Effects of Violent Media on Children

As a mother and Transformational Coach, I wanted to discuss something important regarding the effects of violent media on children.  Although a quick media search, brings up a myriad of research and discussion papers on this very topic, most centre around violent video games, movies etc.  Thankfully though, some papers relate to the effects of watching news on children.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry published a paper in February 2013 regarding the effects of News on Children – I have included the link.  The AACAP states, “Children often see or hear the news many times a day through television, radio, newspapers, magazines and the internet.  Seeing and hearing about local and world events, such as natural disasters, catastrophic events, and crime reports, may cause children to experience stress, anxiety, and fears”.

Research is finding that this is becoming more prevalent due to the “Breaking News” style of reporting now where media stories on horrific situations are played almost 24 hours a day with no filter on the anguish, hurt and death being experienced by people.  Recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and other places show media reporting the smiling faces of ordinary teenagers and young adults splashed across newspapers talking about lives lost too young, or more horrifically showing dead and injured people.

The American Psychological Association published a paper on 26 June 2007 written by Dr Dale Kunkel for the Hearing before the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.  The topic was “The effects of Television Violence on Children”.  I have included a link. Dr Kunkel (2007) discusses the cumulative nature of exposure and states that “these harmful effects are grouped into three primary categories:

  1. Children’s learning of aggressive attitudes and behaviours.
  2. Desensitisation, or an increased callousness towards victims of violence.
  3. Increased or exaggerated fear of being victimized by violence.”

What can we do?

Considering the consequences of violent media, we have a responsibility to our children to at a very minimum be aware of the potential negative effects.  I’m not saying that in any way that I’m perfect.  My children watch scary movies and play fighting video / computer games.  I do not, however, have any news playing in my house.  Not in the newspaper, not on the radio, not on the television.  I have had the discussion with my children regarding real violence and pretend violence so that they are able to understand the difference.

The Australian Psychological Society has published a paper providing some simple things for parents to do.  I have provided a link to the paper.  The suggestions are:

  • “know what their children are watching;
  • Set and enforce clear rules about the amount and type of programs watched;
  • Watch with their children wherever possible, and help children interpret and critique the viewed material;
  • Encourage their children to engage in more active and creative pursuits”.

With something like the news either turn it off, or make sure that you discuss the situation with your children.

Ultimately, if you think that your child may be effected by exposure to violent media – seek professional assistance / visit your GP.

I hope that this helps you wade through the minefield of violence in media.

With love, Bianca