A Steady Diet of Violence on Television Makes Children More Aggressive

Cape Times (South Africa), April 8, 2008 | Go to article overview

A Steady Diet of Violence on Television Makes Children More Aggressive


BYLINE: Sebastian van As and

Verushka Ramanjam

There can be no doubt that South Africa is a very violent society. The murder rate of approximately 50 per 100 000 is one of the highest in the world, more than eight times that of the United States and more than 20 times higher than Germany's.

Every facet of our society seems to be threatened by crime and violence. Discussions around the dinner table and at work often revolve about the latest crime incidence and statistics. There are websites providing daily updates on criminal activities in neighbourhoods.

It is really the children of South Africa who carry the brunt of this. South Africa has about 20 million youngsters under the age of 20, and these children are faced with an environment saturated by reports and discussions on crime and violence.

Besides the psychological effects on children growing up in a violent environment, children are also frequently the victims of violence. Between April 1, 2004 to March 31, 2005, 1 128 children were murdered, 24 189 were victims of assault with intent to commit grievous bodily harm, 31 607 were commonly assaulted, 22 486 were raped and 4 289 were indecently assaulted. And these are only the reported crimes.

When young children engage in violent role-playing, they are usually mimicking something they have been exposed to, either personally or in the media. There have been more than a few reports of children injuring themselves and others while pretending to be their favourite superhero, or copying the wrestling.

The effects of the media on violent behaviour are well reported. In the short term, aggressive behaviour increases immediately after watching media violence; in the long term, exposure to violent media limits the individual's ability to generate alternative solutions to conflict.

In July 2000, the American Academy of Paediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Psychiatric Association issued a statement, based on well over 1 000 studies, which indicated overwhelmingly that there is a causal connection between mediaviolence and the aggressive behaviour in some children.

The report found that children who see a lot of violence are more likely to view violence as an effective way of settling conflicts. Viewing violence can lead to emotional desensitisation towards violence in real life. …

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