TV Violence and Adolescence

Two current shows on network television raise concerns about what we are going to be seeing next in terms of violent behavior from impulsive, mentally ill, and/or bored teens.  For years, there have been outcries about the graphic violence in video games, cable television, and the movies — but those viewing methods require money for access.  Now, network television, which most kids have easy access to, is becoming increasingly graphic and violent.

Recent examples include:

  • The Blacklist, NBC, Anslo Garrick Parts 1 and 2 (original air dates 11/25/13 and 12/2/13).  Part 1 showed many people being shot, including massive blood splatter patterns as a woman was shot in the head at close range.
  • Scandal, ABC, YOLO (original air date 12/5/12).  There was a graphic discussion about what torture Huck will perform on a naked Quinn to force a confession.  Huck speaks of his excitement and enjoyment of amputating appendages and removing teeth, the latter of which he does during the episode as Quinn begs for mercy.  The use of a power drill on a person’s abdomen is also referenced as a torture technique, and was shown in a prior episode.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), several studies have shown that TV violence may result in children becoming “immune or numb to the horror of violence, gradually accept violence as a way to solve problems, imitate the violence they observe on television, and identify with certain characters, victims and/or victimizers.”  The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a Policy Statement –  Media Violence, which states similar outcomes and concerns.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is charged with enforcing the federal laws prohibiting the airing of obscene or indecent programming or profane language during certain hours, all of which are defined in the linked document.  In 2007, the FCC delivered a report to Congress recommending that the television industry voluntarily commit to reducing the amount of violent programming viewed by children and enacting legislation to support parent’s efforts to safeguard children form objectionable programming.  The FCC documentation recognizes the tension between First Amendment Freedom of Speech and artistic expression and the concerns about children’s access to certain content.

The solutions proposed by the AACAP focuses on parental involvement.  For many who have worked in the juvenile delinquency and CHINS systems, parental supervision is a myth for the children.  Too often, children are left completely unattended with no boundaries (no 10pm bedtime before Scandal or The Blacklist air) or television and video games are the main activities in the children’s lives.  Once again, there must be parental participation and education, rather than just focusing on the rehabilitation of the child in the case.

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