Ready Set Go to Kindergarten

Television: Talking Violence

Nicolle Bellmore Pierse - Thursday, September 22, 2016

Television: Talking Violence

As of late, watching the nightly news has become a challenge. For the last six weeks without a seeming break, I have been fed a steady diet of gun violence and loss related to the shootings in Orlando, Dallas, and Baton Rouge. Just last week, the focus shifted from domestic issues to the coverage of the fatal act of terrorism in Nice. The daily onslaught of violence I invite into my home just by turning on the television can be overwhelming at times. If myself, an adult, can feel overwhelmed then how must a child feel viewing the same events? Lets consider what we can do as parents, grandparents, and caregivers to counter the negative effects of watching violent programming on the children in our lives. 

The Impact of Television Violence on Our Children

Television has the effect of shrinking the world we live in and bringing it right into our living rooms. Depending on a child's age and level of maturity they are often unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality. A child viewing a news story may wonder and worry if the same event will happen to them or their family next! This concern can result in a variety of behavioral changes such as separation anxiety, fearfulness, sleeplessness, tempter tantrums, and an exaggerated concern for the safety of family members.

Studies have shown that American children watch about 4 hours of television each day. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recommends that children under the age of two not watch any television and those older than the age of two should watch no more than 1-2 hours a day of quality programming. 

Extensive viewing of television violence by children causes aggression and contributes to children becoming sedentary in their daily lives. Children with emotional, behavioral, learning, or impulse control issues may be more easily influenced by television violence as well. The impact of that violence can surface immediately or even years later. 

So, What Can We Do? 

  • Set limits on your child's television viewing time.
  • Monitor what shows your child is watching.
  • Watch television with your child and point out that actors are not hurt by violence, but what they are seeing can cause pain and death in real life. 
  • Be prepared to be honest with your child about violence seen on the news; however, there is no need to go into more detail than your child is interested in. 
  • Encourage your child to share what makes them scared or concerns they have so you can reassure and help them to feel safe.
  • Put news stories in proper context. Explaining how certain events are isolated helps children make better sense of what they see/hear.
  • If a news story is extremely graphic or disturbing, turn it off.
  • Talk about what you and your child can do together to help after a tragic event. This may help children feel more secure and regain a sense of control over their environment.

Remember, Television can be a great educator and entertainer. You, however, control the experience from start to finish. It all starts with the simple click of a remote.

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