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The Teen Years





Effects of Violence on Television
Can Impact Family Values

Just 60 years ago, television was viewed as an unknown curiosity. TV was black and white ghostly figures on a screen so small hardly anyone could see them. Today, that curiosity has become a constant companion to many, including our children. The TV has all but replaced the printed page. TV programs report the news and weather, persuade us to buy certain products, and also provides programs that glorify violence. TV has affected our family value system in both positive and negative ways.

TV violence has been related to the aggressive behavior in children, although it is not clear how much of an impact TV violence actually has. This is because children most affected by TV violence are those already at risk for violent behavior. Other individual and family factors may be the other cause for violent behavior. Children who are already aggressive or have an aggressive nature are attracted to and tend to watch more violent TV.

Some children become "unfeeling" to the horror of violence and become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others. They may gradually accept violence as a way to solve problems. They may imitate the violence they observe on TV and behave in aggressive or harmful ways toward others. Also, they may become more fearful of the world around them.

Families can build on their strengths by working together to become "smart" TV viewers. Here are suggested activities to help the family be media smart:

1) Who really matters on TV? How are the characters on TV portrayed? Select a week and record the characters on programs. Be sure to include the cartoons. Look for heroes, heroines, or good/bad guys. Describe the characters by their age, sex, and race or ethnic background. Are there certain characteristics that are common for good guys, bad guys, or victims? Help your child(ren) see and talk about the differences. If we want children to know our values, they need to see or hear them to help filter the messages seen or heard on TV.

2) TV is in the business to make money. Keep a family journal for one week of commercials on TV and how they can influence the viewer. Talk about what the product is, what the message is, how it is made to look glamorous or appealing. Does it really "deliver" the results.

Each activity can help reinforce your value system through open communication of each other’s comments. Do programs showing violence advertise products often used by families? Advertising gets us to use products more often. Violence on TV gets our attention and keeps us watching. Adults can influence the way TV affects children by providing guidance and limits on what they watch.

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