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DOES TELEVISION CAUSE YOUTH VIOLENCE?. THE ISSUE : WHAT DO CHILDREN GET FROM ALL THE TELEVISION THEY WATCH? DOES IT DO THEM ANY HARM? AND SHOULD THE STATE INTERVENE IF IT DOES DO THEM HARM – SPECIFICALLY, IF IT LEADS THEM TO ACT IN AGGRESSIVE AND VIOLENT WAYS?

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DOES TELEVISION CAUSE YOUTH VIOLENCE?

  • THE ISSUE: WHAT DO CHILDREN GET FROM ALL THE TELEVISION THEY WATCH? DOES IT DO THEM ANY HARM? AND SHOULD THE STATE INTERVENE IF IT DOES DO THEM HARM – SPECIFICALLY, IF IT LEADS THEM TO ACT IN AGGRESSIVE AND VIOLENT WAYS?

  • THE HISTORY: SINCE THE INVENTION AND SPREAD OF THE MEDIUM AFTER WORLD WAR II, TELEVISION HAS BEEN ACCUSED OF PRODUCING VIOLENT BEHAVIOR IN VIEWERS, ESPECIALLY YOUNG VIEWERS. ALMOST SINCE THESE ACCUSATIONS STARTED, RESEARCHERS HAVE ATTEMPTED TO FIND OUT WHETHER SUCH FEARS WERE JUSTIFIED.

  • THE DEBATE: OPINIONS ON THE TOPIC HAVE VARIED WIDELY. [SOME OF THE RESEARCH SUPPORTING ONE SIDE OR ANOTHER WAS IDEOLOGICAL, AND SOME WAS ALSO SELF-SERVING].


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TELEVISION IS NOT TO BLAME CAMP

THOSE WITH THE MOST TO LOSE IN THIS DEBATE [THE TELEVISION NETWORKS THEMSELVES] GOT INVOLVED IN RESEARCHING THE QUESTION EARLY. NETWORK RESEARCHERS PROPOSED TO PROVIDE THEIR OWN THOROUGH AND UNBIASED SCIENTIFIC ACCOUNT OF THE EXISTING EVIDENCE. THEY RESTED THEIR CONCLUSIONS ON A NUMBER OF ARGUMENTS [SOME OF WHICH WERE HOTLY DISPUTED BY THE “INDEPENDENT” RESEARCH COMMUNITY] AS FOLLOWS:


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TELEVISION IS NOT TO BLAME CAMP (CON’T)

  • CORRELATION DOES NOT PROVE CAUSATION – [NON-LABORATORY] NATURALISTIC OR FIELD RESEARCH IS INCAPABLE OF SHOWING A CAUSAL CONNECTION [PROBLEMS: “ECOLOGICAL FALLACY” (ARE THE CHILDREN COMMITTING THE CRIMES OF DELINQUENT ACTS THE ONES WHO ARE ACTUALLY WATCHING THE MOST TV?); “LOGICAL SEQUENCE” (MAYBE THEY STARTED WATCHING TV AFTER THEY BEGAN A LIFE OF DELINQUENCY); “SPURIOUSNESS” (IS IT BAD GENES OR FAULTY SOCIALIZATION).

  • LABORATORY STUDIES ARE NOT REALISTIC – BEHAVIOR IN LABORATORIES MAY OR MAY NOT BE LIKE BEHAVIOR OUTSIDE OF LABORATORIES.

  • THE RESEARCH COMMUNITY IS UNDECIDED – METHODOLOGICAL PROBLEMS LEAD RESEARCHERS [FOR A LONG TIME] TO BE CAUTIOUS IN INTERPRETING THEIR RESULTS AND DRAWING PRACTICAL CONCLUSIONS.

  • TV EFFECTS ON CHILDREN’S AGGRESSION ARE SMALL – [EARLY RESEARCH CONSISTENTLY FOUND DOUBLED TV VIEWING (EX: A CHANGE FROM 2 TO 4 HOURS A DAY) RESULTED IN A 5% INCREASE IN THE PROBABILITY, SERIOUSNESS, OR DURATION OF VIOLENT BEHAVIOR]. THE MAGNITUDE OF EFFECT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE A “TELEVISION CONTENT PROBLEM.”


