Media Violence and Childhood Development

Forty-eight percent of commercials that had violence in them were advertisements for movies; 38% were advertisements for television programs. The conclusion that Tamburro comes up with is that “parents should remain present during commercials” or alternatively should institute technology that allows commercials to be skipped (Tamburro, p. 1662). Moreover, the authors believe that “efforts should be made that promote television shows and movies on the basis of the hour at which the sporting event is aired” (Tamburro, p. 1662). One good reason for these recommendations — besides the obvious reasons — is that “injuries are the leading cause of death in children,” and it has been shown empirically that exposure to media increases childrens risk-taking behavior (Tamburro, p. 1662).

A research project published in the journal the Future of Children reports that people who begin drinking alcohol at age fourteen or younger are approximately “four times as likely to become alcohol dependent as are those who begin drinking at age twenty or older” (Escobar-Chaves, et al., 2008, p. 10). Underage drinking is associated with a greater chance of being in an automobile wreck, of having deportment problems in school, of fighting and crime, all behaviors that are associated with delinquency. The startling statistic in this paragraph about drinking under age is the fact that in the 2005 nationally representative survey, 26% of high school students had guzzled down “five or more drinks in a row (that is, within a couple of hours) on one or more of the thirty days preceding the survey” (Escobar-Chaves, p. 10).

Moreover, youth “overexposure to alcohol advertising on cable TV” jumped from 60% to 93% between the years 2001 to 2005, Escobar-Chaves explains. The effect of television advertising on antisocial adolescent behaviors — vis-a-vis early-age drinking — is verified in this research article. In the spring of 2000, some 2,998 seventh graders were recruited for a “longitudinal study” to examine how alcohol commercials on television may have had an influence on their consumption of alcohol a year later. The participants reflected how many times that had viewed programs that were from a list of “twenty popular TV series” and also responded to “psychosocial, behavioral, and alcohol-related questions” that were given to them.

The results of this survey showed that there was a “strong association between exposure to television beer ads in grad seven and alcohol consumption in grade eight,” Escobar-Chaves goes on (p. 11). Since underage drinking is know to lead to fighting, crime, problems at school and later dependency, it is certainly worrisome to researchers, teachers, parents and school administrators.

The above-mentioned data reflecting the link between alcohol commercials on television programs and childrens impressions and attitudes about drinking is just one problem that is associated with excessive media viewing. Health and well being regarding exercise vs. being overweight is also associated with excessive television time for kids. In the research that Foley, et al., conducted, 4,880 boys and 5,028 girls from Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Class were part of a study. The dependent variables were “TV time during weekdays and weekends” and the predictor variables at the first level were “child-body mass index status, ethnicity, physical activity, motor skills” (Foley, et al., 2007, p. 1). Also taken into account were parents, their education, the hours worked, the socioeconomic dynamics, and the household (including TV rules, and family activities). The predictor variables at the second level, Foley explains, were “neighborhood — safety, social disorder, and physical deterioration.”

The results showed that in the first place, “Not having rules for the number of hours their child could watch TV was positively associated with TV viewing” — both on weekdays and weekend days, Foley reports (p. 1). That was true of boys and girls, the report stated. African-American boys and Hispanic boys “watched significantly more TV on weekdays in comparison to their white peers” and only African-American boys increased their TV watching on weekends. As to overweight status, it was associated with “excessive viewing during weekend and weekdays for boys and girls” (Foley, p. 1). Being involved in family activities was directly associated with “decreased TV viewing on the weekdays for girls,” and at the neighborhood level, a safe neighborhood was linked with a “reduction in the number of TV hours viewed during weekdays for both boys and girls,” Foley continued.

But the major findings for this survey were closely linked to the influence parents had on their childrens television watching habits.

What the researchers recommend, as a result of this data, is that “curriculum-driven interventions” should be directed towards on teaching parents important skills regarding supervision, setting TV rules, and scheduling fun activities instead of allowing kids to spend countless hours watching television — much of it related to violence or other antisocial behaviors (Foley, p. 1).

Also in 2007, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) released a report that indicates “exposure to violence in the media can increase aggressive behavior” in children (General OneFile). The report was in response to a request from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, that the FCC perform the necessary research on the issue of television violence. What the House committee asked for was to have the FCC give consideration to potential harm that violent televisions programming can inflict on the minds of children.

The larger question was, and is, should the FCC define what is “excessive violent programming” and how harmful is it to children. The report revealed that there is “strong evidence that exposure to violence in the media can increase aggressive behavior in children” (General OneFile). Other findings include: a) the V-Chip is of “limited effectiveness” in protecting children from violence on television; b) cable TVs advanced parental controls “do not appear to be available” in most cases; and c) additional technologies that will allow parents to block violent programs would be in the best interests of children and parents, and moreover, would “likely” be upheld as “constitutional” (General OneFile).

Eleven years ago researchers from the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media set up videotape recording devices in the TV-watching rooms in ten homes where the families had agreed to participate. The point of the research was to document the difference between what mothers estimates were (of their childrens viewing time) versus what childrens estimates were of how much time they spent in front of the television set. The results, while not earthshaking or socially provocative, showed that in general “parental estimates of global viewing” was more accurate than estimates given by children (Borzekowski, 1999, p. 17). However, the children in this survey provided “better reports of behaviors and actions while viewing,” Borzekowski explains. One interesting fact revealed was that some young children got up two hours prior to their parents, turned on the television, and curled up on the couch to watch for two hours prior to their parents getting up to get the child breakfast. The report explained that across the country, children, on average, “spend more time watching television than in any activity other than sleep,” and the average child is exposed to 12,000 violent acts per year (Borzekowski, p. 1).


Violence is an enormous public health issue in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, homicide is the “second leading cause of death for people in the 15 to 24-year-old age group.” In fact, more than one-third of victims of homicide are young people. The problem of delinquency, school failure, and substance abuse — which the CDC reports are increasingly believed to be risks for children and young people — cannot all be blamed on television and violent video games. But the results of research that have been presented in this paper certainly lend credence to the belief that when children are exposed to too much violence (TV, video games, movies, etc.), they may become involved in violence themselves, or delinquency, or substance abuse. Parents need to be educated regarding the danger to their childs future when he or she spends endless hours in front of the TV set, or spends after school hours playing extraordinarily violent video games.

Works Cited

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. (2002). Children and TV Violence.

Retrieved Dec. 22, 2010, from

Borzekowski, Dina L.G., and Robinson, Thomas N. Viewing the Viewers: Ten Video Cases

of childrens Television Viewing Behaviors. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media.

43(4), 1-25.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Violence and Homicide Among Youth.

Retrieved Dec. 21, 2010, from

Daly, Laura a., and Perez, Linda M. (2009). Exposure to media violence and other correlates of aggressive behavior in preschool children. Early Childhood Research & Practice. 11(2).

Escobar-Chaves, Soledad Liliana, and Anderson, Craig a. (2008). Media and risky behaviors.

The Future of Children, 18(1), 147-181.

Foley, John T., Beets, Michael W., and Bryan, Rebecca. (2007). Parental.

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