The elephant as portrayed in Disney’s children’s movie, "Dumbo," and seen performing circus tricks, has long been a happy childhood memory. But an opposite image of young elephants has recently caught our attention.
"… out-of-control, gangbanging, interspecies-raping teen elephants in Africa were sobering. Orphaned by hunters, raised in a preserve absent of adults, they began terrorizing their neighbors once they were released into the larger preserve. It smacked of Clockwork Orange for the pachyderm world. The workers in the preserve had to bring in adult bull elephants to bring the teenage marauders into line. Elephants have a complex social system and parental control is imperative to keep order." - Psychology's Quixotic Quest For The Media - Violence Connection - S. Fischoff, Ph. D.
Like the teen elephants, the increase in violence committed by young men has also brought a wake-up call to our society. What has caused such an increase in violence? The answer is not a simple one since such a large percentage of children are experiencing neglect, intrafamilial violence and a lack of parental control. One major influence is electronic media, which has brought into these children’s homes images that reinforce patterns of violence. Correcting a pattern of such magnitude cannot be done easily. The impact violence in the media has on these children and the important role it plays in the violence they then inflict on society is enough to make any concerned adult, particularly educators, look for a solution.
Photo: “It has been proved beyond dispute that people who watch a lot of violence on television develop aggressive behavior. They run a very high risk of criminal behavior.... There’s a lot suggesting that video games are worse. The border between the virtual reality and the real world becomes diffuse, and that is dangerous.” —Frank Lindblad, Swedish child psychiatrist, in a panel debate following a preview of the new documentary "Deadly Game," which recently aired on Swedish television. Lindblad makes the point that many video game players tend to identify themselves with game heroes. [Reuters, 3/1/04
Video games are good for you. That's the message in a contro-versial new book that got more buzz at the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show than most of the games on display: Steven Johnson's "Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter" - Riverhead Books, 2005. Let's just cut back on the violence, please.
To understand the source of social violence, one must understand the effects of intrafamilial violence and the impact abuse and neglect have on children. Violent adults develop their patterns of violence from their own childhood experiences of intrafamilial violence.
"The vortex of violence is continued generation to genera-tion as the developing brain of children of each new generation adapt to the persistent threat at home. Violence in the media is a new aspect of this vortex. Children raised in homes where violence is the model view violence in the media as reinforcement of what they have experienced at home. Children raised in healthy homes and communities who watch violent media view the world as a much more dangerous place than it really is but are not likely to respond violently because of the influence. In both cases children experience unnecessary trauma and inaccurate views of the world." - “The Vortex of Violence” - Dr. Bruce Perry MD., Ph. D.
With child abuse and neglect costing Americans “258 million dollars a day” (The Price of Child Abuse: Hidden, Lifelong Costs - Samantha Levine, U.S. News and World Report, April 9, 2001) reality tells us that far too many children are in the category of those experiencing intrafamilial violence and neglect due to lack of healthy parental involvement. Lessening the reinforcement of violence in electronic entertainment is one way we can help break rather than reinforce the cycle of violence.
Thousands of scientific studies have been presented to verify the connection between violence and media violence, but they have only been able to show a casual relationship between the two. The definition of scientific research and the reality of allowing someone to commit violent acts in a laboratory setting make the research almost impossible. But, in fact, there is no need to go so far in order to come to an honest and clear conclusion. One simply has to look at how children learn.
"Children are influenced by media -- they learn by observing, imitating, and making behaviors their own. Aggressive attitudes and behaviors are learned by imitating observed models. Research has shown that the strongest single correlate with violent behavior is previous exposure to violence…Titillating violence in sexual context and comic violence are particularly dangerous, because they associate positive feelings with hurting others."
- Media Violence - Committee on Public Education
"As television and other forms of electronic media become increasingly more violent, children by the age of eighteen are subjected to scenes of murder, while they sit comfortably in their own homes. This can be anywhere from 20,000 to 75,000 different acts of murder viewed by millions of children each day." - “The Vortex of Violence” - Dr. Bruce Perry MD., Ph. D.
