Debate on Television Violence


In the last few years we have seen a new and frightening phenomena come across our TV screens. Young kids, mostly boys, walking into their schools and opening fire into crowds of schoolmates and teachers. The airwaves have been filled with “experts” claiming the cause is everything from too many guns available to arcade games to violence on TV. In the last few years we have seen a new and frightening phenomena come across our TV screens. Young kids, mostly boys, walking into their schools and opening fire into crowds of schoolmates and teachers. The airwaves have been filled with “experts” claiming the cause is everything from too many guns available to arcade games to violence on TV.


Children who watch a lot of TV are less aroused by violent scenes than are those who only watch a little; in other words, they're less bothered by violence in general, and less likely to see anything wrong with it. One example: in several studies, those who watched a violent program instead of a non-violent one were slower to intervene or to call for help when, a little later, they saw younger children fighting or playing destructively.


Studies by George Gerbner, Ph.D., at the University of Pennsylvania, have shown that children's TV shows contain about 20 violent acts each hour and also that children who watch a lot of television are more likely to think that the world is a mean and dangerous place.


'Children who watch the violent shows, even 'just funny' cartoons, were more likely to hit out at their playmates, argue, disobey class rules, leave tasks unfinished, and were less willing to wait for things than those who watched the non-violent programs,' says Aletha Huston, Ph.D., now at the University of Kansas.


In spite of this accumulated evidence, broadcasters and scientists continue to debate the link between the viewing TV violence and children's aggressive behavior. Some broadcasters believe that there is not enough evidence to prove that TV violence is harmful. But scientists who have studied this issue say that there is a link between TV violence and aggression, and in 1992, the American Psychological Association's Task Force on Television and Society published a report that confirms this view. The report, entitled Big World, Small Screen: The Role of Television in American Society, shows that the harmful effects of TV violence do exist.


Screen violence is the biggest TV turn-off, according to a report by the Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC). Sixty per cent of people questioned for the report complained there was too much violence on TV. The study showed that increasing numbers of people are switching off programmes, which disgust them. Concerns about the amount of sex on television, however, seem to be dropping as the issue fell from being the primary concern of viewers to the third. Almost 40% of those interviewed said they had been "personally disgusted" by something on TV and had switched off the programme - a rise of almost 10% on last year. When asked to name the issue, which concerned them most 39%, said violence, 25% said offensive language and 21% said sex.


Recently 30 people complained to the TV watchdog, the Independent Television Commission (ITC), about violent scenes in Coronation Street. Viewers complained over the level of violence and menace in the soap at a time when children could be watching. But the ITC ruled that the scenes had been filmed so that very little violence was in fact shown.


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