December 8, 2011

Violence in Media: Four Parental Media Monitoring Strategies

Over the past half-century, an explosion in electronic media including television, cable television, video games, computers, the Internet, cell phones, and iPods marketed directly at the youngest children in our society, have been regarded with dismay by adults concerned about how these changes have played out in young people’s lives.

Used properly, the media can teach children many positive things about the world as well as teach them a sense of belonging and social responsibility. Child informative, high-quality educational TV content is shown to be associated with better educational outcomes and academic engagement, in opposite, viewing violence on television and playing violence video games has the potential to affect an individual child’s behaviour, psychological wellbeing and beliefs about the world. (Schmidt and Anderson research, 2007).

Media and Violent Behaviour

Many children’s programs – especially the so-called classic cartoons present violence in a humorous fashion that minimized the pain and suffering of victims. As a result , when children watch this type of depiction, they may learn that violence is funny and has little negative impact on victims.

The news media can lead people to believe that the stories reported are closer to home, or that they happen more often than they do in real life. Violence in schools is an example of a prevalent story in the news. So prominent in fact, that adults and kids alike are afraid that violence is sure to happen in their schools. The reality, however, reveals that there is less than a one in two mission chance that a child will be injured during a violent outbreak at school.

Can learning teens about bullying be presented using violence scenes? 

Take a look at a 17 minute short film launched by Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy in Sept 2011 about the dangers of sexting and cyber bullying, with some scenes including a fight captured on a mobile phone and posted online and teenagers taking nude photographs of each other and sending them to others. The video went around the world and was watched by tens of thousands. However, an expert on bullying, Professor Kenneth Rigby of the University of South Australia, said there was a risk that rather than acting as a warning about the dangers of bullying, the video was “allowing people to revel in a violent spectacle.” (1)

Extensive research evidence indicates that media violence can contribute to aggressive behaviour, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed.

What about violent video games?

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Pilots use flight simulators to learn to fly. Motorists use driving simulators to learn to drive. This kind of visual imagery is a very powerful learning medium. Some children are “print aversive” and thus even more receptive to visual imagery than others. 

Prof. Dave Grossman of West Point Military Academy uses the same violent video games that our kids play with; to teach army recruits and policemen to overcome their natural reluctance to kill another human being.

Prof. Grossman calls violent video games; “killing simulators” because they’re such an effective medium to teach someone the will and the skill to kill” They are very effective in turning human beings into compliant automatons.

An increasing amount of research is being conducted into links between online video games playing and “pathological internet misuse”.  International mental health experts are considering including “video game addiction and internet addiction” in the next edition of globally recognised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders “to encourage further study”.  In the most extreme cases, teens and young adults spend up to 50 hours almost non-stop playing online computer games, even refusing to take toilet breaks. (2)

Strategies for Parents

Parents sometimes feel overwhelmed and wonder if they are actually able to make a difference in media saturated world. 
The good news is that the research demonstrates that parents are actually in a very powerful position. 

When parents set limits on the amount of screen time their children watch (or play), set limits on the content so that it is age-appropriate, and talk about what they see and hear, this is a powerful protective factor for children. (3)

In 2001, Amy Nathanson, a researcher at The Ohio State University, published an article outlining the 3 basic ways that parents can help prevent their children from experiencing negative media effects. In past years, few studies have examined parental regulation of video game play, adding one more strategy to Nathanson’s parental monitoring.

1. Restrictive Mediation:

Limit-setting on amount of media
Limit-setting on content of media
Putting in action:● Does your family have rules about how much TV may be watched (videogame played)?
● Does your family have rules about when TV may be watched?
● Can your child only watch TV when you are in the room to watch with him/her?
● As a parent, do you help your child decide what programs to watch?
● How often does your child have to ask your permission before watching a movie orDVD on TV?
● How often do you decide what video games you may rent or buy for your child?
● How often does your child have to ask your permission before playing video games?

2. Active Mediation:

Commenting on program(video game) contents and discussing these with children, helping them to understand what they see (play) on TV , computer, or news. Engaging the children in communication about what is being viewed.
Putting in action:It is important to talk with kids about what they see and hear. Ask your child questions that help him/her think through the messages that may not be immediately apparent.
It is actually very difficult for most parents to do especially with tough issues, and require  time, thought and courage. For example, after viewing a show, ask them what they think about that. Ask them why they think the show portrayed it that way. Let your children know not to be afraid to talk with you whenever they see something they don’t understand.

3. Co-viewing Mediation:

Watching together and discussing programs in general
Putting in action:How often do you watch TV together with your child?
How often you play computer or video games with your child?

By sharing the experience with your child, you will be able to know exactly what they are being exposed to and can talk with them about it. If you see something that may be upsetting to your child, or make them scared or confused , you can start a conversation on the subject. For younger children, you may also consider setting rules against watching TV/Playing games when you aren’t around.

4. Peripheral Monitoring Strategy:

Strategically placing game platforms in public areas such as the living room, offering them the possibility to keep an eye on their children’s gaming while doing other household chores at the same time.

Research suggests that the most effective parental practices are co-viewing programs with children and active mediating, while the popular practice of restrictive mediation is less effective. (5)

As a parent, only you can decide what strategies are most appropriate for your child. Today, our kids have access to much more information than previous generations. They are likely to learn things from media that parents don’t want them to learn. Media can affect their health, behaviour and family life in negative ways. It is why it is so important to understand the negative impact of media to know  how to use it properly  for healthy children’s development.

1. Bullying, violence, revenge: the dangers of antisocial networking laid bare for children, Stephanie Gardiner
2. War on Young Minds, by Bruce McDougall
3. Research of the Effects of Media, Douglas A.Gentile , Ph.DThe Effects of Violent Media on Children
4. Talking with kids about tough issues,
5.Parental mediation of children’s video game playing: A similar construct as television mediation, by Peter Nikken


  1. I don't believe you can blame violence on television or media or the Internet for the level of violence in society. Like with any "old" media - newspapers, books, magazines - children need to be taught to read between the lines and parents need to be aware of the media their children are exposed to.

  2. Violet media is very harmful for our society. Everyone avoid this technique.
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  3. The news media can lead people to believe that the stories reported are closer to home, or that they happen more often than they do in real life.

    Media Monitoring