Seeing What We're
Prepared to See
In January 2001, a group of doctors at Stanford University released one of the most encouraging studies I'd seen in a long time. They found that when elementary school kids voluntarily cut back on the number of hours they watched TV and played video games, they subsequently behaved less aggressively. Everything from playground shoving matches to kids snapping, "I'm gonna kick your butt!" decreased when the kids started turning off the TV after about an hour a day. As the study's lead author, Dr. Thomas N. Robinson, commented, "What this shows is that there is something you can do in a practical way, in a real-world setting, and see the effects." That was great news to all of us who sometimes despair at our power to make the world a little saner for our kids.
The study didn't get the news coverage it deserved (probably because it was released right before the Super Bowl), but nearly every news article I saw interpreted it in a similar way. The San Francisco Chronicle led off its front-page story with, "Aggressive tendencies fostered in children by violent television shows and video games can be tempered if they cut back their viewing and playing, a new Stanford University study shows." What none of those news stories mentioned, however, was the fact that the study didn't distinguish among