Research critical to learning true impact of media violence on kids
It's not uncommon to attend a movie rated R and find several young children in attendance with their parents.
Every child is different, parents argue, and theirs can “handle” the violence or aggressive situations being portrayed in the film.
However, that notion is being challenged as a sidebar in the current gun control debate. Just what impact does violence in TV or movies have on a child?
An article on the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry web site notes that the typical American child will view more than 200,000 acts of violence on television, including more than 16,000 murders, before age 18. TV programs, according to a 2010 report, display 812 violent acts per hour, while children's programming features up to 20 violent acts per hour. The numbers may seem high, but include a wide spectrum of violence, from a heated argument to a murder.
A separate study featured on WebMD.com notes that more than 12 percent of children ages 10-14 see violent R-rated movies.
Both studies agree that violent media has a negative impact on children, noting that it increases the likelihood of aggressive behaviors, thoughts and emotions while desensitizes children to violence. The question is, how deep is the impact?
Among President Obama's proposals in the wake of the Connecticut shootings is one that would reopen the door to researching a relationship between video games, media images and violence. Currently, there is what's been termed a virtual ban on federal research into the subject, thanks to actions in the mid-90s by the National Rifle Association, which moved to block research into gun violence.
However, Obama has called on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to renew the research, and is pushing for $10 million to study the issue.
Advocates of Obama's plan note that research is vital to truly understand the correlation between violent media and violence. In fact, Stephen Teret, an official at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said that the lack of basic data means we actually know very little about the causes of gun violence, which kills about 32,000 people in the U.S. annually.
Teret, who was speaking to NBC News, made an interesting point. Once, there were 50,000 people dying annually on highways. Now that number is down to 32,000, thanks to research into the issue. “We need to be able to address gun-related injuries in the same scientific manner.”
It's a valid argument, and hopefully, the CDC will get the funds to carry out the research.
But an even more basic idea falls back on parents, who ultimately control viewing habits of children. While the different facets of the gun control debate rage on, take a moment and think about what your children are exposed to – in the media, on the television, video games or movies that they see. It's time for parents to step back and reassess their family's “media intake.” There's no reason to wait for federal research, when the easiest step of all is to turn the channel.