Academic journal article Communication Research Trends

Afterword

Academic journal article Communication Research Trends

Afterword

Article excerpt

By the Editor of Communication Research Trends

Many serious observers of the mass media have long identified television as somehow "dangerous" to children. This concern goes back to the very beginning of the medium--borrowing from even earlier fears about the movies--and has always been a major preoccupation of media scholars. In recent years, while many positive contributions of television to children's development are recognized, the concern about its negative side has become, if anything, even more intense. Added to television--and literally absorbing TV as one dimension of itself--is on-line computer technology, capable of receiving a full range of television channels along with a host of additional, and even more disturbing communication packages.

Responses of adults vary widely. Some media scholars, despite their professional involvement with the medium, refuse to have a television set in their homes. The American Academy of Pediatricians, as was noted above, advised parents not to allow children under two years old to watch television at all, and to strictly limit viewing by older children and teenagers. In a powerful presentation to the (US) National Press Club, broadcast on CSpan 2, October 18, 1999, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a military training officer and coauthor of the book, Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action Against TV, Movies and Video Game Violence (Grossman & DeGaetano 1999), called TV violence "an addictive, toxic product." He was of the opinion that television is the biggest factor promoting violence in America, and that if there were no television there would be 10,000 fewer homicides per year in the United States.

Turning to video games, he noted that they give children military-quality training in how to kill. The video game, "Doom," for example is used by the U.S. Marines in essentially the same form it is sold to children; and he claims it played a role in three recent mass shootings by teenagers who were addicted to playing it. The military use it to train adults under very controlled circumstances; while children learn murder from it without supervision or safeguards (CSpan 1999).

At the other end of the spectrum, sailing under false colors of "freedom of speech," is the entertainment industry, which is driven by the profit motive and the rising threshold of boredom of its audience to load its channels with correspondingly progressive increases in violent and erotic programming.

Concerned parents, teachers, and clergy--not to mention pediatricians and child psychologists--are milling about between these two extremes, not knowing what to do. The "V-chip" has been touted as some kind of magic solution. In fact, it could make matters worse, for some children, since it must work in conjunction with a rating system. Any rating system provides sign-posts that not only tell parents what their children should not watch but at the same time tell children about the more objectionable material, which it would be "more fun" to watch, if only they can gain access to a set not equipped with the V-chip! Furthermore, as has been mentioned, producers almost inevitably would use the presence of the V-chip in receivers to push all responsibility for child-safe programming onto parents while themselves producing even more objectionable "adult" programming.

Although not discussed in our text, the downward spiral of greater and greater stimulation and shock that the industry feels it has to use to keep the interest of its audiences includes not only an increasing resort to violence, horror, and eroticism, but also an increasing tendency to ridicule religion and every kind of moral standard, along with any sort of legitimate authority. …

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