Ng Fei Chow, PTKFD2A Does viewing violence on television have an impact on children’s behaviour?Since the 1960s, there have been countless studies dedicated to finding a link between television viewing and violent behaviour in children aged between 8 to 14 years old. Based on a research done by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 99 percent of households in America have access to televisions. Watching television programmes has undeniably become one of the most popular forms of entertainment in America. The study also found that more than half of all children have a television set in their bedrooms, hence, allowing them to have more opportunities to enjoy television shows unsupervised by an adult (Beresin, “The Impact of Media Violence on Children”). There are many genres of television programmes such as science fiction, thriller, action and horror. However, violence is not restricted to such genres. Even comedies and supposedly kid-friendly cartoons like Tom & Jerry, Family Guy, and The Simpsons, frequently depict scenes of violence.  In broadcast television series, more than 3,000 acts of violence were identified within 284 series episodes spanning across broadcast, cable, and premium cable TV. Over 1,700 of these acts are deemed to be serious violence. The study concluded that 80 percent of the total violence recorded in the study occurred on broadcast television (Lichter, Lichter, Amundson, 1999).  Dr Beresin of Massachusetts General Hospital wrote that children aged four and below are unable to tell between fantasy and fact. For example, in a typical animated superhero film, not only are the villains violent, the heroes too would often use violence as a means of retaliation or conflict resolution. Not only that, the heroes are often rewarded for thwarting the evil plans of the villain. This seems to justify the use of violence for noble causes. Consequently, children might form the impression that using violence is the correct way to resolve problems and in addition to that, it would make them seem “cool” to their peers. Without parental supervision and guidance, they could start to normalise such violent behaviour (Beresin, “The Impact of Media Violence on Children”). In 1961, a famous study conducted by Albert Bandura found that children will imitate aggressive acts that they have witnessed. In the experiment, the children were placed in a room for ten minutes with an adult who would behave violently towards the Bobo doll. Immediately after the adult leaves the room, the children were observed to copy the adult’s behaviour, kicking and beating the Bobo doll. If the adult were playing with the Bobo doll gently, the children would likewise play calmly and show no signs of aggression. Basically, this was known as the social learning theory. What the children saw, the children did (Bandura, 1961).  The second experiment Bandura did in 1963 was to study the effects that viewing violent acts on television had on a child’s behaviour. The children viewed two versions of the film – one was an actual film of the adult hitting the Bobo doll, whereas the second was a “fantasy” version of an adult dressed up as a cat attacking the Bobo doll. The result was that both versions had a similar impact on their behaviour. This further concluded that children imitate what they see on television (Bandura, 1963).  In 2013, Dr. Gail Gross, in her column written for HuffPost, suggested that children who see violence on television experience a psychological reaction in the brain, not unlike what is detected in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These children who are influenced by television violence might feel less empathy towards other individuals. This behaviour also explains why children exposed to hours of violent television programmes might choose to be a bully rather than a victim of bullying. As a result, they are more likely to use violence on others. Other possible effects are the children seem to be more uncooperative, hyperactive, impatient, and demonstrate a strong sense of entitlement (Gross, 2013). In 1992, there was a debate between scientists and broadcasters. Broadcasters believe that there is no sufficient proof that television violence will cause harmful effects. However, American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Television and Society says otherwise. Huston (1992) wrote in her book entitled ‘Big World, Small Screen: The Role of Television in American Society” that the possible harmful effects television violence on children does exist. Another study conducted by researchers of the University of Illinois in 1999, found that adults and teenagers with violent and aggressive behaviour were exposed to long hours of television shows when they were in elementary schools. A study entitled ‘Television and the Aggressive Child: A Cross-national Comparison’, suggested that some of the possible effects of long hours of television viewing may cause anti-social, hyperactivity and rowdy behaviour in children. Moreover, early childhood aggression is likely to worsen as the children enter adulthood and are more likely to commit crimes (Roff and Wirt, 1984). In the same year, another study published by Huesmann, Eron, Lefkkovwitz and Walder, supported this theory. They tracked over 800 individuals over a 22-year span. The first interview with the children took place when the median age was 8 years old, and the last follow-up was when the subjects were around 30 years old. The researchers found that childhood aggression tends to lead to adult aggression and criminality. The study shows that once early childhood aggression is established, typically from ages six to ten, these habits are unlikely to change in later life (Huesmann, Eron, Lefkkovwitz and Walder, 1984). In conclusion, based on the studies above, there is strong evidence to show a linkage between television viewing and childhood violence. Even though the above research shows that childhood aggression could be a precursor to adult delinquency, this could be prevented. As British television journalist and psychiatrist Michael Mosley states, children change the way they learn as they mature and develop the capacity to reflect on what they see. They identify with other people, which is otherwise known as empathy (Mosley, 2011). To support this, parents are ultimately responsible for supervising and limiting their children’s television viewing and also to guide and counsel them when their children see a violent act on television. Parents can discuss with their children how to resolve conflicts in non-violent ways. They should also urge their children to engage in other social activities such as playing board games and team sports instead of spending most of the time watching television. (Leonard, 1999).  There is no substitute for quality family time. Parents should not trade family bonding with hours of television. They should explain to their children the serious consequences of getting into physical fights (Knorr, 2015). Instead of watching violent television programmes, they should spend some time with their children watching educational programmes such as Discovery Channel, National Geographic, History channels or to encourage them to read books to improve their knowledge (Gross, 2013). Finally, parents must stay informed of the Singapore Media regulator Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) film rating guidelines. IMDA group films according to various age groups, so that parents can tell if their children are watching shows that match their recommended age groups. There are six different types of rating group in Singapore, among which, films with Parental Guidance (PG) and Parental Guidance 13 (PG13) are advised to be accompanied by an adult. Word Count: 1219 Reference List Bandura, A. (2011, May 17). The Brain: A Secret History – Emotions; Bandura Bobo Doll Experiment. Retrieved January 14, 2018, from Beresin, E. V., Dr. (n.d.). The Impact of Media Violence on Children and Adolescents: Opportunities for Clinical Interventions. Retrieved January 14, 2018, from Gross, D. G. (2013, August 15). Violence on TV and How It Can Affect Your Children. Retrieved January 14, 2018, from Huesmann, L. R., & Eron, L. D. (Eds.). (1986). Television and the Aggressive Child. Retrieved January 14, 2018, from Huston, A.C., Donnerstein, E., Fairchild, H., Feshbach, N.D., Katz, P.A., Murray, J.P. Rubinstein, E.A., Wilcox, B. & Zuckerman, D. (1992). Big World, Small Screen: The Role of Television in American Society. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. Violence on Television: What do Children Learn? What Can Parents Do? (n.d.). Retrieved January 14, 2018, from 

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