TV Violence -- a Cause of Child Anxiety and Aggressive Behavior?
These days, just about every time you turn on the TV you're met with a
barrage of violent images including explosions, suicide bombings, and war
casualties. And that's just the news! Many popular television shows -- even
those in the so-called "family" time slot of 7-8:30 p.m. -- also feature much
more violence than shows aired in this time slot just a few years ago.
American children watch an average of between three and fours hours of
television daily. As a result, TV violence and children has become a hot topic.
Studies show extensive viewing of television violence may cause children to
become more aggressive and anxious. Children who watch many hours a week of
violent TV may become inured to violence and begin to see the world as a scary
and unsafe place.
As a parent, you are your child's first line of defense. It's your job to
protect your child from the negative effects of excessive TV violence and
protect him from the problems resulting from such exposure. Monitoring your
child's viewing habits as well as engaging in frank conversations about what he
might have seen can help stave off any lasting emotional effects. Here are some
suggestions from the experts:
- Pay attention to what your children are watching.
- Watch TV with your kids.
- Put kids on a "TV diet" and limit their TV time just as you limit their
junk food intake.
- Don't let your child have a TV in his bedroom.
- Don't let your child watch shows you know are violent.
- Change the channel or turn off the TV when violent or offensive material
comes on and tell your child why you are doing so.
- Consider the v-chip or other tools that allow parents to block
- Use the ratings system, which offers information about the violent content
of a TV program.
- Make sure other parents and caregivers with whom your child spends
time are on the same page.
The news can be particularly troublesome these days. As a result, the
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry suggests parents:
- Monitor the amount of time children watch news shows
- Make sure there is adequate time and a quiet place to talk following an
- Watch the news with children
- Ask your child what he has heard and what questions he may have
- Provide reassurance regarding his own safety
- Look for signs the news may have triggered fears or anxieties, including
sleeplessness, night terrors, bedwetting, crying, or talking about being
When discussing TV violence with your children:
Make sure you are age-appropriate. For example, children under 8 may
have trouble differentiating between fantasy and reality. Help them understand
the difference when discussing what they have seen.
Acknowledge older children's fears and reassure them of their
Children over the age of 8 who have seen violent acts on TV or in the movies
may become fearful that such things might happen to them. Don't belittle their
fears; instead acknowledge them and reassure children you will protect them
from harm. Try saying something like this: "I know that you are afraid. I
will do my very best to make sure you are safe."