Protecting Our Children from Harmful Media Violence

By Peterson, Bart | Nation's Cities Weekly, October 29, 2007 | Go to article overview

Protecting Our Children from Harmful Media Violence


Peterson, Bart, Nation's Cities Weekly


Every day, in the virtual world of violent video games, young people witness--and even control--violent acts that take the lives of innocent victims--including children and police officers. Punching buttons on a controller connected to their favorite video game console, youthful players take aim with a variety of weapons at their disposal. Moving from target to target, images on the screen become more graphic and more violent. Young people viewing many of today's highest grossing films or top-rated television shows are similarly faced with gory, often gratuitous, violent acts.

As a mayor, I am concerned about the impact that this "culture of violence" is having on our young people and our communities. As elected leaders of our communities, I believe we have a responsibility to call attention to this problem--to help educate our parents, businesses and others about these impacts and to begin conversations to raise their awareness.

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The facts speak for themselves: the average American youth spends more than 45 hours per week exposed to all types of media--television, film, video games, the Internet and music. By the time they turn 18, young people will witness 40,000 killings and 200,000 violent incidents.

Experts from the U.S. Surgeon General's office, the National Institutes of Mental Health, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association have all concluded that repeated exposure to media violence can lead children to view violence as an acceptable means of settling conflicts, become emotionally desensitized to violence and be more likely to exhibit violent behavior themselves. Both the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission have weighed in on the impacts of media violence on children.

There is a common message coming from all these groups: More must be done to protect our children from the harmful effects of media violence.

At a national summit on media violence hosted by NLC last spring in Indianapolis, we brought together noted scientific, academic and entertainment industry experts, as well as municipal officials and law enforcement to address the growing violence found in our popular culture and its effects on children.

We learned that more than 300 scientific studies have shown a direct link between exposure to media violence and aggressive behavior. Certainly, media violence is only one of several risk factors that may lead to violent behavior. But we know that any type of violence, real or virtual, affects children.

"If a child is exposed to any behavior repeatedly, that's how they learn," said Jeff McIntyre of the American Psychological Association. …

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