Nowadays one of most concerning topic in today’s media is sex and violence. Determining what’s “too much” for children is not an easy task, because every parent has their personal preferences about such matters. But determining the actual effects of media violence on children gives rise a problem in itself, as it’s quite tricky to actually determine what “violent media” means to the children (Cutler, 2002). There were many children friendly shows back in the days, shows that taught some useful lessons to the children in a non-violent manner. Shows like Ducktales or Darkwing Duck are examples of such shows that children not only could enjoy, but also learn some valuable lessons from. Even vintage video games like Super Mario was just a fun seeking game that children could enjoy and parents didn’t have to worry about their effects on their children too. But if we look at the TV shows, movies and games in the present, it’s quite obvious that the use of excessive violence has crawled its’ way into almost every form of media. Another problem is the increase of usage of sexual acts in the media. There are open discussions of sex and enactments of sexual activities in almost all the TV shows and movies. In the past, TV shows mostly showed two persons getting into bed and the next scene took us to the next day.
There were no enactments of sexual activities in the shows. But today, almost every show on every premium channels show fully nude persons or even the acts of having sex. The media industries have been strongly resisting such arguments that the usage of scenes containing sex, violence, and drug usage in TV, music, radio and movies is directly related to the increasing cases of negative behavior buildups in the society, (Anderson, 2002). Canceling such shows is the only way to get rid of sex from the TV. But doing so creates the possibility that children will grow up without the knowledge of sex. They might grow up and have to face the big bad world without anyone to properly guide them into making the right decisions. So it’s essential for them to learn the correct decisions at an early age, so that they don’t make any decision that could destroy their life forever. You might be able to control the TV shows on their usage of sex and violence; but what about other forms of media such as magazines, internet, books, music, and movies? Nowadays media has an array of methods to attract peoples’ eyes. They can target audiences of any age or group by tempting their senses. Teenagers are often attracted by violent acts, and by using this they can easily influence them. It doesn’t matter if it’s TV or the movies or the internet, violence is everywhere and trying to shut down all of them is simply not possible.
Imagine yourself in a scenario where you’re changing through channels on the TV and you can’t find any shows with violence, shooting or sexual scenes. What would you do in that case, keep on watching the TV or turn it off and do something else? Doing the later would cause the viewer ratings of TV networks to go down and thus giving them the impression that they need to show more violence and sexual acts to attract the audiences. There’s no point in denying that sex and violence attract people or “sell”, so to say. Although almost 60-70 persons out of 100 say that there’s excess use of sex and violence on TV, they have to firstly watch such usage to find that out. Imagine a show that you watch on a regular basis, and you’d realize by yourself that sex and violence sell. Not a single person can be found who hasn’t seen or doesn’t know of a show that uses violence or sexual references, at the very least. Just as a children might want to smoke if they see their parents smoke, they also might have the inclination towards committing crime if they see their favorite TV character commit a crime. Recently several methods have been developed to control or even block specific shows at specific times. A parental control, that gives the parents the power to block certain TV shows, is offered by every cable provider. But still, it’s the parent that must decide whether to block or not.
The V-chip is a recent controlling method developed to restrict sex and violence scenes from being showed on the TV and it’s done by incorporating a small chip in the TV. But to some extent, this seems to be violating the first amendment. What someone wants to watch on their TV is their personal choice; why should they be restrained from watching something they want? It’s understandable that children shouldn’t be exposed to such shows that negatively impact their sense of judgment, but what about someone who’s an adult and willing to watch those shows? Whether you allow play in shows containing sex and violence in your household premises is a decision that you should make, not the government. If there are children in the house, the parents should be responsible for keeping them away from shows that contain sex or violence. Another point is that most of these shows are aired at nighttime, and it’s safe to assume that children should be in the bed by that time. If kids are staying up at nights to see such shows, it’s not the networks’ fault that they are airing these shows, but it’s the parents’ fault that they can’t fulfill their responsibilities as a parent. On average, a child in the USA watches almost 28 hours of TV shows per week. Also, by the age of eleven, before finishing elementary school, a child views about 8000 murders on these TV shows. And the most terrifying fact is that in almost 75% of the cases shown in the TV, the criminal is shown to get away without being caught and feeling no remorse for their violent acts.
