My mother has been concerned for years with how all the violence that we see in the movies and on television might be influencing children. In more recent years, I have to admit that I have begun to think that was a valid concern, too.
I have certainly seen my share of violent shows and movies, but I didn’t really watch much of that stuff until I was an adult. I must admit that I don’t care for it much and therefore don’t watch a lot of that sort of thing – although I did enjoy the occasional viewing of Chiller Theater at my friend’s house, both of us huddled under her mother’s afghan watching through the holes!
But what is shown on television has changed quite a lot over the years – it has gotten much more graphic and “realistic.” It started with cable shows, and has moved over to “regular” TV. My husband went out looking for comedies to record recently, because he said he was getting tired of all the death and destruction – he wonders out loud from time to time how many murders he watches every week. And he just watches a show or two in the evenings!
In a recent presentation at the Australian Council on Children and the Media, brain imaging studies were shown that show how exposure to violence in the media impacts brain activity in both the short and long term.
Watching violent acts on a TV or movie screen results in the reduction of frontal lobe development. This is where impulse and aggression controls reside, and knowing that it’s development is impaired is a cause for concern. These effects appear to be cumulative, with more exposure resulting in changes that are more impactful.
[box type=”info” align=”alignleft” ] The frontal lobes are not fully developed until a female is in their mid-20’s, or a male is in their mid-30’s.[/box]
Dr. Wayne Warburton, the deputy Director of the Children and Families Research Center at Macquarie University has studied images of the brain in relation to watching violence in the media, and he has found not only this reduced frontal lobe development, but also that in both the long- and short-term, there is desensitization to violence.
When you look at the statistics, you see that most children watch more than 3 hours of television each day. With that much viewing there is bound to be a lot of violence, even if they never witness that violence in person. The average 18 year old has witnessed 200,000 acts of violence on television, according to a study in 1992. That number is probably much larger today.
None of this seems to be helping our children to develop in a way that encourages them to reach their full potential. There have been many that have argued that the studies that have been conducted in this area are faulty. I know my mother was sure that watching scary movies at my girlfriend’s house was going to result in terrible things for my development – at the very least in nightmares for me – which didn’t ever happen…
What do you think about the impact of media violence on our kids?