Kids See TV Violence Despite Parental Control

Friends' TVs, Bedroom TVs, Plus Little Monitoring Are All to Blame

From the WebMD Archives

July 7, 2004 -- Kids still watch violent TV shows, even when parents try to curb it, new research suggests. It's unsettling news, since aggression has been linked to TV violence.

"According to many studies ... children who are exposed to violent television programming are more likely to be aggressive and to become involved in the juvenile justice system," writes lead researcher Tina L. Cheng, MD, MPH, a pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Her report appears in this month's issue of Pediatrics.

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that the link between media violence and real-life violence is "undeniable and uncontestable," writes Cheng.

To better understand this pattern, Cheng surveyed 677 adults who accompanied children to their pediatrician visits.

She found that 53% of parents always limited their children's viewing of TV violence. However, 73% believed their children -- including their youngest child -- saw "fighting, guns, and other violence on television" at least once a week.

On average, children were watching from two to three hours of TV every day -- although that may be a low estimate, Cheng notes. Studies have shown that parents often underreport the amount of children's TV viewing. Regardless, these studies have all confirmed that children and adolescents have significant exposure to TV.

Media violence is thought to foster antisocial behavior, desensitize viewers to violence, and increase the perception that the world is mean and dangerous, she explains. Few other studies have asked parents about TV monitoring of violent and sexual content. But one large study showed that 61% of families have no rules at all -- and this was for children as young as 8 years old. When children are asked about TV rules at home, the numbers are even lower, studies have shown.

"It's interesting that the majority of parents limit violent television viewing but acknowledge that their children still view television violence," writes Cheng. The kids may be watching at a friend's house, in their own bedrooms. Or it may be that parents have given up on imposing rules -- not seeing TV violence as a negative influence.

More parents should watch TV with their kids, to help enforce rules, she suggests. Also, taking TVs out of children's bedrooms would help. Both dads and moms should be involved in setting rules to reinforce the message against TV violence.

SOURCE: Cheng, T. Pediatrics: July 2004; vol 114: pp 94-99.