It is a point of debate whether television reflects society or behavior of society reflects what is shown on television. But at some point it becomes a vicious circle. People follow what they see on TV and television shows are based on what is prevalent is society. Television is bound to have a deep impact on the viewers, especially children and teenagers. Children tend to follow whatever they see blindly. Television violence influences children to a great extent because they relate to characters on television.
Television violence affects children of different ages in different ways. The effect depends on their level of understanding, the way they interpret and process information and their own experiences and upbringing. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), kids under 2 years of age should not watch television and those older than 2 should not be allowed to watch more than 1 to 2 hours a day of good TV shows. Television, or any media for that matter can shape child behavior. Audio-visual media have the potential to influence a child’s mind and make the child follow what he/she sees, without much thought. It’s high time the elders realize this and restrict TV exposure of children.
How Television Violence Affects Children
- Infants are attracted to watching TV. For them, it’s just a play of light and sound, something visual and moving they enjoy watching. They often miss the program content. They can make sense only out of characters and faces familiar to them. It is said that if behavior on television is presented to them in simpler ways, they are likely to imitate it.
- When children reach an age of two and half years, they begin to pay more attention to what is shown on TV and tend to imitate it. At that age children prefer to watch fast-moving characters and are likely to get exposed to television violence. During the pre-school age, children begin to derive meaning from what they see on television. Intense scenes and sounds attract them. Cartoon violence draws in the children of that age. It is seen that preschoolers behave aggressively after watching action and violence on TV.
- During their initial years of schooling, children begin to understand what’s shown on the television. They are able to follow the actions of characters and the consequences of the characters’ actions. But they tend to think less on what they see, which results in reactions of a superficial nature. If children identify with a villain, they may start enacting his behavior. They think of emulating that violent hero. Due to overexposure to TV violence they may become tolerant to real world violence. Studies say that watching horror movies is sometimes an attempt by children to get over their own phobias.
- When adolescent, they start watching television independently. At that age, they can reason everything they see but they are not mentally involved. They start idealizing someone and are tempted to act like him. They start believing that whatever is shown on TV is real. If they are exposed to suicides and crime they may try to imitate those kinds of behavior.
Children’s minds are not mature enough to understand the context of the violence they watch on television. Take an example of a psychic villain or a murderer who constantly bears a feeling of guilt about his acts. In the first scenario, a child does not perceive the psychological disorder that has made him a villain. In the second case, a child fails to understand how empty a murderer’s life is. Thus they are unable to comprehend the causes and effects of evil behavior. They do not understand the nuances of the scenes on television. They wrongly interpret the wrongdoer and go the wrong way.
Primarily, children become insensitive to others’ pain. They may become numb on watching something terribly violent. Secondly, children feel that people around them are all of a violent nature. They think the world around them is similar to what is portrayed on TV. Due to this, they fear people. They speculate something ill happening to them. They feel the possibility of frightening incidents taking place in their lives. Influenced by the violence shown on TV, they may tend to harm others. They might become over-aggressive and rebellious. They can disobey rules. They may become impatient and refuse to wait for things, they then leave work unfinished thus do not perform well in school. Television violence can impact children in two distinct ways. Either they develop immunity towards cruelty or an extreme fear of living in a dangerous society grips them.
Television shows portraying the ‘positive’ are almost history. Scenes of TV stories are no more depictions of only the good. Today’s wrestling shows, violent movies and intense emotions expressed on TV, are bound to leave a long-lasting impact on television viewers. Children have to face the after effects of television violence. Today’s children are the future of our society and it’s important that they stay away from violence. Violence might make children timid and pessimistic. It may instill evil feelings in their minds. Television violence creates a wrong picture of society in the young minds. They make suicidal attempts or may even take to murders. Youth takes to committing crime leading to youth violence. These harmful effects of television violence need to be curbed.
Parents have an important role to play in preventing their kids from watching the violence that is showcased on television. Kids should be encouraged to watch children’s programs. Parent must use their discretionary powers to decide which programs their children should watch and which ones they should not. Early exposure to violence on TV leads to abnormalities in children’s behavior. Parents are advised to pay attention to the programs their kids watch and restrict the time for which their kids can watch TV. They are advised to contact other parents and collectively implement rules for television watching. Parents need to reject violence in front of their children. They should explain their kids the reality behind the scenes. It’s necessary to call the ‘wrong’ wrong when television violence is perpetually projecting it as ‘right’.