Children emulate the examples set by their parents.  In a nation where most families have both parents working, children are most often left at home.  With no parents to imitate their attention is focused on watching television, movies and playing video games.  The number of hours spent by children watching television, films and playing computervideo games has increased over the years.  The Surgeon General in its Report on Youth Violence (The Surgeon General, 2001) stated that on the average children spent four hours a day with television, computers, videotaped movies and video games.  

That was nine years ago.  The numbers have now risen to new heights.  Today children 8 to 18 years old spend as much as 7 hours and 38 minutes a day, which is 53 hours a week not only watching T.V. or playing games but also using the computer for entertainment, listening to music and using their phones this is according to the Kaiser Family Foundation study (Rubin, 2010).

    With so much time spent in front of the tube and playing games it certainly would affect the behavior of the children.  Children, as Bandura proved in his Bobo doll experiments, learned aggressive behavior by observing the example of the adults (Isom, 1998).   Banduras experiment was the first one to link television content with anti-social behavior (Hoermer, 2003). 

    Worthy of note is the contribution of Joanne Cantor with her paper on The Psychological Effects of Media Violence of Children and Adolescents (Joanne Cantor, 2002) stating that by copying the violent actions of what they see on T.V. children become more aggressive.  Desensitization also happens in the repeated exposure of children to violent scenes.  Studies have documented that desensitization results in reduced arousal and emotional disturbance while witnessing violence.  (Cline, Croft,  Courrier, 1973).  Over time, the deeper effect of desensitization was shown in  several studies.  One report stated that desensitization leads children to wait longer to call an adult to intervene in a witnessed physical altercation between peers  (Molitor  Hirsch, 1994) and results in a reduction in sympathy for the victims of domestic abuse (Mullin  Linz, 1995).

    Several surveys have also shown that increasing exposure to violence on tv also increases the prevalence of psychological trauma such as anxiety, depression and posttraumatic stress (Singer, Slovak, Frierson,  York, 1998).   The frequency of sleeping disturbances being significantly related to the amount of childrens television viewing (especially television viewing at bedtime) and having a television in ones own bedroom was shown in a 1999 survey of almost 500 children in kindergarten through fourth grade in Rhode Island  (Owens, Maxim, Nobile,  Alario, 1999).

    Videogames did not start until the 70s.  It started with a simple game, Pong.  But as the years passed, programmers have made the game more and more interactive, 3-dimensional and we now have multi-player role playing games.  Companies have even hired professional gamers.  We also now have portable game consoles which allow children to play games wherever and whenever.  

    The violent game player is a much more active participant that is the violent TV show watcher.  This alone may increase the effectiveness of the violent story lines in teaching the underlying retaliatory aggression scripts to the game player.  Active participation is a more effective tool in part because it requires attention to the material being taught.  The addictive nature of the games mean that their lessons will be taught repeatedly  (Craig Anderson, 2001).    Anderson further reported that Young people who play lots of violent video games behave more violently than those who do not.   In a most recent study, during late adolescence accounted for 13-22 of the variance in violent behaviors.  Retaliatory aggression was also shown to increase in violent game players compared to non-violent game players.  Andersons report also stated that another negative effect of violent video games is the decrease in prosocial (helping) behaviors  (Anderson, 2001).

    TV, film and video game violence studies have shown that children who are repeatedly exposed to such media are more  likely to be aggressive, experience psychological trauma, decrease in helping behaviors and more likely to tolerate violence against others.  With such reinforcements during childhood, longitudinal studies have shown the kind of adults they have become.  That is the subject of another paper.


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