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College Argumentative Essay Violence on Television Effects Children

There is no doubt that television has changed the world and how we view it. With just the point and
click of a button, the viewing possibilities are endless. There are literally hundreds of channels to
choose from. Cartoons, sitcoms, news, cooking shows, and music videos fill the airwaves. With so
many viewing options, determining what we should be watching has become a great concern,
especially when it comes to children. It is no wonder that cable and satellite providers have built in
parental controls. Violent and aggressive acts abound on TV. Many times it is children who are
viewing these acts. Some people believe that such viewing habits directly affect children. According
to the Center for Media and Public affairs, the typical American child will witness 40,000 killings and
200,000 act of violence on television, by their 18th birthday (Media Violence 121). These statistics
are shocking. It is no wonder that the question arises, what impact does viewing violence on
television have on children?
There has been overwhelming evidence that suggest viewing violent and aggressive behavior on
television, does in deed directly affect children. Children are great imitators. Imaginary play and
modeling their favorite characters are commonplace among the young. Children can and readily do
imitate what they see. Just ask any parent whose child has learned their ABC's by watching Sesame
Street. They will all tell you that their child watched Big Bird, Ernie and the other characters reciting
the alphabet over and over. After repeated viewing their child began reciting their ABC's from
memory. This act alone reinforces the idea that through imitation and repeated exposure children
can learn. Learning violence is no exception. It can be imitated and learned in the same manner as
how the alphabet was committed to memory. The only difference is when children watch negative
behavior, it is that negativity that they learn and mimic. It is not something as harmless as the ABC's.
Authorities on child behavior agree that what a child watches does indeed affect their behavior.
According to The American Academy of Child and Adolescence Psychiatry, extensive viewing of
television violence by children causes greater aggressiveness (Cook et al.).
Desensitization can also play a roll in a child's negative behavior. It occurs when children become
physically and emotionally unresponsive to the violence and aggression they see on television. It is a
fact that people react both physically and emotionally when they experience an episode of violence.
It is an involuntary response and occurs even if the event is real or being portrayed fictitiously. After
repeated exposure to violence, the typical psychological and physical responses can cease (Media
Violence 121). Desensitization to violence occurs when a child repeatedly views it on television.
Children who continually view violence on TV become desensitized and no longer conceder violence
in the realm of fear, and can readily accept it as common behavior. This in turn can impact a child in
a way that will not hinder him or her from acting out violently or aggressively.
Some people will argue that children actually learn morals and life lesson from some violence on
television. In shows such as Power Rangers, Xmen and Justice League, the good guys always win and
the bad guys are always punished. This idea helps children realize that bad acts are punishable. They
will more often identify with the heroes in the story, and they themselves will aspire to be one of the
good guys (Media Violence 53). There is no question that children can learn bad acts are punishable
by watching the so-called good guys win. The problem is it also teaches the children how to handle
the wrong doings by the bad guys. More often or not there is a huge battle between good and evil
being portrayed on the screen. Those that are identified as being the good guys often use violence to
subdue the evil wrong doers. This can include fighting, punching, kicking and other acts of
aggression. The fact of the matter is, children are being taught violence solves problems. This fact is
evident in a joint statement issued at the Children Congressional Public Heath Summit. Several
prominent pediatricians claim, "Children who see a lot of violence are more likely to view violence as
an effective way of settling conflicts" (Cook et al). It is also evident in the way children portray their
favorite super hero. It is not hard to imagine a child who is pretending to be a super hero. The
majority of them will draw their fist, pull out a pretend sword, or take a karate stance as if readying
themselves to fight a battle. The reality is that even super heroes teach children violence is
acceptable. This in turn can cause children to act aggressively, even when their intention is to do
good things.
What about the children who identify with the bad guys? There are those that argue it is actually the
child's own negative disposition that causes aggressive behavior. Children aggressive by nature will
have a genre of television shows that encompass a large amount of violence. Their predisposition
creates an urge for these types of shows. Their hostile behavior is not a result of the violence they
are viewing, but from their own inclination of violence (Van Erva 63). This concept might hold true as
to why they choose shows with violence. The argument is not what aggressive children choose to
watch, but the effects of what they are watching. The fact of the matter is, allowing these types of
children to view violence only encourages their own negative behavior. Because of their
predisposition to violence, it only makes sense to closely monitor what they are watching on
television. Allowing them to view more aggression can only reinforce their negative behavior, and
cause it to become even more pronounced.
