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Violence in Film and Television; Does it Promote Violence in Real Life?. Antonella Dolores a nd Jamie Wahab. We begin with a quote from the Bible…. downloaded 8 August 2010. Film and Television……..the Never Ending Story…

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violence in film and television does it promote violence in real life

Violence in Film and Television; Does it Promote Violence in Real Life?

Antonella Dolores


Jamie Wahab


We begin with a quote from the Bible…. downloaded 8 August 2010


Film and Television……..the Never Ending Story…

based on ‘The Shaping influence of film and television on young people’s spiritual and moral development: an educational exploration’ by Marisa Crawford and Graham Rossiter (2005)

Film and television can have a significant formative influence on children’s meaning, identity and spirituality.

They serve as the most prominent and accessible spiritual and moral reference points in their culture.

The National Television Violence Study found that nearly 2 out of 3 TV programs contained some violence, averaging about 6 violent acts per hour. (Kaiser Family Foundation. Key Facts: TV Violence, Spring 2003.)


Narratives are inevitably value embedded. They carry images of life, presumed value systems and insights into human motivation.

Given the prominence for story in personal and spiritual development, in meaning, identity and spirituality, the focus will be on the ways people construct meaning by threading together their own “personal story” while drawing on various “cultural stories”.

Research by psychologists L. Rowell Huesmann, Leonard Eron and others found that children who watched many hours of violence on television when they were in elementary school tended to also show a higher level of aggressive behavior when they became teenagers. By observing these youngsters into adulthood, Drs. Huesmann and Eron found that the ones who'd watched a lot of TV violence when they were eight years old were more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for criminal acts as adults.

Huesmann, L. R., & Eron, L. D. (1986). Television and the aggressive child: A cross-national comparison. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Story is thought to be an important mediator in the psychological development of children and adolescents.


Much of what happens in film and television, in the drama, sitcoms and advertising, gives the impression that life goes on without a spiritual dimension.

The social reality they project often shows people giving little time to moral reflection. Also, the treatment of religion is often so stereotypical as to be negative.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that by age 18, the average American child will have viewed about 200,000 acts of violence on television alone. For some, there is the concern that children who are inundated with the images of shootings, bombings and rapes will become desensitized to such violent acts and possibly learn to see them as valid responses to life's stresses.


Evaluation of the spiritual and moral dimension to film and television requires two levels of interpretation. First, there is interpretation of the film or program itself. A second level of interpretation and evaluation is concerned with the moral and spiritual issues raised in film.

Values and morals are as essential to the coherence of a film as they are to people’s ordinary lives. What is important, then, for any “education in film” is to enhance this “value sensitivity” and make it more articulate through film analysis that develops skills in identifying implied spiritual and moral issues.

Percentage of television-time children ages 2-7 spend watching alone and unsupervised: 81 (Kaiser Family Foundation, 1999. "Kids and Media @ the New Millennium.")


By entering vicariously into a story, the viewer in a sense “participates” in its worldview and temporarily acknowledges the values in the characters so that they can make sense of the action as consistent with the characters motives.

Both active and passive TV viewing by three-year-old children appear to be associated with aggressive behaviour in a study published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine (November 2009). The fact that the TV is on even when the child is not actively watching may result in their unregulated exposure to violent content that may influence aggressive behaviour. Television Exposure as a Risk Factor for Aggressive Behaviour Among 3-Year-Old Children, by Jennifer A. Manganello; Catherine A. Taylor, in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. 2009;163(11):1037-1045.

It is possible to absorb “learn” values from this experience, just as one can learn from exposure to values in real life.


If individuals do not have a reasonably well developed set of beliefs and values (whether religiously motivated or not), or if there is a vagueness and fluidity in them, then perhaps they will be more vulnerable to influence from the value systems in which they are immersed when they watch film and television.

Many years of exposure to the implied value systems and lifestyles in film might incline young people to a particular way of thinking and valuing.


Preschoolers behave more aggressively than usual in their play after watching any high-action exciting

television content, but especially after watching violent television. By eight years old children are especially likely to show increased aggression from watching violent television if they believe the violence reflects real life, if they identify with a violent hero (as boys often do), or if they engage in aggressive fantasies. Television Violence: A Review of the Effects on Children of Different Ages, prepared by Wendy L. Josephson, Ph.D. for the Department of Canadian Heritage, February 1995.

Thus the value systems from the film world can form individuals values by default.

If screen violence has a cultural acceptability as public entertainment, then for some it could serve as a cultural validation of their inclination to violent behaviour.


In the case of young children they are much more susceptible to transferring values and behaviour from the screen to their real life. Especially if they have no other strong spiritual input, young children may learn some of their earliest and fundamental values from television. This is also a concern because it is difficult to change attitudes and values that are engrained at an early age.

Many areas of life are now perceived and interpreted mainly from the perspective from a television entertainment culture.

All images downloaded from either Google Images or