Children as old as eight are uniquely vulnerable to violent media because they have difficulty telling the difference between fantasy and reality. We have all seen children imitate the attitudes and behaviors of characters such as Batman, but what about imitating some of the behavior in videos commonly displayed on MTV or in the television show South Park?
"Children learn by observing and trying out 'behavioral scripts.' Repeated exposure to violent behavioral scripts can lead to increased feelings of hostility, expectations that others will behave aggressively, desensitization to the pain of others, and increased likelihood of interacting and responding to others with violence." - Media Violence - Committee on Public Education
Each interaction, whether real or fantasy, is stored by a child’s brain. Then it is used to update the child’s view of the world. The rational part of the brain that is able to think through issues, rather than simply react, takes “twenty years to develop” (Niehoff, para. 12,1999). Therefore children, particularly children under eight, have little ability to change and control responses to input.
"...the Huesman and Eron study on cumulative effects of TV watching and real-world criminality. In their study, however, watching violent TV did not correlate with real-world violence or criminality when measured concurrently at ages eight and 30. No, it correlated with violence watching at eight and criminal behavior at 30. In effect, media exposure created scripts not impulses." -Psychology's Quixotic Quest For The Media - Violence Connection - S. Fischoff, Ph. D.
"If a child comes from a healthy home with strong, positive parental involvement, then violence in the media might disturb them, but they are not likely to act on it. But those children who have experienced abusive childhoods, and are bombarded with the media’s super real images have stored them as 'behavioral scripts.' They see violence as the solution for conflicts, and that is where the danger lies." Media Violence - Committee on Public Education
In an ideal world, the media would not understate the impact of violence to increase their profits, as they did in the “relationship of second-hand smoking and lung cancer.” (Bushman, para.10, 2001) Unfortunately, reality requires those who admit to the destructive effect of the media to step in and attempt to limit the impact. There are three steps that we can implement right away to start changing the tide in favor of our children:
#1. Select and censor the entertainment time of our young who are unable to cognitively tell the difference between reality and fantasy.
#2. Affect the profits of those backing violence in the media or they will not stop. (See P.S.S. below for action steps that work.)
#3. Implement programs such as Yello Dyno that offer positive and constructive behavioral scripts and models to combat the negative influences.
The Yello Dyno Curricula has at the heart of the lessons key elements for helping to break the cycle of violence. Do you really want to wait until we are surrounded by "rogue teen elephants" terrorizing our lives? Together let's use the summer to structure the implementation of Yello Dyno in your district so we start off the new school year on a positve "note" - Safety Rules!
Yours for child safety,
Yello Dyno Founder
P.S. Educators, Non-profits, Churches and Law Enforcement: To have a Yello Dyno Curriculum sent to you for a thirty-day review, call me at 888-935-5639 ext. 100 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on reviewing our curricula.
P.S.S. Do my letters and phone calls to corporations make a difference? "Yes! The Parent Television Council has seen corporations stop advertising on offensive programming, and has effected changes in some of the worst programming, primarily because of the phone calls, e-mails, and letters of our members. Keep up the good work. Corporations do listen to you, and the networks listen to the corporations they depend on for advertising dollars. The networks produce programming primarily with a view to what will bring in the most ad dollars. So, please contact those corporations we list as sponsors of offensive programming and let them know of your dissatisfaction with their advertising practices."
How do we contact sponsors of violent programs? How effective would this be? The Internet provides a useful means of contacting companies. Many company web pages contain a CONTACT US link that provides the address, phone number, and e-mail address for the company. According to the Parents Television Council (PTC), this approach is effective. -
"The Impact of Violent Television Programs and Movies" Dr. Bushman, Associate Professor, Psychology, Iowa State University
Comments? Ideas for future memos? Contact me: email@example.com.
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