Television violence and Children

Television violence and Children

Cesarone, Bernard

Recent ERIC documents and journal articles that discuss topics related to television violence and children are summarized in this column. For details about ERIC and ordering ERIC documents, please see the information following these abstracts. ERIC Documents

PS026610, PS026611, PS026612 NATIONAL TELEVISION VIOLENCE STUDY. Volumes 1, 2, and 3. Margaret Seawell, Ed. 1997. 568 pp., 424 pp., & 368 pp., respectively. (Not available from EDRS; write Sage Publications, Inc., 2455 Teller Road, Newbury Park, CA 91320; 805-4990721; E-mail: The National Television Violence Study (NTVS), begun in 1994, was a three-year effort to assess violence on television. The project enlisted the help of media scholars, at four university sites, who conducted a content analysis of violence in television shows and music videos, analyzed the role of television s selfimposed violence ratings and advisories, and studied the effectiveness of anti-violence public service announcements. Each volume presents the research findings from one year of the project. The results show that the portrayal of violence on television likely contributes to the learning of aggression, across all genres and channels (i.e., network, cable, public). Furthermore, despite all the public attention given to the issue, television s portrayal of violence did not change during the three years of the study.


TELEVISION VIOLENCE: Content, Context, and Consequences. ERIC Digest. Amy Aidman. 1997. 2 pp. (Available from ERIC/EECE and EDRS; also available at: http:// aidman97.html.) This digest reports recent findings on television violence, including the effect of certain plot elements in portrayals of violence, various high-risk factors in televised violence, and predicted effects of viewing violent television shows in conjunction with specific plot elements. The digest discusses a ratings system that has been developed by the television industry, in collaboration with child advocacy organizations, to help parents determine the appropriateness of television programs. The digest also offers suggestions that may help parents reduce the negative effects of viewing television in general, and violent television in particular.



Stacy L. Frazier, John E. Bates, Kenneth A. Dodge, & Gregory S. Pettit. 1997. 11 pp. This 7-year longitudinal study of 535 children and their families examined the additive and interactive effects of both television viewing and harsh, physical discipline on children’s social information processing and subsequent aggression; it also examined the effects on children’s social cognitions and aggression of heavy viewing and parental permission to view violent content. Results indicated that permission to view violent content and the frequency of viewing were modestly positively correlated with child aggression at school. Results suggest that physically disciplined children who watch violent television may be at greater risk for aggression at school than those who watch less violent television, that physically disciplined children are at risk for aggression at school regardless of how much television they watch, and that children who watch a lot of television are at greater risk for aggression if they have deficient social information processing patterns.


VIEWING VIOLENCE: How Media Violence Affects Your Child’s and Adolescent’s Development. Madeline Levine. 1996. 256 pp. (Not available from EDRS; contact Doubleday and Company, 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036-4094.) This book reviews research on the effects of television and movie violence on children and adolescents, offering parents suggestions for dealing with the problems it creates. The book is divided into four parts, the first of which traces the development of television in the United States and examines more than 40 years of research on the subject of media violence and children. The second part examines how children at different ages understand and experience the world. The third part helps parents understand how children at different ages are affected by the media, in order to help them decide what media might be harmful to their children. The fourth part of the book focuses on how parents and others can best approach the problem of media violence.


BRINGING BART SIMPSON TO SCHOOL. Catherine Ann Cameron & Barbara A. Wigmore. 1996. 9 pp. This research addressed concerns about television violence via a project that encouraged 6th-grade students to log their television viewing and record their perceptions of those viewing experiences in daily journals. Results indicated that heavy viewers reported more favorable attitudes toward television violence than light viewers, and boys had higher percentages of positive or neutral evaluations of violent content than girls. Results also showed lower-than-expected viewing rates, and that journal entries involved more discussion of comedy and sports than any other topic, including violence.


MOVING YOUNG CHILDREN’S PLAY AWAY FROM TV VIOLENCE: A How-To Guide for Early Childhood Educators. Diane Silva. 1996. 82 pp. This guide is designed to assist early childhood educators in dealing with the aggressive and destructive actions that children imitate from observing violence on television. The guide focuses on 2to 5-year-old children, and suggests ways for educators to help children move away from violent play stimulated by television to the healthful, fun, and safe activities that promote growth and development. An introduction presents an overview of television violence and its effects. Five chapters provide assistance in helping children understand the difference between “real” and “pretend,” and they also offer activities to teach young children to pretend, activities for creative play, information on helping children gain selfcontrol and manage feelings, and guidance for educators in communicating with parents about the effects of television violence.


