This article originally appeared in SLJ’s Extra Helping.
Violent television does not lead to violent children, says a new research paper from the Media Institute, countering a recent, much-heralded report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stating that the opposite is true.
“Television Violence and Aggression: Setting the Record Straight,” refutes an April FCC report that called for laws to curb certain television content for children.
“The debate is not over,” writes Jonathan Freedman, author of the paper and a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, who also criticizes both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association for wrongly characterizing previous studies of TV’s effects on children. The pediatrics group in particular, he says, used “wildly inaccurate figures” in its studies.
“I don’t think this kind of television affects children’s aggression at all,” Freedman, who has been studying children and television for two decades, told SLJ. “Some kids may get very excited and look like they’re more aggressive because they’re very excited. But if they watch some nonviolent program, whatever that means, plus some very active lively program, they’ll probably behave the same way.”
Citing the many studies examining the effect of violence on children, Freedman in his research paper acknowledges a kind of correlation: the more violence children watch, the more aggressive they become. But he emphasizes that that finding does not equate to a causal relationship.
“The most likely explanation of the relationship is that some children are more aggressive in general than others and that the more aggressive children prefer violent television, watch and play more aggressive games, and act more aggressively themselves,” Freedman writes.
“The evidence is not overwhelming” for a causal link, says the paper, released by the Arlington, VA-based nonprofit research foundation, which specializes in media issues. “Instead it provides no good reason to believe that television violence causes aggression, much less serious violence.” For a copy of the report, visit www.mediainstitute.org.