Magazine article Insight on the News

The Verdict on Media Violence: It's Ugly ... and Getting Uglier: Sex and Violence, Designed to Sell Soap, Soft Drinks and Cars, Seems to Sell Itself Far Better Than the Products, and the Audience for This Tawdry Message Is Our Children. (Media)

Magazine article Insight on the News

The Verdict on Media Violence: It's Ugly ... and Getting Uglier: Sex and Violence, Designed to Sell Soap, Soft Drinks and Cars, Seems to Sell Itself Far Better Than the Products, and the Audience for This Tawdry Message Is Our Children. (Media)

Article excerpt

More than five decades after television's advent, its early promise "has been erased by the rapid degeneration of televised programming content," according to the Los Angeles-based Parents Television Council (PTC), which lobbies for more wholesome family TV fare.

The PTC recently quantified the general sense that television and film have increased the "raunch factor" in a study of the 2000-01 TV season titled The Sour Family Hour. The report showed "huge increases in coarse language," up 78 percent compared with the last study in 1998-99. (It equated coarse language with "verbal violence," seeing it as the starting point of the violence continuum.) TV violence was up a whopping 70 percent in the two years since the previous study. The sexual content fell into subcategories -- including homosexuality, oral sex, pornography, masturbation and "kinky" practices such as phone sex, group sex and bondage -- "covering topics which a generation ago would seldom have seen the light of day in 10 p.m. programming, let alone 8 p.m. fare."

Upset, the PTC wrote an open letter to the heads of the major TV networks asking for the reinstatement of the "family hour" between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. The organization also launched a campaign to "publicly shame those advertisers who market and sponsor the violence, sexual raunch and vulgarity to our nation's children," says L. Brent Bozell, PTC president. "We will name names, and often. It saddens and frustrates me to no end that it has gotten to this point -- publicly shaming adults for marketing trash to 10 million children every night."

But in many families, media have replaced teachers and parents as educators, role models and the primary sources of information about the world, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Children between 2 and 18 years of age spend six-and-a-half to eight hours a day with media, including television, videotapes, movies and video games -- more time than on any other activity except sleeping, the AAP has found. By age 18, the average young person has seen 200,000 acts of violence on television alone.

The AAP also notes that, of 10,000 hours of broadcast programming reviewed by the National Television Violence Study, 61 percent portrayed interpersonal violence, much of it in an entertaining or glamorized manner. The highest proportion of violence was in children's programs: Of all animated films produced in the United States between 1937 and 1999, 100 percent portrayed violence.

Pushing such "trash" on children was the focus of a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report in 2000 entitled Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children: A Review of Self-Regulation and Industry Practices in the Motion Picture, Music Recording and Electronic Game Industries. Prompted by the Columbine High School massacre, it found that the entertainment industries routinely and illegitimately target-marketed violent entertainment directly to adolescents and preadolescents and then denied doing so. In April 2001, the FTC reported some improvement in the movie and video-game industries, notably in limiting advertising to teens and in providing "rating information."

"Every year, the media use ever-greater quantities of violence to hook their audience," says Dave Grossman, a psychologist and media researcher. "Why did the alcohol and tobacco industries want so desperately to continue to sell their products to children? Because the addictive process is so much more powerful if they can start when they're children."

Grossman, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who studied and taught at West Point, researched how to overcome natural and instinctive barriers to killing, a task essential for the armed forces. He found that the psychological tools of repetition, desensitization and escalation, combined with the instinct for survival, all contribute to a soldier's -- or a child's -- capacity for violence. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.