TELEVISION AND VIOLENT CLASSROOM BEHAVIORS: Implications for the Training of Elementary School Teachers. Gary Reglin. 1996. 13 pp. This study surveyed teachers to ascertain their perceptions of how violent television programs affect elementary school students’ classroom behavior. Resuits indicated that approximately: 1) 88 percent of the teachers agreed that television violence contributed significantly to students’ violent behavior, 2) 90 percent believed that male students imitated characters in violent roles while in school, 3) 71 percent felt that parents could lessen the chances of their children engaging in violent behavior by watching television with their children and indicating their disapproval of violent acts, 4) 90 percent felt that parental screening of television content would help prevent classroom violence, 5) 37 percent were unaware of the violent cartoons children were watching, and 6) only 5 percent were using cartoons as teaching tools.


TELEVISION VIOLENCE AND BEHAVIOR: A Research Summary. ERIC Digest. Marilyn E. Smith. 1993. 2 pp. (Also available at: respar/texts/media/viole397.html.) This digest describes the overall pattern of results from research on television violence and behavior. It identifies several variables in the relationship between television violence and aggression, related to viewer characteristics and to the portrayal of violence. Viewer characteristics included: age, amount of television watched, identification with television personalities, belief that television violence is realistic, intellectual achievement, and psychological state before and after viewing television. In addition, the digest summarizes concerns regarding the effects of television violence. Journal Articles


EFFECTS OF “THE MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS” ON CHILDREN’S AGGRESSION WITH PEERS. Chris J. Boyatzis, Gina M. Matillo, & Kristen M. Nesbitt. Child Study Journal, Vol. 25, No. 1 (1995): 4555. This study found that children in a group exposed to a televised “Power Rangers” episode committed seven times more aggressive acts in a subsequent two-minute play period than did a control group, boys more so than girls. Results corroborate the causal link between television violence and real-life aggression.


CHILDREN’S TOLERATION OF REAL-LIFE AGGRESSION AFTER EXPOSURE TO MEDIA VIOLENCE: A Replication of the Drabman and Thomas Studies. Fred Molitor & Kenneth William Hirsch. Child Study Journal, Vol. 24, No. 3 (1994): 191-207. Results of four experiments from the mid-1970s continue to be used as evidence that exposure to media violence desensitizes children to real-life aggression. This study replicated procedures from those experiments using contemporary video materials; the results confirmed the original findings-children tend to have higher tolerance for others’ aggressive behaviors if they have first seen television or film violence.



Haejung Paik& George Comstock. Communication Research, Vol. 21, No. 4 (August 1994): 516-546. This article discusses various studies of the effect of television on aggressive behavior and argues for a positive, significant correlation between television violence and aggressive behavior.


TEACHING CHILDREN TO EVALUATE TELEVISION VIOLENCE CRITICALLY: The Impact of a Dutch School’s Television Project. Marcel W. Vooijs S Tom H. A. van der Voort. Journal of Educational Television, Vol. 19, No. 3 (1993): 139152. This article describes a study conducted in Dutch primary schools, the goal of which was to alter television violence’s potential cognitive effects on 10- to 12-year-olds by encouraging them to evaluate critically the portrayal of violence. Teacher and student attitudes are discussed, and the educational effects of the curriculum are considered.

Resources on the World Wide Web

Center for Media Literacy http:/ / /

TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board

http:/ / / UCLA Television Violence Monitoring Report, January 1998 http: / / / 1996-97.htm)

The ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education (ERIC/ EECE) contributed this column. ERIC documents are abstracted in the monthly index Resources in Education (RIE) and in the ERIC database online or on CDROM. Most ERIC documents (EDs) can be read on ERIC microfiche, which are available in many libraries. In addition, most documents can be ordered in paper copy or on microfiche, and many recent documents can be ordered on the Internet, from the ERIC Document Reproduction Service (EDRS), 7420 Fullerton Rd., Suite 110, Springfield, VA 22153-2852 (1-800-4433742); URL: For complete ordering information, contact EDRS or consult the most recent issue of RIE. An availability source is indicated for those documents summarized in this column that are not available from EDRS. For journal articles cited in the column, refer directly to the journal or contact article clearinghouses such as UnCover (800-787-7979), UMI (800-732-0616), or ISI (800-523-1850) for ordering information. Further information on elementary and early childhood education is available from ERICIEECE, Children’s Research Center, University of Illinois, 51 Gerty Drive, Champaign, IL 61820-7469; (phone: 217-333-1386 or 800583-4135; E-mail:; URL: http:/

Copyright Association for Childhood Education Fall 1998

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