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TELEVISION IS NOT TO BLAME CAMP (CON’T)

  • TELEVISION EFFECTS ARE CONDITIONAL – TV PROGRAMS INTERACT WITH, OR ARE CONDITIONAL ON EVERYDAY LIFE EXPERIENCE. [MAL-ADJUSTED VIEWERS ARE INFLUENCED MORE BY TV CONTENT].

  • TELEVISION ONLY REINFORCES EXISTING VIEWS – DIFFERENT KINDS OF PEOPLE CONSUME DIFFERENT AMOUNTS AND DIFFERENT KINDS OF TV PROGRAMING. IF PEOPLE DON’T WANT THEIR CHILDREN TO BE VIOLENT THEY SHOULDN’T LET THEIR CHILDREN WATCH VIOLENT PROGRAMS. [EX: THE V-CHIP].

  • THERE IS NO TV EFFECT ON VIEWERS PERCEPTIONS – NETWORK-COMMISSIONED RESEARCH FOUND THAT HEAVY VIEWERS OF TV DID NOT PERCEIVE THE WORLD IN SIGNIFICANTLY DIFFERENT WAYS [SHOWING WARPED THINKING] FROM INFREQUENT VIEWERS.

  • TELEVISION VIOLENCE HAS ALREADY DECREASED – NETWORK-COMMISSIONED RESEARCHERS FINALLY CLAIMED THAT IN RESPONSE TO PUBLIC CONCERN THEY HAD BEEN BUSY DECREASING THE AMOUNT OF TV VIOLENCE.


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TELEVISION IS TO BLAME CAMP

IN THE FACE OF THESE PERSUASIVE ARGUMENTS, INDEPENDENT RESEARCHERS WENT TO WORK WITH GREAT ENERGY, TAKING EXCEPTION TO VIRTUALLY EVERY POINT THE NETWORK RESEARCHERS MADE – AS FOLLOWS:


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TELEVISION IS TO BLAME CAMP (CON’T)

  • STUDIES ARE NOW MORE NATURALISTIC, LONGITUDINAL – INCREASINGLY, RESEARCH WAS NATUALISTIC AND LONGITUDINAL, FOLLOWING CHANGES OVER TIME [EX: INDEPENDENT RESEARCHERS CONDUCTION A 10-YEAR STUDY FOUND WE CAN PREDICT TEENAGE AGGRESSION FROM THE AMOUNT AND TYPE OF TELEVISION VIEWING A CHILD DID WHILE IN THE THIRD GRADE].

  • CHANGES IN VIEWING PREDICT CHANGES IN BEHAVIOR – RESEARCHERS FOUND AFTER THE ARRIVAL OF CABLE TELEVISION IN COMMUNITIES THAT PREVIOUSLY HAD NO TELEVISION, LEVELS OF TEENAGE AGGRESSION RISE. [LIKEWISE, THE HOMICIDE RATE IN SOUTH AFRICA INCREASED RAPIDLY AFTER THE ARRIVAL OF TV].

  • THE RESEARCH COMMUNITY IS NOT UNDECIDED – BY THE 1980S, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND ANY INDEPENDENT RESEARCH THAT DID NOT POINT TO THE CONCLUSION THAT TV VIEWING INCREASES CHILDREN’S AGGRESSIVENESS AND VIOLENCE.


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TELEVISION IS TO BLAME CAMP (CON’T)

  • SMALL DOSES ADD UP – EVEN THOUGH MOST RESEARCH SHOWED ONLY SMALL EFFECTS OF TV VIOLENCE ON CHILDREN’S BEHAVIOR, THESE ARE CUMULATIVE. [EX. AN 8 PERCENT INCREASE IN THE AVERAGE CHILD’S LEVEL OF AGGRESSIVENESS WOULD DOUBLE THE ADULT HOMICIDE RATE 15 TO 20 YEARS LATER].

  • TELEVISION PRODUCES GENERALIZED FEAR – THERE IS CLEAR EVIDENCE THAT PEOPLE WHO WATCH A LOT OF TELEVISED VIOLENCE (INCLUDING THE NEWS) ARE MORE FEARFUL AND MISTRUSTFUL THAT PEOPLE WHO WATCH LITTLE TV. [PARADOXICALLY, ELDERLY AND SHUT-INS MOST AFRAID DESPITE ISOLATION].

