Juvenile Delinquency and the Media Influence on Childhood Development Term Paper

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Media Violence and Childhood Development

"Extensive viewing of television violence by children causes greater aggressiveness. Sometimes watching a single program can increase aggressiveness. Children who view shows in which violence is very realistic, frequently repeated and/or unpunished, are more likely to imitate what they see…" American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

There have been many studies and there has been a great deal of debate and discussion about what effect the violence children and young people see on television and in other media has on their development. This paper reviews the literature with reference to those issues, and points to the technologies that children have access to in terms of the potential harm it can do to their development.

Most of the blame for the violence that children reportedly learn from media is heaped on television, but Monique a. Levermore writes in the Forensic Examiner that violent video games should be brought into the discussion as well. When it comes to terribly violent video games like "Mortal Combat" and "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" the goal is always "murder and theft" and the skill level that these games teach children is based on a criminal code of ethics "that purports specific rules and norms" (Levermore, p. 39). Parents who allow their young children to play these viciously bloodthirsty and violent games may not be paying attention to just how sadistic and brutal some of the games really are.Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Term Paper on Juvenile Delinquency and the Media Influence on Childhood Development Assignment

Meantime, Levermore begins her research paper by insisting that when it comes to interventions vis-a-vis children and violence the emphasis should be placed on prevention. "Children learn through observation," Levermore explains; children "mimic behaviors and absorb new ways of accomplishing tasks" (Levermore, 2004, p. 38). Also, children practice what they learn and attempt to "optimize their competence and mastery of behaviors" through a process of reinforcement, Levermore explains. In many cases Parents teach children to "let go of behaviors that are unacceptable" by punishing them or selectively ignoring certain behaviors; moreover, competent, caring parents use "reinforcement to teach children to hold on to acceptable behaviors," Levermore continues (p. 39).

However, when children are left for "countless hours" in front of the television set and are free to watch "violent, aggressive, and salacious acts that appear to be acceptable," rather than viewing these violent acts with apprehension and fear, the child begins to have "a sense of excited anticipation," the author explains on page 39. The child becomes "desensitized" to that normal sense of apprehension and is drawn "voyeuristically" to enjoy the violent acts.

It occurs to Levermore that as crime rates rise and the label "delinquent" is attached to more and more young people, society continues to use punishment rather than prevention as a tool. It is known that deviant behavior "begins in childhood," the author asserts, and albeit the U.S. officially declared violence as a "public health epidemic" in the 1990s, up to this time very little has been done to address "this nationwide crisis that has paralyzed us" (p. 38). What is the solution, in Levermore's opinion? "Parents must become fully aware of the carnage that their children are exposed to in the media" and moreover society must develop "programs that promote observational learning and model pro-social behavior to youngsters at early ages" in order to counterbalance the "bombardment of violent television programming and violent videogames" (p. 42).

A research article in the journal Early Childhood Research & Practice examined the behavior of 70 preschool children at play -- and the relationship of those children to television violence and regulatory status. The authors claim that children between the ages of 2 and 18 years of age participate with media -- all forms including the Internet and electronic games -- between 38 and 45 hours a week, on average (Daly, et al., 2009, p. 1). Daly writes that at least 26 of those hours are spent glued to the television and therein lies one of the problems -- more than 60% of "all television programs" show some violence. Add that all up and Daly asserts that by the time the typical child is getting out of elementary school at age 12, he or she will have seen 8,000 murders and "at least 100,000 other acts of violence" on television. These are empirical findings that Daly is reporting, not estimates, she explains.

Part of those empirical findings show / confirm that when exposed to media violence children have "increased probability of aggression" -- and certain research studies show boys are particularly prone to aggression after viewing hours on end of television violence. One study Daly references points out that boys who watched violent television programs during childhood were "aggressive and antisocial" ten years later (Daly, p. 1).

The study that Daly references (using 70 preschoolers) took place in Lake County, California; the children (32 girls, 38 boys) spent about 25 hours a week in school, and watched television for about 19.3 hours a week. The parents were surveyed, the teachers were surveyed, and the researches used the "Temperament and Atypical Behavior Scale" (TABS) and the Early childhood Environment Rating Scale-Revised (ECERS-R) to come up with the results. The children's play behaviors were coded as "prosocial, assertive, or verbally or physically aggressive," Daly reports on page 4).

The researchers point out through page after page of specific strategies they employed in this project, but the bottom line they present was that "Violent content and poor self-regulation were independently and significantly associated with overall aggression and physical aggression" (p. 7). There were some other generalizations germane to this study: a) "Poor self-regulation influences aggressive behavior in preschool children"; b) "The children who were seen as having the least self-regulation expressed the most verbal aggression"; c) "Boys were three times as aggressive as girls"; and d) "Children who watched violent programs alone were significantly twice as verbally aggressive as those who watched violent programs in the company of others" (p. 7). The most important result of this research is that "poor self-regulation" is associated with "aggression independent of how much violent content the child viewed" (Daly, p. 9).

In another study, this one involving a survey that was completed by 365 pediatricians in the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), revealed that first of all, most pediatricians agreed with and were familiar with the three AAP recommendations. Those three are: a) limit children's media time; b) discourage any television viewing for children under the age of 2 years; and c) "encourage alternative entertainment for children" (Gentile, et al., 2004, p. 1235). Secondly the pediatricians responded to the questionnaire by reporting that "their most frequent barrier" was a "lack of parental motivation or support for the recommendations" that their children cut back on television viewing.

Looking closer at the pediatricians' responses, while only 4% of them disagreed with trying to limit any television watching for those children under the age of 2, they viewed that recommendation as "unrealistic" (Gentile, p. 1237). Female pediatricians "were…more likely to agree with the recommendation to limit children's total media time to 1 to 2 hours" a day; and female pediatricians were also "significantly more likely to have reported providing each of the 3 recommendations to parents or patients" (Gentile, p. 1237). Eighty-four percent of pediatricians believed that media including television "affect preschool-aged children's eating habits" and 99% believed television watching affects the level of children's overall physical activity, Gentile reports. Female pediatricians were "more likely than male pediatricians" to believe that watching television "negatively affects brain development for infants and preschool-aged children, preschool overweight/obesity, and preschool aggression" (Gentile, 1238).

Another scholarly article in the journal Pediatrics points to the fact that children view a lot of sports on television, and because a "proportion of commercials" that depict unsafe behaviors and/or violence are shown prior to 9:00 P.M. that poses a problem. The researchers reviewed 50 sporting programs (the NFL, Olympics, NBA, NCAA College Basketball, the Rose Bowl, among other sporting events). The survey's ground rules were broken down into categories including the product that was being advertised, and "unsafe behavior" was defined as "any action that could have harmful consequences or that contravened the injury prevention recommendations of national organizations" (Tamburro, 2004, p. 1161).

How did they define violence? Any "intentional physical contact by an aggressor that had the potential to inflict injury or harm or the legitimate threat of such action" was considered a violent commercial, Tamburro wrote. A commercial break was defined as a "series of commercials shown during a single break from the sporting event." And of the 50 sports programs that were monitored during this research there were 322 commercial breaks; of those, 49% (158) had "at least 1 commercial showing unsafe behavior or violence" (Tamburro, p. 1662). The most commercials depicting violence were shown during the Super Bowl and the least number of violent commercials were shown during the Masters Golf Tournament; in fact there were no violent commercials shown during the Masters tournament, reflecting the fact that golf viewers are generally older males who… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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