Violent and aggressive behavior today is the most popular problem associated with the interaction of children and television. Studies conducted in the USA have shown that the average ten-year-old child spends more time watching television than in the classroom, and this situation has not changed for more than 20 years (Gerbner 130), and by the age of 12, the child is exposed to 20,000 scenes of murders and about 100,000 other scenes of violence shown in the media (Basta 222-223), which cannot but have an impact on the formation of the psyche.
Thus, longitudinal statistical study of over 875 male and female primary school pupils, conducted by Eron et al. (46), showed that eight-year-old children who prefer television programs with elements of violence were recorded in schools among the most aggressive ones. Frequent observation of violence in childhood predetermined aggressiveness of 427 children in this age group at the age of 18 (Eron et al. 115). Aggressive behavior was also stable in the individuals from the same group, who by the time of the next evaluation were approximately in their 30’s: those who were aggressive in childhood, by 30 not only had troubles with the law, but also committed violent actions against their wives and children (Eron et al. 325-27). Moreover, the scientists found a stable relationship between the number of TV programs with elements of violence that children had watched at the age of eight and the likelihood of committing serious crimes as adults (Anderson et al. 93).
In general, studies show that prolonged exposure to TV violence can increase aggressive behavior of the viewers, reduce factors constraining aggression, blunt sensitivity to aggression, and shape in the audience an inadequate image of social reality. Further these correlations will be discussed more closely.
Reasons for violent media/aggressive behavior correlation
Above all, children are often unable to distinguish facts and fantasies, TV and life realities, and may view violence as a normal occurrence. Psychologists agree that as anyone else, this concerns children under the age of 3-4 (Evra 41): for them, television is an absolute reflection of the world, and it does not look friendly being represented by the endless series of fights, murders and other acts of violence. In addition, scenes of violence in the contemporary media are typically looking very realistic, even in such genres as fantastic movies and cartoons, which complexifies this task for children (Murray 1216). Generally, as Murray (1218) marks, violence on media looks exciting and is easy to understand, despite any language and cultural barriers.
At the same time, the “reality”ť presented on the screen is often distorted to reach show effects, and therefore the cognition of this “reality”ť in children is also understood in the distorted way. In particular, in action movies, police officers are opening fire in almost every episode, while the research conducted in Chicago back in 1989 indicates that real police officers are shooting of personal weapons on average once in 27 years (Freedman 105). Viewing violence can also distort the perception of reality and change the views about the real world as violent and requiring responsive violence to get protected. Thus, the monitoring of adolescents found that people watching TV at least four hours a day are more vulnerable to aggression from others and consider the world more dangerous than those who spend two or less hours a day watching TV (Olson 147).
As a result of contact with aggressive media scenarios, fragile psyche of children under the age of 7-10 is also often exposed to a serious injury, the result of which, along with responsive aggressive behavior, according to Evra (53-55) and Anderson et al. (84) may be fear, stuttering, anxiety, depressed emotional state, etc. The telephone survey of primary school children’s parents conducted by Cantor evidenced that in 43% of families children experienced long fears after watching TV more than once; almost half of the parents said that their children could not go to sleep at once, refused to sleep alone, or their dreams turned into nightmares (Cantor 71).
Further, the reflection of violence in the media causes imitation. At the same time, social violence is not caused by the observation of the violence, but by learning through observation. People “learn”ť aggression adopting it as a pattern of behavior by watching others: like most social skills, aggressive demeanor is absorbed through observing the actions of others and assessing the impact of these actions (Evra 63-64). For example, in Bandura’s experiment, an adult by hitting a doll thus demonstrated to a child the permissibility of such outbreaks (Freedman 35). Cantor’s research showed that when young offenders were asked what their favorite movie was, 51% responded that its plot was associated with violence (Cantor 91); when asked whether they did in their life something criminal what they had seen or heard in a movie, TV show or song, 16% responded positively (Cantor 93-94), at the same time, the majority of young offenders said that they did not realize the seriousness of the consequences of their actions.