r ElseAmericans Must Give Up TV Violence For the Kids, Or Else
To the unsuspecting eye, this nation’s response and reaction to the rise
in number of violent acts committed by teenagers could be described as
appropriately overwhelming, but when examined more closely, does America
really care? When examined in a general sense, violence has declined overall
in the US but has risen among teens (Hunt 651). Who is to blame and how
are we trying to prevent youth crime and teen promiscuity? A New York
Times poll in 1995 reported only 21 percent of those who were surveyed
actually put the blame on television (Hirschorn 643). Both those who cite TV
and popular music as the source of teen aggression and those who disagree
have reasons to do so. There is valid proof behind both points of view but I
firmly believe there is a direct cause/effect relationship between what children
view on TV and how they act in the real world. Research, which I will
discuss, conducted in both England and the US proves to me beyond
reasonable doubt that violent television programs either directly or indirectly
effect children and I think the government should take a more active role in
youth crime prevention.
Though some of the evidence that supports my beliefs has been viewed
as circumstantial, it is too valuable to be ignored. Brandon Centerwall, a
professor at the University of Washington, summarized some of the evidence
in an article in the Spring 1993 issue of The Public Interest. His research
findings focused on instances circa 1975 when television was introduced to
rural Canadian and South African communities. In both countries, there was
a significantly noticeable increase in violent crime committed by the young
(Kristol 641). “Professor Centerwall also notes that when TV was introduced
in the United States after World War II, the homicide rated among whites,
who were the first to buy sets, began to rise, while the black homicide rate
didn’t show any such increase until four years later” (Kristol 641). Such facts
highlight the probability that what children watch, they copy. It is
unadmirable to count such evidence as circumstantial, but those who examine
the facts in a broad sense, look over the specific fields in where the increases
or decreases occur. According to Centerwall, if television was never
invented, the United States would have 10,000 fewer homicides (Kristol 642).
A study conducted in England also supports that violent television has
an effect on children. English Parliament introduced legislation to limit the
availability of violence-rich videos in 1994 after the study, conducted by a
professor from Nottingham University, was released. The professor, named
Elizabeth Newson, cited evidence that proved the effects on children from
violent TV programming. The report was signed by twenty-five
psychologists and pediatricians. The report can be summarized by the
following quote (from the report):
“Many of us hold our liberal ideals of freedom of
expression dear, but now begin to feel that we were
naive in our failure to predict the extent of
damaging material and its all-too-free availability to
children” Kristol (640).
This point-of-view about freedom of expression is not held solely by those in
England, for it is in our own country where the first amendment grants us
freedom of speech, or more specifically, that Congress shall make no law
abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.1 Yes, control of television
programming and it’s violence content does limit the freedom independent
adults in watching what they choose to watch but is it not worth it? Society
as a whole benefits when thousands of children have been steered away from
becoming violent adults (Kristol 642).
The United States government has taken a divided stand when asked
about the source of teen violence and promiscuity in America. The liberals
call for tougher gun control laws while the conservatives place the blame on
pop culture and TV (Hunt 650). The government has taken slight steps
towards intervening in what Hollywood puts on TV but I see these efforts as
minuscule. It is apparent to myself beyond reasonable doubt that after
children view over 200,000 acts of TV violence by the time they graduate
high school (Hunt 652) they become numb to violence. As of 1995, Senate
had passed legislation requiring violence-screening technology on all new TV
sets (Hirschorn 643). Is this all that they are willing to do for our children?
More along the lines of what conservatives promote, it is only appropriate
that prime-time television be declared a violence-and-sex-free zone
(Hirschorn 643). “Culture’s romanticization of violence — in movies,
television, and music — certainly contributes to a general disregard for
authority” (Hunt 651), and when a parent is confronted with a violent,
aggressive, or promiscuous teen, who it the first to be blamed? The parent.
The cliche “it takes a village to raise a child” has never been more meaningful
than when applied to this situation and what the government must do to assist
in the bringing up of our next generation. “(Parents) have not been able to do
it on their own. Parents have always relied on churches, schools and popular
culture for help” (Kristol 643). The government should fall somewhere
within those lines also.
In conclusion, I, along with other critics of TV violence claim that
violent acts on TV teach children sadism and encourage them to be cruel
(Oppenheim 648). Albert Hunt states in an article in the Wall Street Journal,
the perfect analogy interpreting the effects of violence in music and in the
media on children. He said, “If Frank Sinatra songs make people feel
romantic and John Phillips Sousa makes people feel patriotic, then the
obscene violence of (media) shock rocker Marilyn Manson or gansta-rapper
Snoop Doggy Dogg might encourage impressionable and troubled teenagers
to feel perverted or violent” (Hunt 652). Is there anything to dispute this
point? Though clean-cut evidence has not been found relating violence in the
media, circumstantial evidence is far too numerous and substantial to be
ignored. In efforts to correct and help prevent youth violence we adults may
give up a part of our first amendment right, but in the long run, all of our
rights, our prosperity, and our lives are protected.
Hirschorn, Michael. “The Myth of Television Depravity.” Elements of
Argument. Ed. Annette T. Rottenberg. Boston: Bedford/St.
Martin’s, 2000. 643-646.
Hunt, Albert R. “Teen Violence Spawned by Guns and Cultural Rot.”
Elements of Argument. Ed. Annette T. Rottenberg. Boston:
Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000. 650-652.
Kristol, Irving. “Sex, Violence, and Videotape.” Elements of Argument. Ed.
Annette T. Rottenberg. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000. 640-643.
Oppenheim, Mike. “TV Isn’t Violent Enough.” Elements of Argument. Ed.
Annette T. Rottenberg. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000. 646-648.