Editor’s Note: The question posed by the title of this article was recently answered by Dr. Crouse in The Tennessean. Her response is below.
In an era when numerous groups are seeking “safe spaces,” American children are being denied safe homes. A family’s refuge — home — is currently bombarded with excessive television violence. Increasingly, parents’ best efforts are unable to shield children from the negative, sometimes bloody and gruesome, on-screen images and chilling sounds. Almost all Americans (70 percent according to a poll by The Associated Press) agree that there is too much violence on television. Four years ago Congress said, “Enough,” and asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to recommend solutions to the problem.
The just-released FCC report recommends restricting violence on television during the hours that children typically watch programs. They also support more self-regulation from the networks as well as opportunities for customers to subscribe only to those channels that they want to watch.
Over a thousand research studies spanning the last 30 years, as well as common sense, tell us that television can be influential in shaping children’s value systems and behavior. The evidence is clear: There is as strong a relationship between violence and aggression as there is in smoking and lung cancer, promiscuity and sexually transmitted diseases, milk and strong bones, lead exposure and lower brain function. An average American child, before entering middle school, has seen over 100,000 acts of violence on television with nearly 10,000 depictions of murder. When such pictures are indelibly imprinted on their minds, children can become insensitive to others’ pain and/or fearful of other people. When their television role models are aggressive, rude, crude, and abusive, how can we expect our children to behave appropriately or to show respect and courtesy toward others?
It affects us all when the nation’s children spend more than 25 hours a week in front of the television — more time than in school or church, in physical activity or in interaction with their parents or other children. Many of the trends that are so troubling today — from the epidemic of childhood obesity to the behavioral problems in school classrooms — stem, in part, from the excessive hours that children spend in front of a television screen and the violent and offensive programming they view. With a steady diet of dark and depressing images throughout childhood, it’s no wonder depression has increased among teenagers. With the increase in the amount of violence, it’s no wonder copy-cat crimes patterned after fictional plots are commonplace. And it’s certainly no wonder television violence is getting more and more graphic, bloody, brutal and horrific as children who have grown up seeing depictions of violence crave increasingly more gore.
Another troubling aspect of television violence is that, generally, the heroes justify using violence as a means of resolving conflict or achieving positive goals. Too often the violence is perpetrated against vulnerable people – especially children, women or minorities. These are not lessons we want to teach children.
More often than not, television is a guest who is abusing the family’s hospitality. Unless that guest starts showing some manners, Congress, the FCC and program sponsors will end up kicking him out.
Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D. is Director and Senior Fellow of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute. She is a columnist, author and commentator on contemporary issues.