Q: Does Entertainment Violence have an effect on children’s health, well-being and development? Are destructive lessons learned?
A: ‘Although a wide variety of viewpoints on the importance and impact of Entertainment Violence on children may exist outside the public health community, within it, there is a strong consensus on many of the effects on children’s health, well-being and development.
‘Television, movies, music and interactive games are powerful learning tools and highly influential media. The average American child spends as much as 28 hours a week watching television and typically at least an hour a day playing videogames or surfing the Internet. Several more hours each week are spent watching movies and videos, and listening to music. These media can, and often are, used to instruct, encourage, and even inspire. But, when these entertainment media showcase violence, particularly in a context that glamorizes or trivializes it, the lessons learned can be destructive.’
Q: There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that:
1) Violent programming is harmless because no study exists that proves a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and;
2) Young people know that television; movies and videogames are simply fantasy.
Is this correct?
A: ‘Unfortunately, they are wrong on both counts.
‘At this time, well over 1,000 studies – including reports from the Surgeon General’s office, the National Institute of Mental Health and numerous studies conducted by leading figures within our medical and public health organizations – our own members – point overwhelmingly to a casual connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children. The conclusion of the public health community, based on over 30 years of research, is that viewing entertainment violence can lead to increases in aggressive attitudes, values and behavior, particularly in children.
‘Its effects are measurable and long lasting. Moreover, prolonged viewing of media violence can lead to emotional desensitization toward violence in real life.
‘The effect of Entertainment Violence on children is complex and variable. Some children will be affected more than others. But, while duration, intensity and extent of the impact may vary, there are several measurable negative effects of children’s exposure to violent content. These effects take several forms.
‘Children who see a lot of violence are more likely to view violence as an effective way of settling conflicts. Children exposed to violence are more likely to assume that acts of violence are acceptable behavior.
‘Viewing violence can lead to emotional desensitization towards violence in real life. It can decrease the likelihood that one will take action on behalf of a victim when violence occurs.
‘Entertainment Violence feeds a perception that the world is a violent and mean place. Viewing violence promotes a fear of becoming a victim of violence, with a resultant increase in self-protective behavior and a mistrust of others.
‘Viewing violence may lead to real-life violence. Children, who are exposed to violent, programming at a young age, have a higher tendency for violent and aggressive behavior later in life than children who are not so exposed.
‘Although less research has been done on the impact of violent interactive entertainment (videogames and other interactive media) on young people, preliminary studies indicate that the negative impact may be significantly more severe than that wrought by television, movies, or music. More study is needed in this area, and we urge that resources and attention be directed to this field.’