Will They ever Deglamorize Violence on TV?
  Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

 In a study underwritten by the National Cable Television Association, four participating U.S. universities analyzed 9000 hours of TV programming shown between 6.00 a.m. and 11.00 p.m.  Findings of this study should make us all very concerned regarding the negative impact of TV.  The characters displayed in TV programs frequently use violence to handle conflicts and other problems, they aren't punished and their victims appear unharmed.  Children should not be getting such erroneous and misleading lessons in violence day in and day out.  

"Children have a harder time than adults distinguishing fantasy from reality and linking scenes together," says psychologist Edward Donnerstein of University of California at Santa Barbara.  "At the end of the show, you or I know that the person has been punished for a violent act that occurred an hour earlier.  A 4-year old does not."  

Sixty percent of the content of our TV programs is filled with various acts of physical aggression.  Such programs often portray violence as heroic and glamorous which can spur aggressive behaviors in viewers, especially our young and impressionable ones.  They are too young to critically evaluate these programs or differentiate between reality and the fantasy.  

The study further observes that "good" characters or heroes commit nearly forty percent of the violent acts.  We all know that children are likely to emulate such characters because they treat them as role models.  

More than one third of the programs feature bad characters who go unpunished.  Physical aggression is much too often condoned.  
More than 70 percent of aggressors show no remorse and receive no criticism or penalty for their violent acts.  

About half of TV violence involves no physical injury and no pain or emotional suffering on the part of the victims.  Viewers often don't get to see that serious violence does destroy victims and devastates their families.  

TV cartoon characters often don't represent harmless, fun loving creatures of mirth.  Shooting, stabbing, and killing is common in many cartoons that are fed daily to young and vulnerable audience, that is, children under 7 to 8 years of age.  Many children in this age group are not only fond of their cartoon heroes, such as the Ninja Turtles, they love them.  Such early lessons in "fun violence" are risky.         

It's a myth that TV is pure entertainment.  TV is a powerful tool of learning, particularly for young children.  Therefore, responsible TV should show the consequences of violence and present alternatives for resolving conflicts in a nonviolent fashion.  It is dangerous to show violence as a problem solver.  I would like aggressors in TV programs, at least some of the time, to show some good old fashioned remorse.  
Dale Kinkel of the University of California at Santa Barbara says, "We need shows that present violence as unattractive and repulsive—that makes aggressors outcasts, not heroes."  Violent messages need to be counteracted with anti-violent messages.    

Until TV executives voluntarily start producing more responsible programs for children, what should parents do for their young children who are most vulnerable to faulty messages about violence?  Parents should often watch these program with their children and later discuss their observations.  For example, ask them what they thought of the physical aggression they just saw on the TV.  Ask for their suggestions as to how else the characters in the story could have solved the problem or the conflict they were experiencing.  

Parents should not hesitate to take an active role in selecting or banning certain  programs.  Some are too constrained to intrude on a child's right to watch so called entertainment TV.  Others are too hesitant to impose their value system on children.  Parents should teach children right values and attitudes just as they would teach them correct rules of mathematics or grammar.        

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