There have been studies performed to show the correlation between adolescence aggression and
television violence. One such study was sited in Moller's book, Youth Aggression and Violence. It
involved three Canadian towns. Each town received identical Canadian television. Children with the
same aggression level were exposed to U.S. TV. After viewing the American television networks,
verbal and physical aggression rose significantly not only in children, but adults as well. The reports
of physically aggressive acts tripled in number, and per minute verbal aggressive acts doubled in one
town alone (Moeller 139). Canadian television has stricter laws regarding media violence than
American television. This study shows that when children are exposed to the more aggressive
television shows found on American networks, violence and aggression does rise dramatically. This
directly reinforces the thesis that there is a link between violence on TV and the behavior of
While we have been arguing the immediate impact that violence and aggression have on children, it
can also be noted that it can affect their personality as teenagers and adults. Children who watch
violence and aggression on television can grow into teenagers and adults who have a violent and
hostile disposition. The hostility that they view in their youth and teenage years can actually build a
foundation for their adult characteristics. Children learn early on the moral values of life. As parents
we try to teach them right from wrong. This is noted on the reinforcement we give children for
positive behavior, and the punishment and explanation we render children in regards to negative
behavior. The question is what moral values is television giving our children? As parents you might
be surprised to know that a simple television show might be counteracting what you are trying to
teach your child. Numerous is a non-profit organization devoted to children's heath. They sponsor
the website How TV Affects Your Child. On their website they state that commercials and television
that show violence, aggression, and risk taking may influence the acts of teenagers. Teenagers may
take part in risky behavior and violence if they view those types of behavior (How TV Affects Your
Child). Based on additional research, The Atlantic Monthly relates that viewing violent television
shows "better predicts adult aggressiveness than does a child's initial aggressiveness, intellectual
ability, or parents' educational background" (Indirect Aggression). It is clearly evident that what are
children views today will affect them tomorrow. There is no class of children that are immune to the
negative effects that the violent media produces. It is detrimental that parents and caregivers pay
special attention to the viewing habits of adolescence. By removing violent programming from
children's repertoires now, they are helping to create a better well-adjusted adult in the future.
Another important factor to take into consideration is that even programming targeted at children
can contain violence. Cartoons are no exception. Cartoons actually contain some of the most violent
acts found in television programming. They portray acts that in the real world would fatally harm an
individual. The majority of people will remember their favorite cartoons as children. Wyle Coyote,
Elmer Fudd, and even the infamous Tom and Jerry are notorious pranksters and perpetrators of
violence. Who does not recall the falling anvil that crashes atop the poor unsuspecting, cartoon
character's head? Elmer Fudd is forever chasing Bugs Bunny with a rifle, ready to shoot him on site.
Even Tom and Jerry readily makes use of situations that cut off tails, and smash their characters
beyond recognition. Children often laugh at the violence being portrayed in cartoons such as these.
In reality they are laughing at a character perpetrating violence and aggression toward another.
When hostility is presented in a comical fashion such as this, young children may make the
connection of violence and humor. This can cause a child to believe that pain and hurting someone is
humorous. They do not realize aggressive acts can cause real harm. In a book called Violent
Cartoons, the author points out that children less than five years old need help processing what they
are viewing. Young children do not understand that cartoon violence is animation. They do not
understand that cartoon violence does not reflect what happens in the real world (Dickenson 45).
Since children cannot make that connection, they may in fact be more prone to act out the violence
they see on a make believe cartoon. They may indeed not realize the repercussions of hurting
someone in the real world. They do not make the connection between imaginary and reality. When
a parent is watching what cartoons their children are viewing, it is always a good for parents to ask
themselves if their child is old enough to distinguish between animation and reality.
If parents are genuinely concerned with what their children are viewing, there are several options
available to them. They can watch the same programs their children are, and decide if that show is
appropriate for their kids. They can also utilize parental control features now found on almost every
satellite or Cable Companys remote control. In the new age of technology there are also specialized
websites where parents can review specific movies, television shows and cartoons. Parents generally
write these reviews. Their intention is too make note of violent or controversial acts and may not be
appropriate for children. With this information it allows a parent to make an informed decision
when deciding what their children are allowed to view. They are also a great source for
recommending appropriate shows for young audiences. Making use of these simple ideas and
suggestions can help alleviate some concerns parents my have about the content their children are
In closing we are not arguing the fact that violence and aggression are widely displayed on
television. Nor are we arguing the censorship of violence. We are however arguing what effect
television violence has on children. Will children who view acts of aggression on television exhibit
hostile aggression? The majority of the evidence concludes that the answer is yes. Parents should
keep that in mind the next time their children are watching television. What characters are their
children imitating on television? Are they barking like the innocent dog on Blue's Clues, or are they
pretending to be in a fighting stance ready to punch the bad guy? A dog is pretty harmless, but a
punch thrown at a younger sibling can be detrimental to the physical and mental well being of both
children. Cable and satellite companies put parental controls on remote controls for a reason.
Parents and caregivers are ultimately responsible for what their children view on TV. It is
recommended that parents exhibit their responsibility and take control of their children's viewing
habits. If your children are regularly watching violent and aggressive shows, change the channel. By
doing so, you will not only be deterring your children from committing hostile aggression, but
helping to groom a better adult in years to come.