What Should Parents Do About Media Violence?

By Rebekah Richards
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The average American child watches more than 200,000 acts of violence, including more than 16,000 murders, during his childhood, according to the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry. TV shows, movies, video games and other media portray violence as an effective way to resolve conflict. They may also desensitize children to violence and encourage children to act aggressively. However, parents can take steps to limit the media their children consume and teach them violence is wrong.

Set Limits

Parents can reduce the violence their children are exposed to by setting limits on television and other media. For example, you might limit kids to an hour of television a day and prohibit television during meals or before kids have finished their homework and chores. You can also ban specific shows or games you find offensive. Discuss these limits with other caregivers to ensure children aren't watching television at daycare or a relative's house.

Monitor Children

Parents may assume that content aimed at children is harmless, but cartoons feature up to 20 acts of violence an hour, according to the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry. Watch shows or movies with your child to determine whether they are acceptable. Keeping the family television in a central location makes it easier to monitor their child's media consumption. Don't let children have televisions in their bedrooms.

Discuss Violence

Discussing violence in the media helps children understand that what happens on screen isn't real and that characters often act in unacceptable ways. Young children often struggle to differentiate fantasy and reality and may be frightened by on-screen violence. Compare the choices characters make to your family's values and ask kids what they like or dislike about different shows, games or movies. You can also ask children to think of a better solution when characters react with violence. If you decide to ban certain media, explain why.

Encourage Other Activities

Television and other media not only send the wrong message about violence but also take up time that could be used more productively. Children need to spend time playing, reading, developing their imagination and building friendships, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Encourage your children to turn off the television by planning family activities and helping them develop hobbies and interests. Never use television as a babysitter; it's convenient, but it teaches children to use media for entertainment.

Teach Conflict Resolution

Television and other media rarely model effective forms of conflict resolution. Developing conflict resolution skills takes time, but parents can help. Set firm ground rules, such as no hitting, and enforce them. In addition, set a good example by staying calm and in control when you're upset; don't call people names or yell. Finally, compliment and encourage children when they deal with conflict responsibly and peacefully.

About the Author

Rebekah Richards is a professional writer with work published in the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "Brandeis University Law Journal" and online at tolerance.org. She graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University with bachelor's degrees in creative writing, English/American literature and international studies. Richards earned a master's degree at Carnegie Mellon University.