In the first part of this Mind Control through Television Series we established the scientific basis for mind control by television and saw how multinational corporations use this psychological warfare for their vested interests. In this part we will see how Entertainment Violence impacts our children and alters their Learning Curve drastically.
Michael Carneal was a 14-year-old freshman at Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky, when he was charged with fatally shooting three students and injuring five others on December 1, 1997.
The shooting rampage, which occurred just after the student prayer meeting, killed three girls (Kayce Steger, 15; Jessica James, 17 and Nicole Hadley, 14) and wounded five other students.
‘He held the gun up in a two-handed stance. He never fired far to the left. He never fired far to the right. Never fired up. Never fired down. He just put one bullet in every target that popped up in front of him. What was he doing? He was playing a videogame… and he was racking up as high a score as he could’, says Dave Grossman, who calls his study organization on human aggression and violence the Killology Research Group.
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Grossman, a Firearms Instructor for numerous military and police organizations, says the ‘average law enforcement officer in the average engagement hits (a target) about one bullet in five. It’s hard to hit moving targets, real moving targets. The reality is that the videogames train you to put one bullet in every target. (But) it’s not natural to put one bullet in every target. The natural thing to do is to fire at a target until it drops, and then go on to the next, and the next, and the next’.
The Paducah student, however, hit eight people with eight shots, results even a professional marksman would find difficult to match.
This tragic incident leaves us with many unanswered questions:
- How did Michael Carneal, a 14-year-old child, acquire such skills?
- Who taught him to execute the job with such accuracy?
- From where did he draw the required mental and moral strength to pull the trigger on people whom he knew, careless to the fact that he was putting an end to their lives?
- How desensitized can one get to do such an act? And, what is the source of such force?
Answers are never simple. But, we can always reference the available studies on the subject to find reasons.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s Facts for Family states that hundreds of studies of the effects of television violence on children and teenagers have found that children can:
- Become ‘immune’ to the horror of violence;
- Gradually accept violence as a way to solve problems;
- Imitate the violence they observe on television;
- Identify with certain character, victims and/or victimizers.
Extensive viewing of television violence by children has been proved to cause greater aggressiveness. Studies have also shown that sometimes just watching a single violent program can increase aggressiveness. Children who view shows, in which violence is very ‘realistic’, ‘frequently repeated’ or ‘unpunished’, are more likely to imitate what they see. The impact of TV violence may be immediately evident in the child’s behavior or may surface years later and young people can even be affected when the family atmosphere shows no tendency towards violence.
Most parents are concerned about their children’s exposure to Entertainment Violence. However, the concern seemed to stop at that without saying it aloud, they all seemed to think it a ‘non-issue’. One of the reasons for this is that we (parents) grew up with Entertainment Violence ourselves and we assume that because we didn’t grew violent, our children won’t either. We also tend to focus more on the visible problems our children have, such as: falling grades in school; lack of concentration; behavioral changes and health issues.
Children’s lives can be quite problematic and although we do look to understand the reasons behind their problems, we seem to ignore the possibility that most of the difficulties could also be related to their media habits.
Multimedia related problems impacting children can be categorized into three broad factors: Time, Health and Accessibility.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (Nov. 5, 2001): ’American children between ages 2 and 18 spend an average of six hours and 32 minutes each day using media – television, commercial or self-recorded video, movies, videogames, print, radio, recorded music, computers and the Internet’.
It is a shocking figure made even more disturbing when we consider that this figure of 6.32 hours constitutes around 40 percent of our children’s waking time. After sleep, (if they sleep well) media is the second-highest, time-consuming activity engaged in by our children, even beating the time they spend at school and the time they spend with parents or friends. This is a worrying reality and one that we should act upon. According to the American Psychological Association, ‘an average 12-year-old has seen 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence on network television’ and this does not go unregistered in young minds. What is happening here is exactly the opposite of the general rule ‘out of sight, out of mind’—‘always in sight, always in mind?’
