Affects Aggressive Behavior

Carmela Lomonaco is a researcher at the Southern California Center of Excellence on Youth Violence Prevention at the University of California. She stated that: Most American homes have a television set which is in use for at least 7 hours each day and the average child spends 25 hours a week watching television. By the time the average child is 18 years old, he or she will have witnessed 200,000 acts of violence, including 40,000 murders (Lomonaco, 2004, pp 1). As if the violence depicted on mainstream television wasn’t enough, the statistics dealing with cartoon violence are even more shocking.

Episodes of classic cartoons such as “Tom and Jerry” and “The Roadrunner” typically show about 25 acts of violence per hour. These acts of violence are subject to imitation by children. One five year-old boy set his house on fire, killing his two year-old sister. The boy committed this act after watching an episode of “Beavis and Butthead”, to which his mother said he was “addicted”. Beavis and Butthead are two teenage MTV cartoon figures who advocated the setting of fires (Levine, P. H.D, 1996, pp. 19, 89-90).

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In analyzing over 200 studies, researchers Joanne Cantor, Brad Bushman and Rowell Huesmann discovered that viewing media violence has a definitive link to aggressive behavior. These findings have been criticized by skeptics in the entertainment industry due to the various limitations described in the case studies. These issues were addressed in a 17-year, 700 family study conducted by Jeffrey Johnson, Patricia Cohen, Elizabeth Smailes, Stephanie Kasen and Judith Brook.

Their study examined the correlation between media violence and aggression while referring to youth self-reporting, parental reporting, and criminal arrest data (Lomonaco, Carmela, 2004, pp 2). The research data compared males who, by the age of 14, watched television in excess of three hours per day with those who watched less than 1 hour of television per day. The results were that 48 percent of the three hour per day group later became involved in violent acts between the ages of 16 and 22, while the latter group only had 9 percent of males involved in violent acts.

This correlation continued even after regulating additional factors such as history of aggressive behavior, child abuse, community violence, resources, mental disorders, and sex (Lomonaco, Carmela, 2004, pp 2). A recent Federal Communication Commission (FCC) report accused television networks of irresponsibility in their lack of discretion in regard to programming. The report berated their choice to allow programming that depicts acts of violence, even though the government does not currently censor violent programming. The FCC drafted a proposal to Congress suggesting that guidelines be established to regulate violent programming.

One such guideline was to ban violent content during certain hours when children are likely to be watching (AR15, 2007, pp 1-2). No Affects on Aggressive Behavior At a 1995 U. S. Senate Committee hearing, Jonathan Freedman testified on the effects of television violence. Freedman claimed that despite the arguments made by some media critics, a definitive relationship between media violence and society had not been proven. He suggested that viewing media violence does not increase real-life violence; rather, television and movie producers teach valuable lessons by discouraging viewers from using violence as a way to stop conflicts.

Mr. Freedman used sociologist Steven Messner’s research, which was published in 1986 by the Journal of Social Problems, in order to explain his reasoning to the committee (Dudley, & Leone, 1999, pp 49-50). Steven Messner’s research recommended that television violence might reduce hostility in some instances. His research compared levels of violence viewed in the nation’s metropolitan areas with local statistics on violent crimes. His information suggested that increased exposure to violent television content correlated with low rates of violent crime (Dudley, & Leone, 1999, pp 49 -50).

Steven Messner’s research is consistent with the data presented in a comparison between acts of crime portrayed on television and the FBI’s crime statistics since 1955. According to the FBI crime statistics: television characters have been murdered at a rate of 1000 times higher than real world victims. Television crime not only presents a higher rate of violent crime than in the real world, it also portrays a different type of crime. Guns are more pervasive on television and violent crimes are more often calculated with felonies on television than in real life (FCC, 1995, pp 10).