T e l e v i s i o n V i o l e n c e a n d Its Effect o n C h i l d r e n
Merrilyn O. Johnson, MSN, RN
Television (TV) has become a large part of children's activities. Much discussion exists as to the level of violence on TV programs and its effect on children's behavior. This article reviews the literature, discusses social issues, and presents some interventions available to nursing professionals to assist children and families in coping with the impact of TV on children's lives. Copyright 9 1996 by W.B. Saunders Company
For some children under some conditions some television is harmful. For other children u n d e r other conditions it may be beneficial. For most children under most ...view middle of the document...
Copyright 9 1996 by W.B. Saunders Company 0882-5963/96/1102-000353. 00/0
content has not changed appreciably in the past decade despite increasing public awareness and concern. Unfortunately cartoon shows and prime-time programming glorify the use of guns and violence as acceptable, justifiable solutions to complex problems (Dietz & Strasburger, 1991). Ninety-nine percent of American households contain at least one TV, with two thirds containing two or more sets (A.C. Nielson Company, 1988). Children and adolescents comprise between 10% and 20% of the prime-time viewing audience, and they spend more time watching TV (15,000 h) than they do in school (11,000 h). During this time they witness 180,000 murders, rapes, armed robberies, and assaults. In 1989, the average child in the United States spent more time watching TV than performing any other activity except sleeping. The Nielson Report on Television (1989) commented that children age 2 to 5 years viewed approximately 27 hours of TV/wk, children age 6 to 11 years viewed more than 23 hours of TV/wk, and adolescents age 12 to 17 years viewed 22 hours of TV/wk. By the time today's children reach 70 years of age, they will have spent 7 years of their lives watching TV (Dietz & Strasburger, 1991). TV therefore represents an influential force in the lives of children and adolescents. Many variables are involved in the relationship between viewing violence on TV and actual aggressive behavior. Significant developmental and gender variables, family background and attitudes, the viewing context, and the quality and nature of the child's other experiences, as well as his or her perception of TV portrayal, are all important factors that influence TV's impact. Other factors that affect the likelihood
Journal of Pediatric Nursing, Vol 11, No 2 (April), 1996
of an individual actually performing an aggressive act are characteristics of the viewer, state of arousal, whether the behavior is reinforced, nature of the TV stimuli, and the environment, including the perceived similarity between the observed environment and the viewer's actual environment (Comstock, 1976).
Parents and social critics express concern regarding the possible negative effects that TV viewing has on children. TV influences children, but in what ways and to what extent is the subject of much debate. The research in this area has focused on the relationship between viewing violence on TV and subsequent aggressive behavior. Numerous researchers have examined media violence in many countries using different methods, providing a degree of consistency of results. A small but genuine association appears to exist between media violence and aggression (Heath, Bresolin, & Rinaldi, 1989). Children are great imitators. Infants as young as 14 months have shown significant and deferred imitation of televised models (Meltzoff, 1988). Bandura postulated that children can learn aggressive...