A joint statement (Jul, 20, 2000) by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), the American Psychological Association (APA), the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has associated exposure to media violence with a variety of physical and mental health problems in children and adolescents, including:
- Aggressive behavior;
- Desensitization to violence;
- Nightmares and;
- Sleep disturbances.
We are not talking about a common cold or cough here. These are serious medical conditions, which affect the daily lives of our children. The United States Surgeon General Office, on the issue, has ‘responded by placing the TV Violence controversy in the same context as the smoking and lung cancer controversy – a public health context.
This is the most serious issue at the heart of this growing problem. Although they may not know it, parents are supporting and helping to make Entertainment Violence easily accessible to their children.
What would you do if your child were to be given lessons in the ‘Art of Violence’ to learn how to plan, organize and execute a violent act? Would you:
- Think, it’s OK, and forget about it;
- Discipline your child;
- Talk to the teacher;
- Call the appropriate authorities to complain, or;
- Continue to pay for lessons.
You certainly wouldn’t consciously pick the last option would you? But you are choosing this option when you continue to allow your children to watch inappropriate content on television and multimedia.
A. Television and Cable
In the United States, 105.44 million households have television (as of Jul, 2002), an estimated 96.7 percent or 98.6 million households are linked to cable (Dec. 2001) and 73.55 million households pay for cable television (as of Jul. 2002).
The National Television Violence Study evaluated almost 10,000 hours of broadcast programming from 1995 through 1997 and found that 61 percent of the programming portrayed interpersonal violence, much of it in an entertaining or glamorized manner. The highest proportion of violence was found in shows aimed at children.
By paying for the cable, which shows our children this violence, we are choosing the last of the above options.
B. Computer and videogames
Around 59 million children – 92 percent of all children between 2 and 17 years old – play video/Internet games according to the national survey by the National Institute on Media and the Family (Dec.13, 2001). The Sixth Annual Video and Computer Game Report Card (2001) states that while the number of high-quality games for children increases, the concern about youth access to inappropriate games also continues to grow. For the first time in several years, it is likely that both the top-selling videogame and the top-selling computer game will carry the M (Mature) rating. Metal Gear Solid 2 (Playstation2) and Return to Castle Wolfenstein (computer) are both on track to be the market leaders.
We are paying dearly for these videogame consoles and CDs.
According to the CMPA’s 1998-99 report, moviegoers who had attended 50 of the top-grossing (most successful) theatrical films released in 1998 would have viewed a total of 2,319 violent incidents, about three-fifths (1,377) of which constituted serious acts of violence. This averages 46 violent acts per film, 28 of them serious. Again, it is parents who pay for their children to visit the movies and witness these scenes.
The truth is undeniable: parents pay for and support violence in multimedia. They pay for the very same media that encourages violent thinking in their children’s vulnerable minds, and they continue to pay as children are inundated with its content. Worse still, they probably started it all by allowing their children to sit in front of the ‘idiot box’, as TV is sometimes known, when they were toddlers. By encouraging this ‘electronic babysitter’, parents stamped their approval on this process of multimedia watching.
Just because in our day we didn’t become violent as a result of exposure to this medium doesn’t mean that our children are safe. The look and feel of today’s multimedia has radically changed over the last 20 or 30 years. We’re not talking black and white images or computerized ping-pong game anymore. Today’s multimedia is life-like virtual reality, in which children can often feel as close to its virtual characters as they do to real human relationships.
Unfortunately, the answer to this problem is not as simple as just hiding the remote, selling the game box, switching off the computer or to stop going to the movies. Our world is more complicated than this.
The problem lies with:
- Our acceptance of media glorifying, glamorizing and trivializing violence;
- Our support of such media content;
- Our blurred vision of its adverse impact on our children.
The learning curve is the process we have to navigate in our life; we go through this process of learning everyday from the day we are born.
Babies do not come with a preprogrammed thinking process. Their mind, like a new database, is blank. Over time, the learning process begins as we add…