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Subject to change by Rudy Yniguez: TV, part of today's village rearing your kids

April 05, 2002

In a one-week period I heard a person say the local community is not being kept informed about the water transfer, and I read the larger community is not being kept informed about the effect of violence on television on children.

The first assertion is absurd; the second is likely true.

In college I wrote a term paper on television violence and its effect on children. Not surprisingly, the paper reflected the values of the person I knew would grade it, and as such, I made sure to state — and cite references — that no cause-and-effect relationship existed between TV violence and children's behavior. (Go ahead and say I sold out for a grade. It was a good grade, too, I might add.)

A study in the current issue of Science magazine says the word is not getting out about TV violence.

"Despite the consensus among experts, lay people do not seem to be getting the message from the popular press that media violence contributes to a more violent society," the article says. "We recently demonstrated that even as the scientific evidence linking media violence to aggression has accumulated, news reports about the effects of media violence have shifted to weaker statements, implying that there is little evidence for such effects."


Well, that's hardly surprising.

In the last several years, much to the detriment of a public in need of more voices instead of less, fewer and fewer companies own more and more media outlets. It should come as no surprise that a newspaper owned by the same company that owns a television station would not go near a story about TV violence and its negative impacts on children.

A couple years ago I received a call from a man with whom I was discussing television violence; don't ask me why.

He said he'd had enough of watching his children mimic the wrestlers (I call them wrastlers) on television. Now, you and I know professional wrestling is phony. It's all choreographed. Nevertheless, lots of kids apparently copy the language, mannerisms and moves on each other. There was a case not too long ago of a youngster who killed his little sister practicing the moves on her.

The man said he finally turned off the boob tube, and a short time later the kids had calmed down; they no longer acted or spoke like those figures they had seen on TV.

I should say at this point that it is up to the parents to decide what their children watch. Unfortunately, parents sometimes depend on TV ratings dreamed up by the same industry trying to hook you and me on their shows.

The National Coalition on Television Violence ( says TV's rating system "is so vague that it is virtually useless.

"Each rating is assigned by the show's producers, but there is no formal set of guidelines to apply," NCTV says on its Web site. "All NCTV is asking is that the industry let us know what is in TV programs so we can make informed decisions, for our children and ourselves."

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Web site ( states: "Hundreds of studies of the effects of TV violence on children and teen-agers have found that children may: become ‘immune' to the horror of violence; gradually accept violence as a way to solve problems; imitate the violence they observe on television; and identify with certain characters, victims and/or victimizers."

The Science magazine report was reportedly conducted over a 17-year period and involved 707 individuals.

"There was a significant association between the amount of time spent watching television during adolescence and early childhood and the likelihood of subsequent aggressive acts against others," the report states.

It goes on to say one hypothesis argues television violence contributes to the development of aggressive behavior, while an alternative hypothesis states some or all of the association is due to a preference for violent television programs among aggressive individuals.

"It has also been hypothesized that certain environmental characteristics, such as living in an unsafe neighborhood and being raised by neglectful parents increase the likelihood of both aggressive behavior and viewing television violence. This hypothesis has not been extensively investigated."

Not being one to shy away from controversy, I have my own hypothesis, also not extensively investigated.

From the day children are born, they increasingly become aware of television. Television is used as a means to keep a child entertained or distracted while mommy and daddy do other, more important, things. The child grows up exposed to violence, sex and crass language on an ever-increasing daily basis.

My hypothesis is that children subconsciously convince themselves that the purpose of television is for them to learn how to behave. In other words, by being placed in from of the boob tube by their parents or care-givers, children think they are supposed to learn how to act.

What do you think?

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