  • CONDITIONAL EFFECT REVISITED – TELEVISION VIOLENCE DOES HAVE MORE EFFECT ON SOME PEOPLE [EX. YOUNG MEN LIVING IN POOR, VIOLENT NEIGHBORHOODS]. IN THE REAL WORLD IT IS FAR EASIER TO CHANGE TELEVISION CONTENT THAN TO CHANGE NORTH AMERICAN CULTURE, THE CLASS SYSTEM, THE AMOUNT OF DOMESTIC AND COMMUNITY VIOLENCE, OR YOUNG MEN’S HORMONES.

  • THE RESULTS OF CONTENT ANALYSES – TECHNIQUES OF CONTENT ANALYSIS [A SYSTEMATIC METHOD OF EXAMINING THE PROGRAM CONTENT OF ANY COMMUNICATION] HAS FOUND LITTLE EVIDENCE THAT TV NETWORKS HAVE [AS CLAIMED] DECREASED VIOLENT PROGRAMING.


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SUMMING UP

  • UNLIKE MANY DEBATES IN SOCIOLOGY, THIS ONE IS PRETTY MUCH OVER. THE EVIDENCE IS IN, AND TELEVISED VIOLENCE DOES PRODUCE VIOLENCE IN CHILDREN.

  • ONE IMPLICATION FOR SOCIALIZATION IS CLEAR: IF YOU DON’T WANT A VIOLENT CHILD, RESTRICT HIS OR HER VIEWING OF TV VIOLENCE.

  • RESEARCH HAS IDENTIFIED THE KINDS OF TV VIOLENCE THAT HAVE THE LARGEST IMPACT ON A CHILD


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TV VIOLENCE WITH THE LARGEST IMPACT ON A CHILD

  • VIOLENCE THAT LOOKS SEXY, EXCITING, OR FUN.

  • VIOLENCE IN A SETTING WHERE THERE IS NO EVIDENT PAIN, SORROW, OR REMORSE.

  • NO-CONSEQUENCE VIOLENCE.

  • VIOLENCE MOTIVATED BY REVENGE OR ANOTHER “BASIC INSTINCT.”

  • PHYSICAL VIOLENCE THAT OCCURS ALONGSIDE VERBAL ABUSE.

  • PROGRAMS THAT SHOW A PERPETRATOR OF VIOLENCE BEING REWARDED OR ESCAPING PUNISHMENT [EX. VIOLENCE AND SEX; ORGANIZED CRIME].

  • .VIOLENCE THAT GOES UNCRITICIZED, OR SEEMS JUSTIFIED OR MERITORIOUS.

  • ***VIOLENCE PORTRAYED IN A REALISTIC SETTING WITH REALISTIC CHARACTERS [EX. WITH NEIGHBORHOODS AND HEROES THAT LOOK FAMILIAR TO THE VIEWER].


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THE POSTMODERN POSTSCRIPT

  • THE TECHNIQUES OF MEDIA [VISUAL, ANIMATED, PROGRAMMING, DIRECTORIAL, ETC.] INCREASE THE LIKELIHOOD OF CHILDREN TAKING WHAT THEY SEE AS A SEAMLESSLY ATTACHED PART OF THE WORLD IN WHICH THEY LIVE.

  • AS “TECHNO-SAPIENS” WE NEED TO “BRACKET” THE MEDIUM WITH A CRITICAL EYE IN ORDER TO SEE TV DEPICTION AS SOMEONE’S VIEW, NOT A SIMPLE STATEMENT OF “THE WAY THINGS ARE.”

  • BUT THE TROUBLE IS, PEOPLE HAVE BECOME ACCUSTOMED TO SEX, VIOLENCE, DANGER, AND EXCITEMENT AS THEIR STANDARD TV FANTASY FARE. IT HAS BECOME ADDICTIVE, AN ALTERNATIVE TO EVERYDAY LIVES THAT MAY BE BORING, FRUSTRATING, UNFAIR, AND UNREWARDING – TV TODAY IS, AS MARX ONCE SAID OF RELIGION, “AN OPIATE OF THE MASSES.”



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