, creative that devised other ways to hurt the doll. Some threw darts while others aimed guns at the doll. The children that never watched the video showed the least aggression towards Bobo (Gunter and McAleer 102).
Bandura further found that rewarding of the character in the film for the behaviors displayed encouraged emulation by the children than when the charter was subject to punishment or nothing (Gunter and McAleer 102). Furthermore, Bandura noted that the nature and extent of imitation depended on the experience in the situation of play and social sanctions. Bandura then concluded that praising of a film character by an adult watching the film with a child could encourage the child to imitate the behaviors of the actor. Criticism of the film character by an adult can reduce or discourage imitation of the character by a child.
The research of Friedrich and Stein in 1973 worked to prove the view that televised violence leads to negative behaviors in children (Mitchell and Ziegler 278). Friedrich and Stein had the purpose of determining the effects of viewing pro-social and anti-social televised programs on four years old children. The children had to watch the television episodes for four weeks. A section of children watched the violent Batman and Superman cartoon while the others watched a non-violent Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. The researchers recruited a team of observers without prior knowledge of the children that watched violent contents and those that watched non-violent contents report on the behaviors of the children in classroom and playfield. The reports of the observers showed that children who watched violent episodes were active in the classroom and acted roughly and violently in the playfield than those that watched the non-violent episode.
Liebert and Baron conducted another research in 1972 that confirmed the findings by Bandura. Liebert and experiment on the children’s willingness to hurt others using television programs. The research involved 136 children between the ages of 5 and 9. One group of the children watched the Untouchables that involved violent robbers and cops. Another group watched a race tracker film that was non-violent (Mitchell and Ziegler 279). When released to play, the children that watched the violent Untouchables depicted high aggression while those that watched non-violent sporting film were calmer.
According to Pecora, Wartella and John, children exposed to frequently televised violence suffer from desensitization to violent acts (190). Desensitization causes children to lose empathy and sympathy that they may show to victims of violence. Consequently, the affected children may experience increased willingness to perpetrate violence against others or accept external violence. Thomas, Horton, Drabman, and Lippincott conducted a research in 1977 that proved the desensitization aspect of showing children televised violence (Pecora, Ann and John 191). The researchers placed nine years old children to watch either action-packed sport or a violent drama involving the police. At the end of the film, the researchers made the children witness a violent scene involving younger nursery school children kicking, punching, and exchanging verbal abuse. The scene was a creation of the experimenters, who also ensured that no injury would occur in the violent exchanges. The researchers then observed keenly the old children who were from watching the films (Pecora, Wartlla and John 191). It turned out that the children who watched violent films reacted with little emotion compared to those who watched the sporting video. Seemingly, the violent film desensitized and hardened the viewers towards aggression.
Overexposures of children to violent televised programs have the likelihood to teach and persuade children the world is a dangerous place (Sluss 302). This understanding may make children overestimate their likelihood to victims of violent acts. Consequently, children become unreasonably anxious and distressed about their safety. If children grow into adulthood with such perceptions of the world, they may seek for weapons to arm themselves against potential dangers. Sluss indicates that overexposure to violent television programs also makes the children viewers to develop a moral code from the television that bases on the culture of violence (305). The affected children may then introduce the violence in plays and eventually transmit the perceived moral codes to other children. This occurrence can then lead to widespread of violence as the children directly affected influence the others that never viewed violence.
In conclusion, televisions have become very influential instruments of communication in the contemporary societies. The influence of television is serious to the extent that they affect and determine the social conducts and behaviors of children. There have been widespread controversies as to whether televised violence affects the behaviors of children in negative ways. While some people have disputed that televised violence have no negative effects on children, exceeding research, have proved the contrary. From the experiments of Albert Bandura in 1963 to current experiments, it has been clear that televised violence affect the behaviors of children. The dissenters have not been able to offer valid and reliable research findings. In fact, the contrary findings by Feshbach and Singer in 1971 covered college and elementary school students, who can reason maturely and objectively. Precisely, televised violent programs promote anti-social behaviors in children.