Recently, the Parents Television Council (PTC) released its first study on children’s television titled, “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: A Content Analysis of Children’s Television.” This study found that there is more violence on children’s entertainment programming than on adult-oriented television. That is certainly shocking, to say the least. Children’s programming has been around as long as television itself, but until recently, it was limited to Saturday mornings or before school. Now, thanks to a handful of cable channels, cartoons and child-targeted programming are available almost around the clock. I understand that few broadcast networks even offer original Saturday morning children’s programs any longer. Times have obviously changed. L. Brent Bozell, president of PTC, stated:
Parents often take it for granted that children’s programs are, by definition, child-friendly. While a lot of entertainment programming for children is perfectly wholesome, parents nevertheless have to worry about the part of it that isn’t appropriate. This disturbing trend signifies that parents can no longer be confident that their children will not have access to dark violence, sexual innuendo, or offensive language on entertainment programming targeted toward children. We do realize that this is probably not a deliberate effort to undermine the social fabric of young children, but this thoughtlessness still produces the same end result.
For this study, the PTC focused on entertainment programming for school-aged children aged 5-10 on broadcast television and expanded basic cable. Eight networks – four broadcast and four cable – offer programming matching that criteria: ABC, Fox, NBC, WB, ABC Family, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, and Nickelodeon. The PTC focused its analysis on after-school and Saturday morning programming. The analysis covered a three-week period during the summer of 2005 for a total of 443.5 hours of children’s programming. The study, which did not include children’s educational programming, found:
• 3,488 incidents of violence, for an average of 7.86 instances per hour. [Even when the innocent, “cartoony” violence (i.e. an anvil falling on Wile E. Coyote’s head) is extracted, there were still 2,794 instances of violence, for an average of 6.30 instances per hour. According to a 2002 PTC study, the six broadcast networks combined averaged only 4.71 instances of violence per hour during prime time programming.]
• 858 incidents of verbal aggression, an average of 1.93 instances per hour
• 662 incidents of disruptive, disrespectful or otherwise problematic attitudes and behaviors, an average of 1.49 instances per hour
• 275 incidents of sexual content, an average of 0.62 instances per hour
• 250 incidents of offensive language, an average of 0.56 instances per hour
Although the Cartoon Network had the highest total number of violent incidents, the ABC Family Channel turned out to pack the most punch-per-program, with 318 instances of violence (only 11 of these could be considered “cartoon” violence) for an average of 10.96 violent incidents per episode. The Disney Channel had the least-violent children’s programming, with 0.95 incidents per episode. The WB had the highest levels of offensive language, verbal abuse, sexual content, and offensive/excretory references.
According to the PTC, this new study has found that the violence aimed towards little children is almost double compared to the levels of violent content directed towards families and adults during prime time hours. Some may believe that violence in children’s programming isn’t a big deal. But, the violence is ubiquitous, often sinister, and in many cases, very realistic. In my opinion, we must do everything possible to clean up children’s television programming. Broadcast and cable networks must be held accountable for allowing inappropriate content to corrupt our children. In addition, advertisers must be held responsible for underwriting these programs. I believe that the churches should be leading the charge to clean up children’s programming. Unfortunately, they have been very silent in this important fight.
U.S. Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) agrees that there is too much violence in children’s television programming. The Senator made this observation:
I fear too many parents have an unjustified sense of security when they place their children in front of the television. I hope this new study from the Parents Television Council will demonstrate that children’s programs are not necessarily free of violence, crude language, and coarse humor. I encourage broadcasters and network producers to consider the content they are disseminating to children, and I encourage parents to educate themselves about the content of their children’s favorite shows.
Last year Senator Brownback introduced a bipartisan bill called the Children and Media Research Advancement Act. This bill would allocate $90 million over five years to further study the effects of media on children. It would establish a panel of experts within the Centers for Disease Control to review current research on the role of media. The bill would also establish pilot projects in the Department of Health and Human Services. A similar bill is pending in the House of Representatives. If we can spend $500 Billion in Iraq, surely we can spend a little more in this country to help “save our children.”
Source: Parents Television Council
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