24 May Monkey see, Monkey do
by Cinthia Jahnsen
We all have been there. The awkward moment where we feel that what we are watching on television, or at the movies is not appropriate for our kids. (OrUS for that matter) We all have our favorite TV shows. Many of us may even have to admit we’re addicted to some favorites. Yes, we may be among those who are ready for viewing at the same time and place every week with a bowl of popcorn in our laps. Television can be a fun part of life.
We are so fortunate to have such technology at our fingertips that enable us to watch pretty much any type of media entertainment at any time we please. Lately though, I have been wondering what the effects of watching certain types of television has on the minds of our young ones. Almost every TV show has some form of sexual content and violence. Does viewing these behaviors have an effect on how children perceive the world? Does it make them more prone to indulge in sexuality and violence themselves?
Media violence seems to have been increasing over the past several years, and can pose a threat to society. The rise of school shootings give us all reason to wonder what could bring on such violent and aggressive behavior in teens and adults. “Research shows that fictional television and film violence contribute to both a short-term and a long-term increase in aggression and violence in young viewers.” In 2013, NBC, alone, had eight of its nine dramas include weekly showings of gore and violence. Although many would argue that there is no clear link between television violence and teen aggression and violent behavior, some researchers tend to disagree. Why is there such an increase in violence on TV these days?
Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University, and an expert on violence in the media, says the shift toward more violent programming in TV, movies and video games is driven in part by changes in technology. ‘As technology is increasing, it’s easier to make things more graphic and more realistic. Technologies are being created to create a sense of immersion, of presence, so that you forget you are in a mediated world.’ “The more realistic the violence, he says –citing research OSU has not yet released –the greater the effect of that violence on the viewer.”
Interesting to think that the reason for increased media violence is to “one-up” the next drama show to increase ratings and to utilize the use of the newest and greatest technology–no matter the cost to the viewer. Is the fantastic graphics worth the risk it has on our children? Being immersed in a world of violence, sitting on the edge of your seat as you watch buildings being blown to bits by bombs, people being killed without a second thought…Can we try to grasp the negative impact of such fascination?
Teen pregnancy and sexual behavior
Sex is everywhere. Sexual content is on the cover of magazines, on billboards, commercials on the radio and TV, and adds on the internet. Sexual content is evident in many of todays hottest hit TV shows, but research shows that such entertainment comes with a price. A national study on the subject was conducted to see if watching sex on TV predicted teen pregnancy. “Exposure to sexual content on television predicted teen pregnancy…the more the exposure, the more likely the sexual promiscuity. Teens who were exposed to high levels of television sexual content were twice as likely to experience a pregnancy in the subsequent three years, compared with those with lower levels of exposure.” In our society today, sexual proximity seems to be the norm and fairly well excepted. Especially in the eyes of young teens who take the world of TV and often transfer it into reality.
If your child is enthralled with a television program that has occasional inappropriate content and is not willing to give it up, than watch the show together and explain the consequences and potential dangers that the characters might get themselves into. Children and teens learn a lot about the world through media. Whether the media exposure is pretend or reality, they often see it as normal and acceptable.
Obviously, there are other factors to consider when looking at teen pregnancy and violent behavior. Parents need to be involved in their child’s life and teach family values, expectations, and standards pertaining to teen sex, abstinence, and appropriate behavior towards others. Television programming and popular movies might send contradictory messages with that of the parents.
Parents play a vital role in the influence of their child’s behavior. Help them make correct choices that will strengthen your family and their future relationships…Even if that means turning off the television when it normalizes inappropriate sexual behavior and extreme violence.