Love means obsession and physical relation and defense means aggression and violence, for the twenty first century youngsters, lost in a world of war, crime, hatred and intolerance. Murders, theft and rape by teenagers are no more rare news. Pictures of a simple happy family have resigned to some obscure past, amidst pictures of riots, terrorist attacks and murder criminals. The News channels and media profits more by serving sensational news of unruly, unethical behavior of people, as such incidents attract more attention than news of constructive work. Be it daily news or video games, everywhere there are pictures of injured or dead people in pool of blood. How does a child react to these and what are the immediate and long term effect of such exposure on children, are questions which need to be tackled intelligently by parents, teachers and all well wishers of society.
Psychological Impact of exposure to violence in media
Regular exposure to violence in media increases aggression among children which reflects itself in the form of bullying, dominating rude behavior, short-temper and reckless, disrespectful, unkind attitude towards others. Kids who are hooked to violent video games and TV programs fight more with their peer over petty issues. These fights are easily become physical, hurting other kids. Such kids have very low tolerance level and the anger/rage is so much that it is difficult to make them see reason and calm them down. Many studies have shown that those who watched more violence as eight year old, are more likely to turn to serious crimes in their adult life.
Initially kids feel scared by images of violence, but when he is exposed to it again and h again he becomes immune to it and it becomes a normal part of life.
Observe a little boy who daily plays racing games where bikers keep bumping and falling off and lie in a pool of blood. The racer in the game keeps meeting serious accidents and the child keeps reloading the game till he is able to score high points. In the process he views the bloody accidents innumerable times without blinking his eyes or feeling any kind of disgust at the sight of blood. Here his focus is on scores but indirectly he is also getting used to the sight of blood and accidents in the game thrill him. As kids they cannot show their strength on elders, but their lack of sensitivity is exhibited in bullying and hurting younger kids and acts like pelting stones and hurting innocent street dogs for no reason. Such behavior if left unchecked leads to more serious behavioral problems.
Even seemingly harmless cartoons like Tom & Jerry may make a negative impression on innocent kids. Cartoon characters keep pushing, throwing heavy objects on each other which we view as fun. But because we perceive these as entertainment, the little ones get the impression that acts like throwing a hot pan on someone is not such a big crime.
People exposed to violence as kids, grow up as insensitive, unsympathetic adults, who are violent towards their own kids and spouse.
Scenes of real people rioting, pelting stones, burning vehicles, even the unruly behavior of our grown upparliamentarians, confuse the children who are constantly taught about good behavior at home and school. So often my son asks, why are people burning vehicles, or why are people throwing chairs and pots (in parliament)? My immediate reaction would be – ‘they want their demands to be fulfilled’. Even though true, is it the right answer? Certainly not. The child will then do the same to get his demands fulfilled.
Exposure to violence causes increased heart beat, blood pressure and respiration rate. Excess exposure also causes psychological trauma like anxiety and depression, because young children are unable to comprehend the cause of such violence and they are unable to express their horror, fear and insecurities generated by the violent scenes.
How to protect the child from harmful effects of media violence
- Change channel or switch off- When a child is around, immediately change the channel if any unpleasant scene is shown.
- Selective family TV viewing- Minimize TV viewing and watch only good family and kids’ channels with your children.
- Video games- Keep a watch on what type of video games your child plays. If you see something harmful, do not allow it and gently but firmly explain it to the child why it is harmful. To compensate you can gift the child a good, harmless video game. This way the child will also know what is good and what is bad.
- Explain the violence and its consequences- If the child does happen to view violence and questions about it, explain it clearly that what those people are doing is absolutely wrong, which will generate more harm than good. Explain the child how there are so many ways of amicable, constructive solution to problems. Violence is just not the way. Even while watching cartoons parents must keep telling the kids the rights and wrongs.
- Child Lock- Install child locks in your TV and PC.
- Pursue hobbies- Engage kids and yourself (as role models) in hobbies and constructive activities like sports, music, reading, painting, traveling etc., to wean away the kids from TV and video games.
- Non violence at home- Practice non-violence and restraint at home and teach the same to kids. Beating and abusing children will turn them into violent adults. Aggressive children are mostly from aggressive, violent, disturbed family backgrounds. Children of happy families who eat, play and enjoy together, engage in healthy, constructive activities grow up into responsible, peace loving adults.