The kind of television shows children watch and whom they watch them with
can just be as important as the amount of time they spend in front of the
tube, according to researchers at a children hospital in America. They
reported this in a new study that finds an association between violent shows
and peer problems.
Children who watch violent television programs
especially those who watch such shows alone spend less time with friends
than children who watch a lot of non-violent programs. Although the study
could not determine a cause and effect relationship, researchers suspect one
exists. They suggest that violent shows might teach and encourage aggressive
behavior in children, which in turn isolates them from their peers. And that
isolation, scientists suggests, appears to create a cycle that makes violent
programming more attractive to lonely children.
Researchers agree that a lot of studies about violence and television
deal with behavioral outcomes that don't resonate with people because they
occur years later. The study was intended to produce real-life outcome that
would motivate parents to consider the potential consequences of uncensored
viewing that are more immediate. While concerns about the harmful impact of
violent TV shows on children are scarcely new, their influence on children's
friendships and social activities has been little studied.
This is considered a novel and interesting study as it looks at TV
violence and peer relationships among children. The study suggests that the
content of shows and the context in which they are viewed may influence
social relationships in a more complicated way than previously believed.
Many researchers had speculated that TV viewing displaces time spent with
friends. However, these researchers found that children who watched
television with friends also spent more time socializing in other ways while
those watched violent shows spent significantly less time with their peers.
Studies have found that the average school-age child spends 27 hours a
week watching TV and that 61% of programs contain violence. To determine
whether violent content affected relationships with peers differently than
non-violent shows, researchers analyzed diaries kept by a parent or other
adult during one week day and one weekend day for children between the ages
of six and 12. The name of the TV show was recorded as was the presence of
other people in the room and activities performed while a show was on. Crime
shows, police dramas and cartoons such as Power Rangers were classified as
violent, as were other shows where violence as a central theme. News, sports
and non-fiction programming were omitted from the study.
Each hour of violent television watched y children aged six to eight
corresponded to 20 minutes less time spent with friends, while children nine
to 12 who watched an hour of violent shows spent 25 minutes less time with
peers. Viewing non-violent shows did not affect the time spent with friends.
The authors of the study say that viewing television together is one
activity that enriches childhood friendships. The amount of violence watched
in first grade typically predicts how aggressive the person will be 15 years
later. The link goes from violent TV to aggressive behavior in children.
The message from the study is simple and clear. Parents, and not their
children, should be in control of the TV. That means, parents must monitor
what children are watching, not turning on the set in the morning and
leaving it on all day and not allowing children to watch shows meant for
adults such as CSI or Sopranos.
Thus, parents ought to be aware of this. It is not only the amount of
time children are spending, it is what he or she is watching.