Americans 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 cliché “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.