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Childhood Television Viewing and Violent Behavior

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Childhood Television Viewing and Violent BehaviorThe LA Times printed an article that reviews recent studies linking adult criminal behavior with childhood exposure to violent television programming. Dr. Claire McCarthy, a pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital, screening time is increasing due to YouTube, Smart Phones and video streaming. According to McCarthy, the results of the study are frustrating because parents are failing to pay attention to warnings that pediatricians have issued for many years about the negative results of having kids watch anything they want on television.

We all know the scenario. Busy parents leave the television on for hours and hours without paying attention to who is watching. In fact, parents tend to use the TV as a baby sitter. With the kids in front of the tube, they can do house cleaning and cooking.

What McCarthy now proposes is that, if it is inevitable that children will watch TV then parents can at least direct them to educational programming. There are lots of programs available for youngsters that are not violent and educational at the same time. Examples of such programming are Dora The Explorer and Sesame Street and Super Why. Such programs teach conflict solution, compromise and positive social skills and empathy. There are other such positive programs available to parents and their children.

It should not come as any surprise that television can have negative results on child development and behavior. We know that advertising is effective in how people shop. It it were not effective, corporations would not spend millions of dollars to put ads up for their products. That is why businesses spend millions of dollars on advertising during the Super Bowl when untold millions of people are watching the game. Violent programming has the same impact on the brains and minds of young kids as advertising does on adults.

Limiting television exposure may not solve the problem of violence world wide but it cannot hurt. In addition, less television and more emphasis on reading and sports helps get kids out of the house. away from the television and computer and more time into the real world with other kids.