Consciously or subconsciously, children tend to imitate behaviors, by inculcating to their own personalities features “borrowed” from the ones they identify as models. Such models can be their parents or relatives, either characters they see on TV or on video games. Children’s exposure to violent TV programs or video games may influence their behavior and personalities, making children more aggressive.
Watching violent programs on TV on a regular basis may create the idea for children that violence is a normal behavior and attitude and a viable solution for solving problems (“Children and TV Violence”). Moreover, because childhood represents a sensitive period, where individuals accumulate knowledge about life and human interaction, they may consider that what they see on TV is the actual reality they live in and this may deteriorate the way they see the world, influencing also their cognitive, social and emotional development.
A study about media consumption, conducted on 3000 US children revealed that in the average American families children spend around 6 hours per day watching television, there are four or more TVs in one third of the investigated population’s households and 40% of the investigated respondents stated that the TV is most of the time on (van Evra xxiii).
In relation with the children’s exposure to violent TV programs, there are critics of the causal – effect relationship between children’s watching violent
TV programs and their aggressive attitudes and behaviors. As such, Shaffer considers that children with an inclination towards developing an aggressive personality tend to watch more the violent programs on television (275).
Regarding the way the violent TV programs change children’s behavior, Evra notes that there can be observed short – term or long – term effect of watching TV on children development. On the short – term, TV viewing can determine children to become dependent on television, as a way of relaxing and on the long – term this can lead to a passive personality, as children will prefer staying in, watching television, rather than going out (Evra xxvi).
Watching television programs can also lead to children’s building a social system regarding how they perceive men and women and the relationships between individuals, determining them to copy the behaviors of the models with whom they identify, from the TV screen (“Children and TV Violence”).
Television is not the sole responsible for increasing or raising aggressive behaviors into children, but it does contribute significantly to altering children’s behaviors into aggressiveness (“Children and TV Violence”). Other media must be considered when analyzing the aggressive behaviors of children, such as the exposure to video games.
They have gained huge popularity and children are constantly playing video games. I have conducted a survey within my class, in order to understand how my colleagues think about video games, whether they perceive them as influencing their behavior into aggression or not. I was surprised to see that out of 22 of my fellow students only 5 believed that video games are leading towards an aggressive behavior. The majority, 17 of my colleagues considered that they do not generate a violent behavior.
However, studies illustrate that video – gamers interact and control their characters, which lead to associating their own personalities with the ones from the video games that they play. Video – games feature heroes, strong and charming men, with excellent intelligence and outstanding qualities and beautiful women, with sex – appeal and strong personalities. In their tendency to imitate the characters that impress them the most, children may also tend to identify themselves with the characters that they control (Giles 54). If their characters have aggressive behavior, because they live in a dangerous world, the children who play those characters might tend to develop the same behavior, considering that the success of their characters can be transposed in their real life, if they act as their characters react in the video games (Plotnik & Kouyoumjian 602).
Specialists consider that children and teenagers are hiding behind their characters, and they are attributing to themselves the features of their characters just for erasing their lack of popularity. As such, a significant example in this sense is the case of Jeff Weise, a sixteen year – old teenager who shot and killed nine people from and near his school, Red Lake, Minnesota and committed suicide after. Analyzing this case, Dr. Katherine Newman, a professor in sociology considers that the teenager followed “a script”, enrooted in the popular culture and promoted into video games or movies, which sets as purpose shooting as many people as possible. However, as Newman observes, developing a shooter personality occurs by constant exposure to violent media and only few people actually develop this behavior from those exposed. The shooter behavior has more to do with attracting attention, or as Newman states, the ones who might develop this behavior are “trying to reverse their reputation from a school loser to a notorious and attractive character in an anti – hero kind of way” (De, para 9).
In the end I would like to point out that although movies and video – games are not the singular factors that lead to a violent and aggressive behavior, they still have a significant influence upon children’s social, cognitive, learning and emotional development. It has been said that violent video games and movies only impact those who have violent inclinations, but specialists also consider that these types of media represent a way for children and teenager to win popularity, by imitating the behaviors of their characters.
It becomes highly significant for parents, tutors and educators to monitor and control children’s exposure to these kinds of media and to observe their behavior and try to promote positive characters of whose behaviors they should imitate, considering the fact that at this age, they tend to associate themselves with people and characters that they appreciate.
It is your responsibility to be careful and to analyze the content of the TV programs and of the video games that your children, your little brothers and sisters or your nephews are watching/playing. Be active, get involved in the children’s leisure time, get them out from the TV set and from the video games actions and engage them into some healthy outdoor activity for a change.
Children and TV Violence. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Retrieved on 17 April, 2013, from http://www.aacap.org/page.ww?name=children+and+TV+violence§ion=Facts+for+Families. 2011. Web.
De, Subrata. NBC News. School Shooter Followed Video – Game – Like ‘Script’”. Retrieved on 17 April 2013 from http://www.nbcnews.com/id/7288381/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/school-shooter-followed-video-game-like-script/#.UW6EI7XJTzw. N.d. Web.
Giles, David. Media Psychology. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Publishers. 2003. Print.
Monkey See, Monkey Do. Youtube. Retrieved on 17 April 2013 from http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=children+tv+and+video+games+violence&oq=children+tv+and+video+games+violence&gs_l=youtube.32716.16189.0.163220.127.116.11.18.104.22.1688.5305.14j28j3.45.00.01ac.1.iWlWN6cKMcA. N.d. Web.
Plotnik, Rod & Kouyoumjian, Haig. Introduction to Psychology. Belmont. Wadsworth Cengage Leaning. 2010. Print.
Shaffer, David, R. Social and Personality Development. Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. 2009. Print.
Van Evra, Judith. Television and Child Development. New Jersey: Lawrence Elrbaum Associates, Inc. 2004. Print.