Since the horrific massacre of elementary children in Newtown, Conn., a national debate has centered on ways to prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future. As expected, most of the attention has been on guns and for good reason. I am convinced that reasonable gun control is a definite need and is long overdue. Proposals such as universal background checks, banning assault rifles and limiting the size of magazines and increasing care for the mentally ill, should be enacted by Congress. I am equally convinced that those in elected positions of authority have an obligation to take a serious look at the role played by movies, television and video games.
A culture of violence has been created and is being perpetuated by the movie, television and the video games industries. I am convinced that these industries and their products have a tremendous influence on the behavior of people. This is especially true for persons with mental illness and behavioral issues. I am disappointed, but not surprised, that these three industries have been virtually ignored in the debate.
Sadly, the bosses of the movie, television and video game industries refuse to consider their role in producing and distributing graphic violence in entertainment as contributing to a culture of violence in the U.S. But recent polling indicates how people around the country feel on this issue. While executives from the three industries attempt to deflect any responsibility for the violence they promote, it certainly appears parents in the U.S. have a different opinion. According to a recent survey, 77% of parents say violence in entertainment creates a culture of violence. The numbers are even more significant when it comes to violent video games. It’s also significant that 88% of parents surveyed say that violent TV shows should not be shown during the times when TV is watched by large numbers of children.
We should all be shocked at the brutal and graphic nature of violence exhibited on broadcast television. Interestingly, or perhaps tragically, these programs are rated by the networks as appropriate for a 14-year-old child, which defies all reasoning and common sense. There is scientific proof that media violence is linked to violence in real life. But common sense also leads to the same conclusion. Even without the science, I am convinced that the continuous watching of extreme acts of violence in movies and on television contributes to the creation of a culture of violence. Add to those media outlets, the violent video games, where young people actually participate in the games, and the problem becomes much worse.
We should learn from past events. I am convinced that what folks hear and see on a recurring basis affects what they do. English statesman Edmund Burke made the astute observation: “Those who do not know history are destined to repeat it.” Spanish philosopher George Santayana, gave his view when he said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” But points are well made. Those living in the present should learn from and be informed by the past. But so many in this nation – especially those who are producing television programming, making movies, and creating video games – are ignoring what could or should have been learned in the past.
In 1975, a study released in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested that television violence was having “a deforming effect on children.” In response, the American Medical Association passed a resolution declaring that television entertainment “increased the likelihood of aggressive behavior.” In 2000, representatives from six of our nation’s top public health organizations issued a joint statement noting:
The conclusion of the public health community, based on over 30 years of research, is that viewing entertainment violence can lead to increases in aggressive attitudes, values and behavior, particularly in children. Moreover, prolonged viewing of media violence can lead to emotional desensitization toward violence in real life.
In 2013, the Parent Television Council published a report entitled, “TV Bloodbath: Violation on Prime Time Broadcast TV,” which surveyed television shows in 1998, 2000 and 2002. The report found that the prevalence of violent programming increased in every time slot and that in 2002 depictions of violence were 41% more frequent during the 8 p.m. hour than in 1998. Despite a clear record of scientific investigation, movies and television continue to provide incredibly violent programming. Advertising dollars and ticket sales make these movies and shows possible. When you add ultra-violent video games to the equation, the problem is magnified. This industry is reaping record profits from sales and for that reason there won’t be any voluntary pulling back by their bosses.
My hope and prayer is that we in America will do more than just complain. We must get actively involved and support legislation at every level – national, state and local – and help to put an end to the culture of violence that consumes us today. When will we wake up in this country?
Source: Parents Television Council
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