Children's exposure to TV violence

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Long periods of TV exposure to violence can create aggressive behavior in children. In many cases children of different ages are exposed to TV programs that aren't suitable for their age groups. Many of these programs contain high volume of violence and children are exposed to them for an excessive amount of time without parental supervision. This can be a factor in building a hostile behavior in a child.

Not all TV programming is intended for all audiences. More children are watching programs that are not intended for their ages. There is an excess of violence, sex, and adult topics in TV programs. Children are more exposed to these topics with a click of a remote control device. It is very easy for a child to watch these types of programs because they are easily available at different hours of the day. A parent may think that during the early hours of the day television programs may be directed toward children but this may not always be the case. Ratings have been implemented in order for parents to keep control of the television programs their children watch.

Programs are identified by ratings issued by The National Association of Broadcasters, the National Cable Television Association, and the Motion Picture Association of America. These ratings are known as “TV Parental Guidelines.” These ratings can identify violent programming. They appear within the first 15 minutes of a TV program except for news, sports, and some cable channels. The Federal Communications Commission (2009) states “The ratings are as follows:

  • TV-Y - Directed for children within the ages of two to six
  • TV-Y7 - Directed for children of seven years of age and older
  • TV-Y7-FV - Directed for the same age group as the previous rating but with the difference that it may contain fantasy violence.
  • TV-G - Suitable for all ages but not necessarily a children's show.
  • TV-PG - Parental guidance is suggested and may not be suitable for young children.
  • TV-14 - Suggests that the show may not be suitable for children under the age of 14.
  • TV-MA - Directed specifically for adult viewing and children under the age of 17 are recommended not to view this program.”

Programs like Sesame Street are rated TV-Y and are directed to an audience from the ages of two to six years of age. This program in particular teaches learning skills to children while it entertains in an appropriate manner. When parents let their children watch programs with this rating, they can feel secure that their children will not be exposed to any violent, sexual or adult topics.

Children watch TV programs for a large period of time. The Keiser Family Foundation (2006) stated “More than four in ten (43%) children under 2 years old watch TV every day and nearly one in five (18%) watch videos or DVDs every day.” What this tells us is that most of these children don't incur in any outside activities and their main source of entertainment comes from television and video games. Children under the age of 2 watch television on a daily basis. This is a very early start for children to get accustomed to a television set.

The following table represents the amount of hours children spend watching television, playing video games and using computers. (Amy B. Jordan, PhDa, James C. Hersey, PhDb, Judith A. McDivitt, PhDc & Carrie D. Heitzler, MPHc , 2006). Children between the ages of nine and ten are at the highest level of television watching, while children between the ages of six to 7 years are at the lowest level. This table also shows that while children become older, they also include playing video games and using computers in addition to watching television. The amount of hours spent in front of a screen increases with age. Video games and computers also contain violence.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (2006) stated “Pediatricians recommend to parents that they limit children's total media time (with entertainment media) to no more than one to two hours of quality programming per day and to remove television sets from children's bedrooms.” With this amount of limited TV violence, children will be less prone to being affected by the aggressiveness and hostility shown in these types of programs. Children who are continuously exposed to TV violence at an early age may create a hostile behavior that will progress into their adulthood. “Aggressive behavior in the early childhood years has been repeatedly linked to violence in later youth and adolescence.” (Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH, & Frederick J. Zimmerman, PhD, 2007)

The way to address this issue is mainly with the interaction of the parents. A child looks up to the parents for guidance and they are the primary source of mentoring. Parents need to be involved in the lives of their children. It is important that they provide love and affection, along with communication and guidance. They need to spend time with their children in activities that will promote good behavior while creating a bond. Alternative activities should be fomented to substitute the use of television. Parents need to set the example in providing healthier activities to share with their children. The American Academy of Pediatrics (2009) stated “Parents are powerful role models. If you want your child to read more, that is what you should do. If you would like him to go outdoors for some physical activity, invite him to do so as part of an enjoyable family exercise program.”

Parents should foment other activities like sports, music, and literature. It is a good idea to promote activities that can be beneficial physically and mentally. There are many types of programs that children can enjoy while interacting with other children of the same age. Parents on a limited budget can look for free activities sponsored by their community. They can sign their children in a reading class at the library or a children's sports team at their local community center. The main focus on this is to limit the time children will spend watching violence on television versus participating in other activities that are more beneficial to them.

Also, the hours a child spends watching television and the type of programs they watch should be controlled by the parents. In fact, devices like a V-chip have been created to monitor and block the programs children watch. This device allows parents to block programming they don't want their children to watch. This is measured by the rating issued by The National Association of Broadcasters, the National Cable Television Association, and the Motion Picture Association of America. Programs with ratings of MA will be blocked by this gadget. This is a very useful took because it permits parents to schedule ahead of time the programs their kids can watch and will provide them with a sense of relief that their children can't watch inappropriate programming. The website for the Federal Communications Commission (2009) has information regarding this V-chip and explains how to use this device. The website for them is

It is extremely important for a parent to explain to children that the violence they see on television is not acceptable behavior and should not be imitated. A parent can inform their children that the majority of the violence they see on television and the reaction to this violence is seen by society as negative behavior. Parents need to encourage a sociable behavior in their children at an early age. While violence is an issue that affects society, children should be taught that this is not acceptable behavior.

Nevertheless, if a child has already developed an aggressive behavior other measures should be put into action. Parents may want to seek the services of a professional such as a school Counselor or a Psychologist, to help deal with the hostility. In addition, the involvement of all family members may be helpful in trying to control this type of behavior. It is a family issue when there is an aggressive child in the house because this behavior could eventually affect everyone in that house.

Finally, it is very important to say that not all television programming is unacceptable, or that it will affect the behavior of a child. Some programs are educational and will foment acceptable behavior in children. Violent TV programming will foment aggressive behavior in children and should be avoided. Children need entertainment in their lives but parents need to substitute television with activities that can stimulate them physically and mentally. Exposure to television should be reduced to a minimum and parents need to be more involved in the lives of their children. After these measures are taken, parents should see improvements on their children's behavior.