Violence and the Desensitization Effect
The juries in this case are the consensus reports reached by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the Surgeon General, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and over 1,000 reports and studies conducted by leading figures within the medical and public health organizations. All of which, according to a statement released at a July 26, 2000, congressional public health summit, ". . . point overwhelmingly to a causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children."
The connection has also been established between viewing acts of violence and the subsequent desensitization that occurs following that exposure, towards violence in real life, coupled with the creation of a climate of fear that children internalize.
It is a well-known statistic that today's average American child watches approximately 28 hours of television per week. That same child typically sits down to at least an hour a day playing video or computer games. Several more hours each week are spent watching movies and videos and listening to music, tallying far more hours than a child spends in school or with his family. By the age of 18 that same child will have watched more than 200,000 acts of violence on television, including 16,000 murders.
Most parents have paid attention to those powerful statistics and widely publicized warnings. Likewise, they've implemented as many as they can of the strategies we've heard rehashed about limiting our kids' viewing time, watching with them, knowing what they're watching, and encouraging constructive dialogue and criticism. Yet, are we applying those same criteria to the programs we choose to watch for ourselves?
The news today is the most violent show on television, and it is easy to get fixated on local and world events. While we become drawn into the magnetism of the TV, are we aware of whether or not our kids are in the room or within earshot? Are we modeling the behavior we'd like our kids to adopt? I'm inclined to plead guilty.