This creates a false impression on children about violence. They often get an impractical idea about the acts of violence. Some of them feel no affect of violence whatsoever and even think that it’s cool, while other few become scared of everything around them. In 2009, the National Organization of Women reported that the most violent shows that were being aired were- Alias of ABC, Law & Order: SVU of NBC and WWE: Smackdown of CW (NOW, 2009). When children watch TV shows that show someone committing a crime and getting away with it, it creates an impression on their mind that even they can get away without suffering the consequences of their actions. It’s also possible to link violent movies to several cases of assault, robbery and other anti social behaviors. People, particularly teenagers, often confuse things they watch on TV or movies with reality. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Columbine shooters, are a perfect example of such delusional cases. They tried to duplicate scenes from the movies The Matrix and Basketball Diaries and even dressed up in trench coats and armed themselves with guns to depict those scenes. But just watching violence on TV and movies is not the entire story, there are several other factors that shape the thoughts of persons.
Information obtained from several social research studies prove that what a child learns from what he/she watches is greatly affected by his/her surrounding environment (Anderson, 2002). For instance, if a child grows up seeing domestic violence in his/her household, he/she is more likely to think that these acts of violence is acceptable in the society. He/she would be more prone to act according to what he/she saw when growing up, thus giving him/her a completely false sense of what’s acceptable and what’s not. To those who are mentally handicapped, these effects are much more severe. Since they often have problems differentiating what’s right and what’s wrong, exposure to these sexual acts and violence change the way they think about the world and often clouds their judgments. Watching people commit crimes in the media might give them the impression that it’s okay to do such acts. In one of her studies, Sue Bailey declared that people would often enact scenes they saw in the media, even if those scenes were to contain violence or sexual exploitation (Anderson, 2002). This is in fact the main reason why we see so many copycat criminals nowadays. This reminds us of the Bandura’s theory of modeling (Sparks, 2013). Children often idolize these TV and movie characters and watching their idols beat someone, sell drugs, and committing crimes makes them want to do the same.
The act of violence and their rate varies in every society, but what’s alarming is that the USA has a horrifying rate of killings and suicides in the 15 year age group. In 1995, the combined death toll of children among 26 countries was at 2872. Out of these 2872 deaths, 1446 were in the USA alone and compared with the other 25 countries; this rate was almost 5 times higher. A child’s personality also plays an important role in their vulnerability to these violent acts. From an early age, some children might have the tendency to be temperamental. Watching violent acts in the media might increase their tendency to act violently. Furthermore, prolonged exposure to acts of violence increases their chance to act according to what they see in the media. Showing sexual acts and violence in TV can, in many ways, negatively impact the society. But the most argued point is the belief that a persons’ behavior is affected by what they watch.
But this seems likely only if someone was to watch only these type of shows at all times. Watching such acts on TV or movies once or twice is not going to affect someone’s personality or turn them into violent sexual offenders. Moreover, the choices someone make is their and theirs’ only to make. No one else can be blamed for their personal faults. To conclude all this discussion, today’s TV can’t be compared with the TV from 30 years ago. Today’s shows cover a more wide range of topics, represent different cultures and languages and they’re targeted for every age group. The increase in sexual scenes and acts of violence in the media reflects the change our society has undergone in the past years. This change can’t be denied and sooner or later society has to accept that these shows are a part of this change. So rather than demanding to stop this change, it’s practical to demand that these shows should be aired at a certain time, thus enabling the viewers to choose what they see and what they allow their children to see.
Anderson, C. A. (2002). Violent Video Games and Hostile Expectations. Retrieved from http://www.psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/caa/abstracts/2000-2004/02BApspb.pdf Bandura, A. (2006). Social Learning Theory. Retrieved from http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/social-learning.html Cutler, Maggie: Research on the Effects of Media Violence on Children Is Inconclusive”. Is Media Violence a Problem? James D. Torr, Ed. At Issue Series. Greenhaven Press 2002 National Organization of Women. (2009). Retrieved from http://www.now.org/organization/conference/resolutions/2009.html Sparks, G. G. (2013). Media Effects Research (14th ed.). Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook.