Children and Media Violence, by Ulla Carlsson

Rapeutationists and DIRA zombies are preconditioned for violent behavior by cinema and video game violence.

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Fighting Against Television Violence: An Israeli Case Study


On May 1st, 1994, an article under the title "Dozens of Children were Hurt in WWF Style Fights" appeared in the Israeli's major daily newspaper Yediot Acharonot:

"Hocked" on the wrestling television series WWF, dozens of children from the north were hurt when they tried to imitate their idols with friends. Parents living in Nahariya claim that as a result of intensified viewing of the television series -- in which all the exercises are staged -- many children in the town became "addicted" to performing the exercises in reality.

Dozens of children in the north have broken hands or legs during WWF style fights. A 10-year-old boy told Yediot Acharonot: "We were practicing and one of the boys broke his leg. I accidentally broke a girl's arm. Those were just from a few blows. But I have been expelled from school three times because of these kinds of accidents." Yesterday, after performing a backthrow and head turning exercise, a 15-year-old-boy in Nahariya lost consciousness. Luckily, he woke up after a few minutes.

As a result of the intensification of these accidents, the citizens of Nahariya are demanding a restriction on broadcasting of the wrestling series. Ilana, one of the children's mother: ''The blows exchanged at school have become routine. Dozens of children are being sent home after wrestling. It all starts as 'pretend' and ends 'for real'".

This and similar news items in the winter of 1994 exposed the Israeli public to a phenomenon which concerned staffs of many elementary schools at the time: Violent behavior associated with an American wrestling series on television. The Chair of the Education Committee of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) organized a special meeting on the phenomenon with Knesset members, educators, television-industry representatives and academic experts. The effect of television violence was a headline for a day.

The purpose of this article is to document this particular case study as an illustration of the potential of an integrated struggle against the effects of television violence on children by the education system, the public, the regulators, the broadcasters and the academia. The case study begins with background about the development of Israeli television, the context in which media literacy curricula have developed, and the current state of the concern over broadcasting violence on television. This is followed by a description of the particular case study in question -- the nature of the program, the findings of the research project and strategies advanced in fighting back the negative effects.

Television as a national force

Concern for the possible contribution of television violence to general societal violence has not attracted much attention in Israeli society in the past. A rare exception is Bachrach's study of the differential effects television violence had on Israeli children raised in two very different environments -- a city and a kibbutz (Bachrach, 1986; Huesmann & Bachrach, 1988). Part of the cross-national research project directed by Huesmann and Eron (1986), Bachrach found significant correlations between viewing television violence and peer-rated aggression for the urban children, but not for the kibbutz children who at the time, were being socialized in a unique environment.

The absence of interest in television effects may be explained by the unique historical context in which television has developed in Israel. This country is currently undergoing a major communication revolution -- from a single public non-commercial television channel established in 1967 to a mixed, American-style system in which commercial and public channels compete for audiences.

The delay in the commercialization of Israeli television is the result of a four-decade debate about the potential influence of television on the development of Israeli society in general, and that of the American-style commercial format, in particular. In the 1950s and early 1960s, Israel's renowned Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and his supporters argued that American style television, with its capitalistic value system and foreign cultural attributes, would have a strong negative influence on important national efforts to recreate and nourish the development of a unique Jewish Israeli culture. After the 1967 war, new ideological and political concerns led to the decision to include television in the public broadcasting system. Among the primary reasons for this action was the claim that through television Israel could communicate to her hostile neighbors and residents of the Occupied Territories. Indeed, it was hoped that the broadcast media could advance dialogue between the two peoples (Katz, Haas & Gurevitch, 1997; Lemish & Lemish, 1997).

Television then, has been presumed to play a role in the nation's development. For example, given Israel's continuous security situation, the media has emphasised coverage of news and public affairs. In analyzing data on Israeli leisure, culture, and communication during the first 20 years of monopolistic Israeli television, Katz, Haas and Gurevitch (1997) concluded that television supported the norm of collectivism in the sense of "shared and simultaneous pursuits, governed by norms of self-sacrifice and mutual obligation, performed in the knowledge that everybody else is similarly occupied" (p. 19). For example, watching the 9 o'clock evening news magazine on the only existing television channel has become "a sort of civic ritual during which the society communed itself" (Katz, Haas & Gurevitch, 1997, p. 6).

The limited number of viewing hours during the first two decades of Israeli's television and society's general positive attitude toward television's role in national integration may explain the lack of debate over effects of television on children in general and on children's violence in particular. For example, in a survey of parents of 2-11 year old children, Levinson and Tidhar (1993) found that 77 percent of parents evaluated educational television's impact on their children as positive, and only 3 percent as negative; in comparison to 46 percent and 16 percent with regards to cable television. So while cable which was just being introduced, was clearly perceived as less positive than educational television, it was still evaluated positively by half of the parents.

Concern over the role television plays in Israel's life has developed in exactly those areas of its strength -- in its involvement with politics, in its role in national development, and in the development of cultural identity. Out of this public debate emerged in the late 80s and beginning of the 90s what appeared to be a national consensus calling for institutionalization of media literacy programs in schools.

Television literacy in Israel

In the last decade, as Israeli society was gradually experiencing the major changes in the media environment, three national media literacy curricula have been adopted by the Ministry of Education: a television literacy curriculum for the elementary school system, a television and film literacy curriculum for the middle school system, and a mass media curriculum for the upper division school system. Simultaneously, teacher training programs have been developing general and specialization courses in media teaching and production, publishers have been preparing textbooks, and thousands of students at all levels of the school system have begun formal study of the media. Parallel to this trend, most major universities in Israel established formal programs for the academic study of mass communication.

Achieving such a unified national interest is very unusual in a country whose public life is characterized by deep divisions and disagreements over most significant political and policy issues. Analysis of how this consensus was achieved reveals that alliances developed among persons whose political and ideological views usually find them disagreeing on almost every other issue. "Media literacy" was perceived as a desirable educational goal by persons with very different points of view representing completely different ideologies. For some, it was aimed at developing tools for preventing the Americanization of Israel. For others, it was perceived as a means for educating future citizens against political manipulation. Unusual coalitions of interests were formed around ethical issues -- portrayals of women and children, pornography. Finally, many were concerned with television's unique surveillance role in Israeli society in regards to dependency on current affairs information and interpretation, and the potential empowerment of citizens.

The result of these various efforts was that media literacy was offered as a cure -- or as a conscience comforter -- for every social ill. While there seemed to be a broad agreement on basic principles of media education -- such as the understanding that media messages are constructed and that they are socially-politically-culturally contextualized -- the agendas of different educational enclaves of Israeli society led to development of their own variation of media education programs.

This resulted in a situation in which actions in the field are driving media literacy in different directions and that implementation is at the mercy of persons in positions of power who advance a variety of curricula based upon their own ideological interpretations and interests (for a complete discussion see Lemish & Lemish, 1997).

The changing television scene

Since its introduction at the beginning of the 90s, cable television in Israel has been expanding very rapidly. Approximately 60 percent of Israeli homes subscribe to cable (70 percent in the densely populated Tel-Aviv metropolitan area) and there are indications the number is continuing to grow. In addition, in mid 1993, the Second Television Channel was permitted to expand its schedule and to experiment with commercials. These major changes have dramatically increased the amount of viewing hours available to Israeli viewers, number of viewing options offered to them, as well as the growing dependency on the International television market, mainly, of American fare (Nossek &Tidhar, 1994; Weimann, 1995; 1996).

Thus, the public discourse discussed above may be changing as Israeli culture moves away from collectivism towards individualism, as manifested by consumerism, along with a decrease of consumption of high culture and an increase of popular media and the like (Katz, Haas & Gurevitch, 1997). Possible support for this thesis comes from Weimann's (1995; 1996) study of the introduction of cable to Israeli society. Weimann found in his sample of 180 households significant changes in consumption of television, in the social context of viewing television, and in feelings and attitudes towards the medium. For example, increased viewing time was accompanied by uneasiness and even guilt feelings (as expressed in agreeing to statements such as: "watching TV is often a waste of time"; "I often watch TV more than I intend to"). In addition, Weimann found an increase in worries expressed about children's viewing and attempts to control viewing which often resulted in conflicts.

The awakening of interest over television's impact on children reached its peak in January 1994, following the brutal murder of a taxi driver by two middle class teenagers. The media's role in encouraging and contributing to legitimization of violence was debated in the daily papers and in the broadcast media. It was under these special circumstances -- the recent dramatic growth of television options and the shock of a senseless murder that this first major public debate over television and violence took place -- over the case of WWF.

WWF -- The television series

The World Wrestling Federation (WWF) programs present wrestling matches performed in an arena in front of live audiences. Operating under the guise of a sport, WWF is in fact a booming entertainment industry and a unique cultural phenomenon. This form of wrestling is distinctly different from other televised sporting events: it appears that there are no clear rules or agreed upon code of behaviors. Almost every form of violent act seems to be allowed and possible until the brutal defeat of the opponent.

In fact, the WWF is a form of sport-parody: The rules of the game are there to be broken, the referee exists so he can be ignored (Fiske, 1987). While in other forms of sport the opponents have an equal chance at the competition, the differences between WWF opponents are emphasized from the start: "good guys" and "bad guys" are identifiable to viewers through their names, costumes and appearance, the gadgets they use, their reactions to the audience, their body language and facial expressions and the like. The "good guys" are often handsome Caucasians promoted in Euro-American culture as images of the Good and Powerful. On the other hand, the "bad guys" are often dark skinned, physically grotesque, ridiculously dressed and non Euro-American in appearances. These wrestlers purposefully break the rules, ignore the referee, cheat on their own partners and evoke feelings of meanness in the excited audience.

The 1994 case study

WWF was broadcast in Israel on various channels during different days and hours of the week. Due to the growing public concern, a focused field study of the effects of this particular violent program on children was launched in the Spring of 1994. [1] The major goal of the study was to examine the role WWF played in the lives of elementary school children. More specifically, this case study was undertaken in order to study the more general phenomenon of the effects of television violence as they are filtered through a host of mediating variables within specific contexts (for a full discussion of this project, see Lemish, 1997).

The study developed through three phases and included quantitative and qualitative measures:

(1) Survey of 285 questionnaires completed by principals of elementary schools.

(2) In-depth unstructured phone interviews with 75 elementary school principals.

(3) Visits to nine schools representing different profiles of Israeli society. 901 questionnaires were completed by children in grades 3 through 6 in these schools. In addition, 254 open-ended interviews were conducted with children of those classes who volunteered to be interviewed.

Behavioral effects

The findings of the three stages suggest unequivocally that WWF wrestling was a distinct and disturbing phenomenon in many Israeli elementary schools during the academic year of 1993-1994. The violence accompanying WWF fights was unique and separable from other forms of school violence. Wrestling was done within a mock-arena, in front of a cheering audience, applying mostly pre-planned agreements, which included character identification and specific fighting tactics. Interviewees were all of the opinion that the phenomenon increased violence in the schools and the rate of injuries to a degree never known before and not repeated since its decline. It was emphasized that the WWF type violence was not just a different version of school violence, but a different entity -- qualitatively as well as quantitatively.

These findings support the literature dealing with the contribution of television violence to violent behavior (for recent meta-analyses, see for example Geen, 1994; Gunter, 1994; Paik & Comstock, 1994). Further, the study provided evidence that modeling behavior does indeed take place in a deferred manner under favorable social conditions, and that it is effective even with older children (in this case 8-12 years old) -- than those usually examined in experimental studies. These data also illuminate the dilemma of direction of the causality of the violence effect: The more violent children, as identified by peers, were indeed heavier viewers and heavier imitators of WWF. However, children who were identified to be non-violent, including some girls, played violent WWF games as well. In other words, viewing WWF was found to reshape and increase violent behaviors first and foremost among children labeled as violent but also among some of the non-violent children.

One possible interpretation for why this may be true for some non-violent children and not for others, emerged through children's discussion of their confusion over the fantasy and reality aspects of the series. Such blurring has been related in the literature as facilitating imitative behavior. For example, in a meta-analysis of studies of television violence, Hearold (1986) concluded that perception of realism was an important factor in the relationship between viewing violence and behaving aggressively. Van der Voort (1986) found that the more realistic children found a television episode to be, the more they watched, were involved, took it seriously, perceived it as violent and judged it to be more exciting. Van Evra (1990) suggested that younger children are particularly vulnerable to these effects due to their difficulties in making the necessary distinctions between fantasy and reality.

Gender differences

The gendered role of WWF in children's lives emerged as a central theme as the study unfolded. Opposition to WWF served to reinforce their gender identity for most girls. For them, WWF, as other sporting events, legitimized the masculine world view of "the roughest guy wins". The emphasis the girls' discourse put on the violent aspects of the program, and more specifically, on the violent nature of males, support Byrson's (1978) view of televised sport as a form of male monopolization of physical force. Watching and imitating WWF was perceived as part of boys' "nature" and normative behavior. As the literature suggests, most girls in this study, appreciated violence less, watched it and imitated it less, and were more critical of it, than boys (Van der Voort, 1986; Van Evra, 1990).

For other girls, albeit a minority, WWF provided an opportunity to safely experiment with the adoption of male norms of behavior. These were the ones who shared in the interviews their pleasure in playing WWF fights at home, where the possibility for social as well as physical sanctions was minimized. The home environment allowed them to experiment with their physical as well as psychological abilities to fight, either with younger (thus usually weaker) or with older (thus usually playful) siblings (for an analysis of these findings from a feminist perspective, see Lemish, under review).

Cultivation effects

Children in this study identified the WWF series as representing a foreign ideology and culture. This culture was characterized by an extreme form of "more-ness": "More" in the positive sense -- richer, bigger, more developed, more creative, more varied and the like. But, also, "more" as fear and as criticism -- more violent, wilder, more dangerous. These perceptions were incorporated in a worldview based on previous encounters with popular media which present the United States as a violent and rich society in a homogenized stereotypical way. In that exciting all-powerful culture called America, violence is a central theme. Regular viewing of WWF seemed to contribute to perpetuating this mythical belief "that one is living in a Mean World" (Gerbner & Gross, 1976). Since such programs pertain to a realm of experiences otherwise not available to young viewers (most have never been to the United States, for example), their influence may prove to be lasting by presenting selectively limited mental frames for future references (for a full discussion see Lemish, forthcoming).

The educational system fighting back

As WWF-related injuries increased (principals' reports estimated at least 150 physical injuries requiring professional medical care, an additional 400 injuries which required first aid within the school and countless injuries which did not require any medical attention), and newspaper exposure mounted, schools were forced to take action. Most of the principals interviewed reported how they engaged in a process which required drafting all the resources available -- pedagogical and others -- in order to directly confront the WWF phenomenon. Two general strategies were adopted -- short and long term treatments:

(1) Short term treatments: putting out the fire

Short term treatments often resulted from the shock and unexpected distress following a dangerous injury on school grounds. Immediate reaction was called for and it was taken on four levels -- individual, class, school and parental.

Individual level:

Principals adopted a strict and unequivocal punishment policy. This included explicit banning of any WWF-related activity (including wrestling, wearing T-shirts advertising WWF, bringing WWF figures to school or playing with WWF game cards). Punishments for disobedience included reprimand by the principal, summoning of parents, a written reprimand in the student's personal file, deprivation of privileges (such as permission to leave the classroom during breaks), prohibition on taking the school bus, special homework, special school chores and even removal from school for several days.

Class level:

Teachers, school councilors, special education teachers and even the principals themselves held special discussions during class hours in an effort to drive home the seriousness of the matter. Children were presented with media reports on the danger involved in WWF-related fights and with evidence from injuries sustained in their own school. Students were encouraged to write letters complaining about WWF broadcasting to newspapers and other media representatives including directors of cable channels; to stage and discuss simulations of WWF fights; to express themselves through creative writing and the like. Special effort was devoted to explain to the children the theatrical nature of the series.

School level:

General assemblies were devoted to discussing the phenomenon of WWF fights and to stating school policy. Teachers' patrols during breaks were intensified and their duties directed to handling the fights. Students' Councils were asked to join in the efforts. Students volunteered for special "fight against WWF" patrols. Joint student and teacher teams re-wrote existing regulations to include items referring directly to such fights. New school institutions were established, such as "Peace Council", "Tolerance Committee", "Non-Violent Trustees" and others. Older students volunteered to tutor younger violent children. Special awards were granted to students who were commended for actions against school violence. Special efforts were devoted to developing "The Active Break": A structured plan of activities during recess time, which included fun and sporting activities, music and dance, and creative arts. All of the above were developed in the hope that these activities would limit the opportunities for WWF-related fights to develop.

Parental level:

Activities included summoning special parents meetings, circulating written materials and establishing Parents Councils to join in the efforts to eliminate the phenomenon.

All in all, all principals emphasized the genuine tremendous educational efforts which were invested in the attempt to fight back against this new, escalating phenomenon.

(2) Long term strategies: a window of opportunity

Long term strategies were characterized by an attempt to incorporate the struggle with WWF related behavior within general educational efforts against other negative phenomena in schools such as violent behavior, deterioration of school discipline, disrespect towards friends, etc. WWF provided a "window of opportunity" for advancing implementation of such plans. In many cases it served as a catalyst for legitimizing prioritization of budgets required to advance educational programs.

The negative consequences of WWF-related activities in schools significantly motivated the interest and willingness of the educational staffs to adopt innovative approaches and curricula, even if out of a feeling of "no choice". Two types of educational programs were implemented:

Media Studies:

These included the spread adoption of the formal national media literacy curriculum for the elementary school and other initiatives, such as analysis of current affairs, study of animation, development of critical viewing skills, production courses and the like. Clearly, WWF served as a legitimate excuse to go ahead with the principals' plans to advance such efforts.

Interpersonal Communication:

These programs included the development of personal skills through various innovative educational programs which emphasize values such as tolerance and mutual respect, development of self-worth, and skills in decision making, mediation, problem solving, among others.

It is important to emphasize, that without exception, principals strongly perceived their efforts to have been productive: All reported that their preventive measures as well as educational efforts resulted in a drastic decrease in the number of fights which took place at school and in many cases in its complete disappearance. The interviews with the children confirmed this observation. Many of them referred voluntarily to the success of the various efforts as responsible for the decline of their own violent behavior, as well as that of others. Many quoted in detail "horror" stories related to injuries and their consequences and seemed to have deeply internalized the expected school policy.

Intervention by the Council of Cable Broadcasts

The Council of Cable Broadcasts is the public statutory body appointed by the government to regulate the performance of cable franchisers. As such, the Council is in charge of developing policy in regards to type of broadcasts, including topics, contents, quality, variety and scale. In addition, it is responsible for future development, including new cable services, specialized channels, utilization of satellite broadcasting and the like.

As the Council's attention was called to the dangers posed by the broadcasting of WWF, the Chairperson decided to take action at various different levels. First, she invited an academic researcher (the author of this article) to inform the Council on research on influences of television violence on children. She also agreed to advance this research project and dedicated finances for its execution. The results of the project were distributed to journalists in the various media as well as to all broadcasting organizations.

Secondly, the Council initiated negotiations with the cable franchisers for the purpose of limiting broadcast hours and for warning young viewers of the possible negative effects of attempting to imitate the program. The result of these efforts was the production of short public broadcast announcement which included a popular young actor explaining to the children that WWF is just a television show and should not be modeled. This announcement was tailored to meet the research findings whose implications included the need to clarify the fictional dimensions of this pretend "sport" series. The announcement was broadcast twice during each airing of WWF on the Sports Channel, as well as on the popular Children and Family channels, as part of a special campaign. Some of the school principals interviewed incorporated references to these broadcasts in their appeal to the students. The students, on their part, quoted the broadcast as a source of information on the fictional nature of the program.

An additional side-effect of this case study was the establishment of an open channel of communication between academic professionals and broadcasters, through the mediating of the regulator. This has already been proven fruitful in a number of cases. One example was the recent discussion initiated about the broadcast of violent promos during children's viewing hours. A Violence-Monitoring Project initiated and sponsored by the Council as a tool for supervising the cable broadcasters located a specific problem in promos for violent movies. While the movies themselves are scheduled for late hour broadcast, their promos are broadcast during all hours of the day and on channels viewed heavily by children of all ages. The content of the promos is illustrative of the core issues concerning the effects of television violence: They often consist of harsh and violent scenes, which are shown as an "incentive" for further viewing. Violence is presented in an attractive yet de-contextualized manner: there are no reasons or motivations for the behavior on one hand, and no consequences on the other. Since there is no story but hyped visuals and sounds, it is impossible to distinguish the "good guys" from the "bad guys"; therefore violence is perceived as normal action for all.

As a result of intensive discussions of the WWF case, the promos as well as examination of various definitions of television violence in various content analyses of research projects (for example, the Mediascope, Inc., 1994-5), the Council reworded the existing regulation and now prohibits the broadcast before the hour of 22:00 of "any broadcast which includes harsh or blunt visual, verbal or audio related expressions of violence, sex or suffering, or broadcasts which are the object of imitation; no promo will be broadcast before the above hour which includes the above content; and no promo to a broadcast of that kind, even if it does not in itself include such content, will be broadcast in the children's channel."

Finally, the Council clarified its policy in regard to handling issues of this nature: An integrative approach which includes focused research, long term educational campaigning for the development of television literacy, and secondary legislation (such as the above limiting broadcast hours for violent content). The Council, a regulator, opposes -- as do most academics in this field in Israel -- the possibility of formal general legislation which will expropriate the issue from the broadcasters and their regulators. Such legislation, it is argued, is deemed impossible to implement and enforce and it is perceived as posing a severe danger to freedom of expression and the independence of Israeli broadcasting system.


The case of WWF related fights in the school system in Israel created an unusual opportunity to reconsider the relationships of television violence and the modeling of violent behavior under well defined and focused conditions. The phenomenon appeared suddenly, as the broadcasts on the Sports Cable Channel and on the commercialized Second Israeli channel became popular. The behavior in question was uniquely different from any other school violence and easily identified by interviewees. Participants came from all profiles of Israeli society -- urban as well as rural children; middle-class as well as lower class; secular as well as religious populations; from the heavily populated center of the country as well as its peripheral north and south.

In addition, the phenomenon has declined as sharply as it appeared, a year later. Several complementary explanations can be offered for the possible social mechanism involved. First, the Second Channel took the program off the air for various reasons, public pressure included. However, the program continued to be broadcast regularly, several times a week, on the cable channels. Yet, a significant decline in WWF type wrestling was noted even in the schools located in areas served by cable television. Therefore, three other lines of explanation which emerged from the interview data may be proposed: First the effectiveness of the preventive and educational measures taken by the schools, as described above. A second, related explanation is that children came to understand that the program is staged and recognized that many of its elements are unrealistic. In the interviews, many of the children argued that realizing the program is staged reduced their pleasure in viewing it and their inclination to imitate it. Finally, fads and fashions seem to be playing a role here too: At the time, a new activity was gaining popularity during school break (playing and swapping collectable colorful little plastic discs) and gradually replaced WWF fights. During the two years that have passed, these and other activities have come and gone. However, the danger that a new violent television fad will appear and will again popularity like a brush fire as did WWF fights is always there.

Finally, a discussion of violence on Israeli television and children can not be complete without taking into consideration the unique geo-political reality of the Israeli-Arab conflict in which these children are growing up. One result is that children are heavily exposed to documentation of real live violence. In an early study of the effect of the 1973 Yom Kippur War films on children, Cohen & Adoni (1980) found that the movies stimulated fear and emotional arousal in children. The effect was stronger for those children exposed to the war film with a battle sound-track than for those exposed to verbal narration. However, effects were weaker for children who discussed the movies with their parents.

In the last two years, children in Israel have been exposed, while viewing television in their natural home environment and often without mediation, to the most terrifying sights of the consequences of human violence -- an assassination, terrorist attacks, bombings, suicide-explosions. The horror of these sights includes mutilated bodies, body parts, blood; the cries of pain and trauma of the injured; the heart breaking sights of the mourning for victims. The debate over the ethical issues involved in live-coverage of disasters has now penetrated both the public and professional arenas, as well as in mass communication theoretical analyses (Liebes, in press). The special threat posed to the well-being of children has yet to be studied. Real violence of this magnitude is framed in the most negative terms, its perpetrators as inhumane, and the results devastating. The possible emotional damage to young viewers is a question well in order: Does viewing of this sort cultivate the "mean world" perspective? Does it incite fear and pessimism? Does it encourage the legitimization of further violence (such as retaliation?) Does it contribute to the value that "might is right"? Do children carry some of these values and perceptions into the viewing of entertainment television, such as the WWF series? Or vice versa, does fictional television violence support such values? From what we know from the existing literature in regards to viewing of less explicit violence (such as the coverage of the Gulf War in 1992), there is good reason to believe that children do not remain untouched by exposure to such television viewing (Buckingham, 1996; Cantor, 1994, 1996; Cantor, Mares & Oliver, 1993; Derdeyn &Turley, 1994; Hoffner & Haefner, 1993; Morrison & MacGregor, 1993; Wober & Young, 1993).

As the WWF case study illustrates, what seems to be called for is a major attempt at joint efforts: An active public that reacts to what it perceives as a threat to the wellbeing of children, regulators who are quick to respond and demand change from the broadcasters, social-action research to provide the supporting data for taking action, an education system willing and able to explore innovative pedagogics, and broadcasters who accept the social responsibility that goes with their profession. This is a mode of cooperation and social responsibility necessary in order to advance the development of civil society.



1. This study was initiated and supported by a grant from the Israeli Council of Cable Broadcasts. The author wishes to thank the Council Chairperson, Michal Raphaeli-Kadori and Broadcast Policy Advisor Gideon Ganani, for their cooperation. In addition, she would like to thank Vered Seidmann for her valuable assistance in the project.


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Re: Children and Media Violence, by Ulla Carlsson

Postby admin » Fri Sep 06, 2013 11:08 pm

What Do We Know About European Research on Violence in the Media?


Public concerns on the likely effects of media on children and youth has given rise to considerable research. The first part of this article will describe the state of research about children and young people in Europe and then examine the changing face of research in Scandinavia if not necessarily the debate about violence.

In a recent survey of academic research on children and the media in the fifteen countries which currently are members of the European Union, Linne (1996) demonstrated that in the sample of one hundred and seven universities who answered this questionnaire, fifty-one universities were active in the field of Children and the Media. The countries where research about mass media and children has been most developed in the 1990s are those of north-western Europe, namely the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland (in that rank order).

On the question of how the researchers would evaluate the development of research in their own country, Italy, Spain, Austria, Greece, Luxembourg and Portugal all reported that the state of affairs regarding research was relatively poor. The responses from the UK, Germany, the Nordic countries, the Netherlands and Ireland were much more positive. This I believe, has less to do with demographic factors such as size of population, than a combination of social and historical forces.

The questionnaires were filled in by one hundred and seven Departments of Media Studies, Media Policy, Sociology, Journalism, Psychology, Audience Research and Media Education within the European Union. The respondents were professors, directors, researchers and lecturers.

The major approaches used in the research, according to the respondents were firstly sociological, followed by social psychological and then psychological approaches. Very few mentioned a literary or humanist approach or, indeed, a political-economy approach. However, the surprising result here is not so much that the latter approaches mentioned were rarely used, but rather that the sociological had such a firm position in the 1990s. I would argue that this is a European trend rather than an American one. The sociological approach is one where researchers relate the child's media use, awareness and pleasure in a social context. The research which had been undertaken, or was in process, covered both positive and negative effects of the media. The most frequent response was that the studies had dealt with media and violence, followed by media education and media and positive effects, and subsequently media and general negative effects. Less frequent, but nevertheless evident, were research studies about media and fear, media policy and media organisations and structures, media literacy, and reception analysis.

Thus I can draw the conclusion that, contrary to the familiar assumption that research about children and the media has been concentrated only in a couple of fields, it has actually followed many different avenues. One should remember, however, that I was asking about research carried out in Europe from 1990 and onwards.

The research had also used many different theoretical frameworks, again a finding contrary to common assumptions. The reception analysis framework was often referred to as significant for current research. This is surprising, as it is a fairly new theoretical approach. The second and third most used frameworks were the more traditional 'effects' and 'uses and gratifications' traditions. However, other recent research approaches were also quite frequently used. Here I refer to cultural indicators and semiotic studies. Thus, again, contrary to what current literature about children often argues, this survey demonstrates that research about children and young people is not simply informed by traditional research frameworks.

The most frequently cited methods used were surveys, in-depth studies and literary reviews, followed by group discussions and participant observation. Interviews, using mainly closed questionnaires, were also quite often used. Laboratory experiments, which had been a research tool often used in the 1960s (for example, most of the research on children and violence on the screen was based on this method), were mentioned by only a few respondents. Again what is significant is that there is not a single research method that dominates. I would interpret this as a very positive trend as no method is perfect in itself and one might gain more knowledge and understanding using a pluralistic approach. It is pleasing to note that so few researchers are using laboratory experiments, as these have been severely criticised for their artificiality.

The most studied media was, without any doubt, television followed by video. Surprisingly enough one quarter of the respondents pointed to radio as their main medium of research. Advertising in television followed, and one should note that this makes television an even more dominant medium in research about children and the media. Around a quarter or less stated that film, video-nasties and computers in general, had also been studied. Some twenty percent mentioned that newspapers, computer games and books had been investigated.

It is interesting to see that books as one of the oldest media, still has the same interest for researchers as one of the newest, i.e. computer games. Interactive television is a new medium much discussed, but so far only eight percent of the scholars in the Higher Education Institutions of the fifteen European countries had been studying this specific medium.

The scholars' evaluation of policy implication and distribution of the research

More than half of the academics believed the research about children had policy implications for the media. The most frequent answer was that research had affected television and the school curriculum. Around ten percent believed that advertising and radio had been influenced by research and others mentioned film, books, newspapers and computer games.

Sixty-five percent of the respondents active in the field of children and media mentioned that teaching about children and the media took place in their institutions (73 percent had indicated that research was carried out).

A surprisingly large percentage of the scholars reported that they were lecturing to primary and secondary schoolteachers (41 percent). Lecturing to interest groups was also quite frequent and so was lecturing to parents. Twenty-four percent of the scholars also mentioned that they lectured to broadcasters in workshops or conferences. However, it is significant that most of these answers were given from scholars from the UK, Germany, France, the Nordic countries, the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland. Thus the picture drawn here was mainly based on the north-west of the European countries. The situation seems to be very different in the other countries, especially the Mediterranean countries, Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal. Portugal, like Luxembourg, reported that no research in this field had been undertaken there.

There is little knowledge about research in other European countries, which are not members of the European Union. Norway and Hungary, for example, have quite a well developed research tradition in line with the other north-western European countries, but because of the former Cold War there is very little knowledge of Eastern European countries.

Eastern Europe

In a workshop (1996), arranged by the European Children's Television Centre (E.C.T.C) in Greece, I interviewed the Heads of Children's Television from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), and Romania. They informed me, that to the best of their knowledge, there had not been carried out any research about children and the media in their countries. This does not mean that this is absolutely correct, but if I had carried out similar interviews with the Heads of Children's programmes in north-western Europe, I know (from discussions with them) that they would be well aware of that research had been carried out in their own country, even if they would not necessarily be up to date.

In the light of this I welcome a booklet written by Irving and Tadros (1997) Children's Film and Television in Central and Eastern Europe. It does not deal with research in the twenty-one countries, but at least it informs about the legislation about violent images. Here follows a short summary.

In Albania, there is a system of self-regulating, "ensuring that violent and erotic programmes are not aired at times when children might be watching television" (Pepo, in Irving and Tadros, 1997, p. 14).

In the Republic of Azerbaijan the rules are: "For public protection, the distribution of films promoting violence and cruelty is liable for a prison term of up to two years or a fine of the equivalent of 700-800 times minimum wage" (Mirkassimov, in Irving and Tadros, 1997, p. 15). Rather harsh, it appears.

From the Republic of Belarus, Andreev informs: "Any use of mass media, literature, shows, etc., which include pornography, the worship of violence and cruelty, or anything which may offend the human dignity and influence children in any harmful way by encouraging them to break the law is punishable by the law" (Irving and Tadros, 1997, p. 16).

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, "the production and distribution of films is not governed by legislation. No special laws exist to regulate either children's film or children's television" (Selimovic, in Irving and Tadros, 1997, p. 18).

In the Republic of Bulgaria, Dereliev et al. explain that a law was passed about radio and television in 1996: "In programming scheduled between 06.00 and 23.00 it is not permitted to include shows potentially harmful to the psychological, physical, and moral development of children and young adults" (Irving and Tadros, 1997, p. 19).

The production and distribution of film are not subject to legislation in the Republic of Croatia. However, broadcasters, "must not offend the public morality, must not show pornography, accentuate violence or provoke racial, religious and ethnic hatred" (Alajbeg et al., in Irving and Tadros, 1997, p. 21).

In the Czech Republic, "the broadcasting of programmes promoting violence and sex is prohibited by Czech television, which has set up an ethics panel to make recommendations in these matters" (Bajgar et al., in Irving and Tadros, 1997, p. 23).

Estonia passed a law in 1992 and in article 48 it is stated: "It is forbidden to produce or demonstrate to children any printed material, films videos, or any other implements which propagate cruelty and violence" (Salulai et al., in Irving and Tadros, 1997, p 24).

In the Republic of Georgia minors are protected from watching pornographic or violent films by law (Chigogidze, in Irving and Tadros, 1997, p. 25).

The Hungarian Media Law of 1996 is very similar (Irving and Tadros, 1997, p. 26).

The Latvian Electronic Mass Media Act of 1995, article 18.5 states: "Between 07.00 and 22.00 programmes containing violence in visual or textual form, plots associated with the use of drugs are prohibited" (Ruben is et al., in Irving and Tadros, 1997, p. 28).

Lithuania passed a law in 1991 prohibiting "broadcasting of pornography or violence" (Luiga, in Irving and Tadros, 1997, p. 30).

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia approved a law in 1997 and in article 35 it is stated: "Broadcasting of programmes with indecent content, and in particular with pornography or violence, shall not be permitted" (Lozanovski et al., in Irving and Tadros, 1997, p. 31).

Moldova has a new law on mass media, but which does not specifically address children. However, the public broadcaster has adopted internal regulations (Pirtac, in Irving and Tadros, 1997, p. 33).

The Broadcasting Act of 1992 in Poland also addresses violence on the screen (Grudzinska, in Irving and Tadros 1997, p. 35).

In Romania a law from 1994 prohibits pornographic and violent images (Chirila et al., in Irving and Tadros, 1997, p. 37).

In Russia the Law on Mass Media of 1991 protects children from viewing pornography and violent images (Menshikov et al., in Irving and Tadros, 1997, p. 40).

The Slovak Republic has an Audiovisual Law from 1995. The protection of children from violent images on the screen has not until recently been acknowledged as problem in Slovak-produced shows. However Grujbarova argues: "Violent scenes are appearing more often, in imported television programmes and in foreign television programmes available through satellite or re-transmitted on cable. Without legislative initiative we can take only administrative measures ... in the form of licence terms or recommendations for broadcasters ... aimed to prevent excesses of violent contents or forms on screen" (Irving and Tadros, 1997, p. 43).

In the Republic of Slovenia the public broadcaster RTV is preparing to accept a set of International regulations using the European Broadcasting Union model (Irving and Tadros, 1997, p. 45).

Finally, in the Ukraine there are no specific laws mentioning violence on the screen (Polishchuk, in Irving and Tadros, 1997, p. 47).

Thus it appears that the majority of Eastern European countries recently have adopted legislation against the showing of violent images on the screen, at least during certain time periods.

It is also important to remember that after the first World Summit on Television and Children, in Melbourne, Australia, in 1995, a Children's Television Charter was accepted by many television networks all over the world. The Charter is written down in seven bullet points stressing: high quality; the right to see and express the children's own culture, language and life experiences; and that governments, production, distribution and funding organisations should support indigenous children's television. Paragraph 4 explicitly refers to violence and sex: "Children's programmes should be wide-ranging in genre and context, but should not include gratuitous scenes of violence and sex."

Research about violence on the screen: a case study of Scandinavia

The argument this part of the article will pursue, is that although research about images of violence in the media has been on the agenda over four decades, the evidence about the impact of violence on the screen varies, not only from researcher to researcher, but between research communities. The research efforts have been differently framed and the emphasis and interpretations of the results have led to different arguments.

In this case study I will analyse how research traditions have changed in Scandinavia from the 1960s to the 1990s. It is significant that the most prominent research theories oriented in the USA: the Catharsis Hypothesis, the Aggressive Cue model, the Observational Learning Theory, the Reinforcement Model and the Cultivation Model (De Fleur and Ball-Rokeach, 1982). Four out of these five models or theories assume that mediated violence can influence aggressive behaviour (the Catharsis Hypothesis being the exception).

These theories had a great impact on European research in general, and also in Scandinavia. Researchers in Scandinavia in the 1960s especially favoured the models which argued for the impact of violence of the media on young people. This might appear rather absurd when one considers the difference in media proliferation between the Scandinavian countries and the USA at that time. Denmark had from 1951 to 1986 only one television channel and three radio channels, all following the public service broadcasting model and financed by license fees (DR) (Nordahl Svendsen, 1989). Television in Sweden was similarly introduced as a public service medium (in 1956) and granted a monopoly of broadcasting (SR). A second television channel was opened in 1969 within the same corporation (SR), also without advertising. In Norway only one public institution existed with one radio channel and one television channel (Ostbye, 1992).

Times have changed. In Denmark, Nordahl Svendsen (1989) reports that, apart from the new channel TV 2, which is financed through advertising (3/4) and a licence fee (1/4), Danes can now receive nine local television channels. Satellite television can be received by 61 percent (1994), and 53 percent of Danes (1994) can choose to watch Swedish television channels and 48 percent German television channels. There are (1995) two terrestrial channels, three satellite channels and two satellite/pay channels.

In Norway, a second television channel was established in 1992. In a country where the population was used to receiving only one television channel (apart from roughly one-quarter of the Norwegians who also in earlier days could receive Swedish television), its citizens could suddenly choose between two domestic channels, and, in addition, five satellite channels from Britain, France, Germany and the rest of Scandinavia and two satellite/pay-TV channels.

In Sweden the developments were similar. In 1985, the first Swedish households were connected to cable on a commercial basis. In 1994, 60 percent of the population had access to satellite, and "in the late 1980s satellite channels intended for Swedish audiences -- TV3, TV4, TV5 Nordic, SF-Succe and Film-Net -- became available to cabled households" (Cronholm, 1993, p. 5). In 1995 there were three terrestrial channels, five satellite channels and four satellite/pay-TV channels.

McQuail's argument (1990) that the developments of broadcasting in Europe have gone from the "old order" of national monopolies to the "new order" of duopolistic system, can now be applied to the Scandinavian countries.

It is important to describe the changing media systems in Scandinavia. Research is never free-floating, but must be seen in the context of the society, as the media systems are highly significant part of that society. This must be of special importance when discussing the discourses of research on violence on television, because one valid argument appears to be that the discourses would vary with the amount of television a society offers its citizens, and that the quantity of television, theoretically, if not necessarily, might influence the availability of violent images.

Public concern about media violence and its alleged effects, was evident in Scandinavia. In Sweden, for example, the Swedish branch of The Save the Children Fund ran two campaigns against violence on television during the 1970s, and actions have been taken by parent associations and groups concerned with children. However, writing in 1977 von Feilitzen noted: "the judgment is commonly made that the Scandinavian countries, particularly perhaps Sweden and Norway, have the least television violence in the world" (p. 61).

This appears paradoxical. Given that the media systems at the time were so restricted, and that the output of violent programmes was rather small, why did researchers, The Save the Children Fund, other organisations, parents and general debaters worry so much? The answer comes promptly in von Feilitzen's argument:

Even if Swedish television is on an average less 'hard' (violent) than in many other countries, such series have also been broadcast which are high on the American violence ratings, such as Kojak, Baretta, and Rockford (von Feilitzen et al., 1977, p. 62).

One can question how violent the above-mentioned programmes actually were compared with the satellite programmes and video-nasties of later decades, but it is essential to realise that this argument was considered to be an urgent one then, as it also appears to be today in both Western and Eastern Europe.

However, there is another trend in the early Scandinavian research, apart from the focus on the seemingly rather low output of violent programmes. Most of the early Scandinavian research reports are summaries of foreign studies, above all American ones. The media systems in the USA and Scandinavia were, of course, very different in those days. However, this did not appear to bother Bruun Pedersen from Denmark (1984), who concluded:

It is unthinkable that something would appear which changed the main research evidence we have referred to earlier: 'violence on television has harmful effects on children and young people'. It is about time that we proceed from this conclusion and establish controls on this, because in a very few years the violence influence from television will have a scope much larger than today. We should be prepared for when that time comes (Bruun Pedersen, 1984, p. 77).

On the whole Scandinavian researchers at the time were not afraid of applying foreign research evidence to the Scandinavian setting. The main arguments were that foreign programmes with violent images were part of the Scandinavian output and that the few Scandinavian studies undertaken agreed with International research. However, already in 1977, Vaagland from Norway argued: "It is risky to use American results as a base for arguing about violence on Norwegian television" (p. 3).

The other classical discourse was over the question of whether researchers had agreed on the results from the research or not. This is obviously connected to the debate about how applicable research from other countries is. Bruun Pedersen (1984) from Denmark clearly gave his opinions about the relevance of the research.

One who didn't agree was Vaagland (1977) who pointed out that politicians and other moral entrepreneurs had accepted the conclusions from foreign studies without asking questions about the methods used. For example, he was critical of laboratory experiments with young children which tested levels of aggression in children's behaviour after viewing violence. Aggression was defined as beating an inflatable Bobodoll without any negative consequences for the child.

Vaagland's position thus is fairly similar to the critical position of some British scholars working in this field at the time. Halloran (1978) pointed out that much of the research on violence had been carried out in the USA and that cross-cultural generalisations were not really valid because the USA, media-wise and otherwise, historically and at the present time, differed from what was prevalent in many other countries.

Although the first Scandinavian studies pointed to the importance of parental influence and the child's background and also the relatively limited number of violent incidents on television (Linne, 1969; Vaagland, 1977), and thus were less alarmist than many results of studies from the USA, the debates continued. The effects that were mostly discussed in the Scandinavian violence debates at this time were children's imitation of violence; modelling; reinforcement of existing violent tendencies, fear and desensitisation (Linne, 1982).

As there were so few Scandinavian studies carried out, most of the debates in the early years were not only influenced, but based on American models and paradigms. The more critical British tradition at the time, here illustrated by Halloran's work, was much less influential on this specific issue.

Recent trends in Scandinavian research

In 1993, a major book on violence and the media based on Scandinavian research was published (von Feilitzen, Forsman and Roe). The chapters were written by fourteen scholars from the Nordic countries, who all either studied violence in the media for a considerable time, or had written their doctoral theses on the subject. It is interesting to note that most entries do not deal with violence on television, but rather analyse violence in videos, films, computer games, music videos, or pornography.
Many different dimensions have been covered in these studies about video violence. However, I would argue that the most interesting dimension, seen in the light of this paper, is not much dealt with. Only one of the articles discusses the effects of watching video violence. More essays point to how video violence is used by different subgroups in a socio-cultural content. The research about video violence has thus to a great extent taken another path than was expected when one refers to the early concerns about videos. Perhaps this can be explained by a new framework.

It also seems clear that those major Scandinavian film scholars, currently studying violence in films are more interested in discussing and analysing subcultures, narratives, genres and the cultural and historical contexts, than even approaching the traditional questions about harmful effects of viewing these violent films.

Jensen (1993) asserts that during the last decade violence-as-moving-image has found a new medium to be developed in, namely computer or video games, and that this specific medium appears to celebrate violence. The screen is swarming with street-fighters, aliens and combat soldiers with pump-guns. It is also a medium which is gender specific. Reception and media ethnographic studies as well as direct observation confirm that this is "a man's world" (p. 151). Jensen claims that there is very little research about computer games in the Nordic countries and that the scarce International research has been based on traditional effects models and psychological theories, "without attempting to understand and describe the phenomenon in its social and cultural context" (p. 152). The social context in this case is Denmark and Jensen writes about masculinity, and power plays, after having described the various genres and narratives. His conclusion is that the fascination for young men in playing these games is that they are a play room where one can create one's own power. "A possibility to live where one has the power -- rather than where one is powerless" (Jensen, 1993, p. 170).

In the very beginning of Forsman's article about violence in music videos he manifestly positions himself declaring: "It is often claimed that music videos contain more sex and violence than other television genres. Sweepingly it is maintained that the 'violent narrative style' creates everything from concentration problems to perpetrators of violent acts. It is not only from the USA we hear statements like this; even in Sweden there exist new moralistic doomsday prophets and crusades against all imaginable popular and youth cultures" (Forsman, 1993, p. 175). He then studies narratives and genres and concludes that violence taken up by researchers -- is that of reception analysis and the nature of 'pleasure' derived from viewing. We have already reported a similar trend evident in the research of 15 European countries. Forsman also adds the possibility that violence is used by television channels and the rock music industry as a way to attract younger audiences.

Similarly, Svensson (1993) affirms in his study of pornographic violence that it is currently often claimed that pornographic film reaches more people today then ever before, because of the home video market, and the expansion of cable-television. Pornographic films are also regularly broadcast on satellites. He argues that there are interesting similarities between the debate about 'extreme violence' and 'pornographic violence' and that in both cases the debates about harmful effects are mixed up with demands for more censorship. He concludes that there is no clear research evidence that pornography causes violent crimes, including rape. Svensson does not believe that research about the effects of pornography should be used as an argument for censorship of pornography in societies. This should be a political and not a research decision. He concludes that censorship against pornography is not necessarily beneficial because, in his view, the increased censorship is more dangerous than are the possible harmful effects of pornography.

These studies are all concerned with 'extremely violent' images, as the scholars point out. What emerges from this last-mentioned collection of studies is an apparent consensus not to discuss 'harmful' or other effects of computer games, violent music videos or pornographic videos. From a interpretative perspective, they analyse this intriguing world of violent images and their function for subcultures. There also appears to be a consensus in their condemnation of 'moral crusaders' who are looked upon as being against popular and youth cultures. As the scholars, not only those just mentioned, but also those who have studied 'extreme violence' in videos and films, frequently refer to the 'moral crusaders' in their texts, we must assume, that the debates about harmful effects of different forms of media violence, have continued in the Scandinavian societies.

How are we to explain that researchers in the Scandinavian societies during the period of restricted media policy, few television channels, no satellites, hardly any video, few films with 'extreme violence' and no violent music videos or computer games or pornographic video images, whatsoever, discussed and studied media effects and were extremely wary of the future development of the media, whereas many researchers now when these night-marish developments appear to have happened, are instead studying the images, rather than the effects of the images?

Other Scandinavian research, however, has a different emphasis. Anita Werner (1994) in Children in the Television Age gives a conservative estimate that 0.1 per cent of boys in Norway can be affected by media violence and behave with increased aggression. Ragnhild Bjornebekk (1994), also from Norway, points out that the debate about violence and its effects has been with us for many years but that the results are contradictory and probably says more about the person writing than something important about the function of violence for children and young people.

Von Feilitzen gives a list of other important factors relating to aggression and violence that research has pointed out: "The child's and adolescent's personality, capacities, and earlier aggression; conditions in family, school, and peer groups (for example, aggression at home, a school that does not encourage one's capacity, lack of popularity among peers); socio-cultural background and societal conditions (although the last-mentioned conditions have not been empirically studied). Thus, the 'entertainment violence' plays in the long (as in the short) run only a contributing role and comes in as a faint reinforcement in a syndrome of other far more important circumstances" (Feilitzen, 1994, p. 149). She also points out that: "Sweden has had only a slight increase in the number of violent crimes. On the other hand, we have had a substantial increase in theft and other economic criminality" (von Feilitzen, 1994, p. 152).

Bjornebekk (1994) argues that, in contrast to the USA, children as murderers or perpetrators of serious violence are uncommon in England and Norway and that the rise in crime in both countries, are mostly related to property. Von Feilitzen (1994) states: "In sum, different persons experience excitement, violence, horror, and power -- as well as other media and cultural contexts -- very differently, need it differently, and attach different meanings to it" (von Feilitzen, 1994, p. 159).

The changed face of Scandinavian research

I introduced some trends in the research debate about violence on television in the 1970s in Scandinavia. One was the discussion over whether one could apply research violence findings from other countries (mostly from the USA) to the Scandinavian context. Most common among researchers at the time was a clear acceptance that one could, building on the argument that the Scandinavian countries imported fiction films and programmes from the USA. Only occasionally were there voices of dissent from this view.

In the 1990s the situation is completely contradictory, because now only occasionally we hear arguments agreeing that findings from the USA could be imported to the Nordic context.

One reason for this is that today there exists much more Scandinavian-based research in comparison with some twenty years ago -- research which on the whole has demonstrated much less spectacular effects than was assumed. At the same time there is a growing awareness among social science scholars not to study the media in isolation, but in its social context. Another argument from the 1970s dealt with the question whether researchers had agreed amongst themselves on the validity of the (foreign) findings and there were strong arguments that there existed a consensus among the majority of the scholars for doing so. Again occasional voices protested and criticised the American research as being psychologistic, artificial and parochial. However, building on the conviction of the validity of the (foreign) research, Scandinavian scholars demanded that 'something had to be done' and requested more censorship.

This argument was coupled with the fear of an expanding media system which in the future would allow more violent images to be imported. Although the researchers from the 1970s anticipated (and feared) media development and media expansion, they did not suspect what an enormous explosion of media was to follow. For example, in 1981, the Danish Media Commission, voted against for establishing a Nordic satellite channel (NORDSAT). The decision was partly based on the arguments that the channel would carry imported programmes from the USA and that Scandinavian viewers would prefer American fiction programmes to Scandinavian programmes.

Now in the 1990s the Nordic countries have experienced rapid media development and there has also been rapid development of research on the media (Carlsson, 1995).

However, the most intriguing and rather unexpected trend is that direct/sole television causal effects on violent behaviour are not even mentioned in the literature from the 1990s. All the research findings, when mentioning violence on television, treats television as a possible contributory factor in real-life violence but never as the sole cause. Viewing violence on television might, at the most, contribute 0.1% to 10% to the level of violence in society (Werner, 1994; von Feilitzen, 1994) and the groups who can be affected by violence seem to grow smaller and smaller (Linne, 1995).

There are also voices from Scandinavia denying any harmful effects of watching violence on television. Thus when the Scandinavian countries only had one public broadcasting channel each or two (in Sweden), and then very restrictive policies about the import of violent programmes, the 'moral panics' among the researchers seem to have been much more explicit than now. This trend is extremely clear when one is analysing studies concerning 'extreme violence', from video nasties, to horror films, to violent images in music, to pornographic violent images and violent computer games. The researchers studying these areas and themes were not interested in questions about effects, but they studied the content, the images and how different sub-groups used the media material and negotiated the texts. It is evident that today much more research is carried out about the media than only a decade ago and this is probably due to the proliferation of old and new media. Contrary to what one could have predicted, however, the research in the 1990s is not at all as dominated by effects studies.

Have the researchers in Scandinavia changed paradigms or at least attitudes? It is important here to remember, that most researchers during the early years were trained as social scientists and that in Scandinavia at the time, social sciences were very influenced by the American behaviourist traditions. Most of the voices from Scandinavia from the 1990s, working in the effects tradition, proceed much more carefully than their early colleagues. Undoubtedly this is also based on the fact that the research community actually knows more about the media surrounding us, than they did in the 1970s. There is a growing hesitation to explain complicated social phenomena to one powerful single cause. The other part of the answer is that there are now many more voices in the 1990s -- among these are scholars trained in other disciplines, mostly the humanities. Having another background their research interests have been geared in other directions. There is still a paradox in the Scandinavian scenario, namely the frequent mention of never ending 'moral panics'.

In the very early years it appears that scholars participated and argued for more censorship, but in the 1990s most of the researchers quoted are opposed to more censorship, even though they are discussing 'extreme violence' and not the 'Kojak-type' violence.

The 'moral entrepreneurs' seem thus no longer to be the researchers, but parents, politicians, journalists, and generally concerned public debaters. While, in the 1970s, the arguments were that research had proved that it was dangerous for children and young people to watch violence (or at least large amounts of violence) on television, the majority of the research community today would avoid statements like this. This, of course, might cause frustrations for 'the concerned' who are convinced that the tide of violent images must have some direct causal effect on children and young people. When the Scandinavian researchers point out that 0.1 percent to 10 percent of the build up of aggression might be contributed by watching violent television, films, videos, etc., they cannot predict which of the children will be affected. This, coupled with a growing hesitation to explain complicated social issues with one cause, might be another reason for most media scholars in the 1990s in the Scandinavian countries to study constructions and narratives of media images and how the media are used and negotiated by different subcultures, rather than to continue to concentrate on the elusive effects of violent media. After having examined the Scandinavian countries as a case study, we now return to the general European picture. Here we look at how academics themselves evaluate the research that has been undertaken in this field.

A European scenario

In the survey referred to earlier (Linne, 1996), where I had received answers from one hundred and seven Higher Education Institutions in the fifteen member states of the European Community, forty-five percent of the scholars said that they themselves had carried out a study about violence and the media or written on the theme.

I asked the last-mentioned academics to evaluate the linkage between media violence and violence in society: "What is your personal opinion based on your interpretation of the research evidence on the causal link between violence in the media and violence in society"? Twenty-two percent of the scholars stated: "there is an evident causal link" . Thirty-three percent said: "there is a vague causal link only for some children". Four percent answered: "there is no causal link". Twenty-nine percent of the scholars chose to tick: "the question about violence in the media is too simplistic to explain complicated social phenomena". Two percent of them discussed "multi causality" and ten percent did not answer the question. The answers can be interpreted as an indication of the well-known divide in the research community.

On the other hand, only a fifth of the researchers active in the field in 1995 (when they answered the questionnaire) believed "there is an evident causal link".

The vast majority of the scholars were more in doubt. Thirty-three percent each went either for the "vague causal link" or find it "too simplistic to explain complicated social phenomena" with one cause -- the media -- or denied all causal links (four percent).

I also asked about policy implications of the research on violence for the mass media industry in the academics' own country. Forty-seven percent of the scholars answered that they believed the research had policy implications for the industry.

On an open question twenty-four percent mentioned legislation and again twenty-four percent stated that research contributed to debates about violence on the screen. Fourteen percent mentioned that new guidelines had been adopted in their country and ten percent that scheduling had been changed. The rest of the answers deal with that teachers and parents now know more about the elusive question about violence on the screen and therefore could guide the children better. Other scholars mention that the research had instigated important debates about censorship and advertising.

I also asked if scholars applied research evidence from other countries to explain effects of mediated violence in their own counties. Forty-nine percent of the academics said they did. Most of the answers came from the countries which had not been able to carry out research in their own environment -- mostly the Mediterranean countries.

Finally I asked which country, in their view, had produced useful research about children and mediated violence. The fifteen European Community countries were listed and I had added the US, Canada and Australia, as these countries often are referred to in relation to violence on the screen. The majority, sixty-seven percent, of the European scholars pointed to that relevant research had been carried out in the UK, a country where scholars persistently have argued against the direct/causal effects of violence on the screen to violence acts in the society (Halloran, 1978; Murdock and McCron, 1979; Howitt and Cumberbatch, 1975; Buckingham, 1993; Gauntlett, 1995; Barker and Petley, 1997). However, almost the same number of scholars (65 percent) mentioned research carried out in the US, a country where research often has argued for causal effects (Bandura, 1968; De Fleur and Ball-Rokeach, 1982; Comstock, 1990; Gerbner, 1994).

The third most frequent mentioned country was Sweden (forty-three percent), which is on one hand quite surprising as it has a relatively small population, but on the other hand research about violence in the media has been a persistent theme. Germany followed in fourth place (thirty-nine percent), Australia in fifth position (thirty-seven percent). Canada came in surprisingly low in the sixth position (thirty-one percent). The Netherlands followed with twenty-six percent and Denmark and Finland received twenty percent and eighteen percent respectively. Ireland and Italy each were referred to by six percent, Austria and Spain by four percent and Belgium by two percent. Greece, Luxembourg, Portugal were not mentioned at all. Two percent of the academics mentioned research from Japan.

Overall, the academics in the European community reported that little research had taken place in the Mediterranean countries and much more in the north-west of Europe. The question of the relevance of research about violence and the media mirrors the indigenous academics description. Given that it is important to carry out research in a societal context, as research never is free-floating or indeed "objective", it appears that it would be of the utmost importance for the European countries, especially those around the Mediterranean and the countries from Eastern Europe to research images about violence. There were more voices from the north-western part of Europe who mentioned that relevant research about violence had been carried out in the UK and Scandinavia and more of the voices from the southern part of Europe who mentioned research from the US. As the case study from Scandinavia demonstrated, it might not be wise just to adopt research paradigms and research evidence from one country to the other.

As a result of this present research I would, therefore, recommend that the first priority should be that research in these countries should be encouraged by the European Community and UNESCO in order that a body of research, relevant to each country, can be built up. I would add that this research needs to be undertaken carefully with the specific socio-historic needs of those countries taken into account. This is the only way in which we can build up a more systematic and relevant bank of knowledge, on which it would be possible to base decisions.



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Re: Children and Media Violence, by Ulla Carlsson

Postby admin » Fri Sep 06, 2013 11:12 pm


Why Do We Watch Television Violence?: Argentine Field Research


Violence in television programs and its repercussion on children have been the subject of extensive research.

Opinions in the debate range from those who consider that the screen is a mirror of social reality to those who believe the effects of violence to be devastating, particularly for children and adolescents. The former tend to justify it, while the latter would like to do away with it.

Social reality deserves a complex analysis; when humans are at stake one cannot jump to conclusions. This paralyzing complexity often results in a third position where everything is seen as relative and where the relation that both children and adolescents establish with television is thought to depend on their family and social environment, on their personal characteristics, etc., something which has come to be known as 'mediating variables'.

Though true, this should not prevent us from finding the unifying variables and the relations that enable us to understand and explain in order to transform.

When faced with the problem of children's relations to TV, these three approaches can hardly provide feasible answers for those responsible for children or for media production; we seem to be at a dead end.

For over twenty years, I have carried out field research, by combining systematically quantitative and qualitative methodologies while working with psychological techniques so as to approach the problem also from the unconscious level. Here I will briefly present some of the angles of analysis and the findings of various works, where scales, rates and similar variables were used to enable comparisons throughout time and different samples.

The findings show the need to focus on the TV problem from two different overlapping and simultaneous levels:

• A general more inclusive level, leaving practically nobody out, related to the conversation contents, the subjects that television introduces in public debate, in society and in our everyday life.
• A second level in which program contents act as compensatory mechanisms arising when there is some type of deficiency -- either individual or social.

At the first level, both children and adolescents draw elements from the language, fashion style, social or relational issues to communicate, thus conforming to a television subculture. Television here has a socially leveling function by providing children with a common language enabling them to share a common experience: television.

A work carried out on a sample of 2,000 children from urban areas (Merlo-Flores, 1980) showed that all children watch television, even those that do not own a set, since they go over to their friends' homes. The most curious finding was that they report to each other whatever they have not been able to watch. Television programming has become the unavoidable subject of conversation. Those unable to follow it are left out as if living in a foreign country. It is interesting to observe how children manage to avoid this.

It is easy to watch how children play, talk, get angry or show affection for each other, through elements drawn from television. One of those elements, perhaps the most repetitive, is that of aggression. Whether good or bad, heroes or bandits, cartoon, science fiction or real characters, they all show that violence is the quickest, most efficient, clean and consequence-free way to solve problems and to attain objectives. It has been repeated ad nauseam that children imitate what they see on TV. When carrying out experimental studies researchers sit with a number of children to watch films containing violence, and with others to watch similar films without aggressive content, in order to observe their immediate behaviors. They are looking for the obvious: imitation.

Television with its load of institutionalized violence, gives children and youngsters "permission" to use it. A message is conveyed together with the way of decoding it, violence is a "legitimate" means. Aggression has grown into a new communication code, particularly for the youngest. But does this mean that children become aggressive? Not necessarily so.

This getting used to violence brings about a greater aggression in the usual way of communicating, but does not modify the structure of children's personality, making them violent. Those children who already are aggressive by temperament or due to family, social or individual problems, select and integrate violent elements from television, while children with what may be deemed a "normal" load of aggression may watch the same program and choose the same character for identification, yet, unlike their more aggressive peers, do not select or integrate violent elements.

Here the second level related to the compensation for deficiencies and needs comes into play. Both social groups and people project their problems, their needs or wants into what they select and integrate from TV. There is enough evidence to affirm that this material also can be used as a projective social and individual test, since it contributes not only to the knowledge of the specific deficiency but also to the knowledge of the specific compensatory mechanism used.

Following the more or less permanent traces left by this process is of fundamental importance, for evident research findings state that children's relationships to media violence depend on the load of aggression with which they approach the screen. Obviously long and short term consequences will differ.

Here working with the relation between children and television becomes essential, taking into account particularly the simultaneous and overlapping levels of analysis.

My hypothesis is that although children with an aggressive personality structure, while watching TV initially reach a catharsis, [1] in the long run this adds potential to their violent traits by reinforcing them. Moreover, they will have learned multiple alternative ways of manifesting aggression and of justifying it as a legitimate means to reach their objectives.

On the other hand, children who do not present an aggressive personality structure learn to communicate via violent codes (ways of speaking, "playing," etc.), consistent with the level of imitation; these children not only do not modify their personality structure but in the long run this familiarity with aggression as a code of communication makes them afraid. These are the adults that visualize the world as hostile.

About fifteen years ago, I started a research work as an attempt to confirm the well known hypothesis that violence increases aggressive behavior in children: Television as Compensatory for Needs (Merlo-Flores, Usandivaras and Rey, 1983). Knowing children's personality traits, particularly in terms of the degree of aggression, seemed to me of fundamental importance. Therefore I worked with Dr. Raul Usandivaras, an Internationally well known psychiatrist, who carried out various studies regarding projective tests as diagnosis tools. The qualitative methodology applied was designed so as to take into account children's environment and the bonds established therein. In 1994, I repeated the work keeping the methodology, the school and the age group constant (Merlo-Flores, 1995).

Important research findings

The most important findings from this research work are:

• Identification with television models only takes place in the presence of family conflicts.
• The television content selected and integrated is only used as a compensatory mechanism by children or youngsters suffering from some kind of want.
• This compensation does not necessarily take place through programs most often seen or commented on by children but through their favorite characters.
• The child unconsciously selects and integrates those specific elements precisely consistent with his problems. All children presenting difficulties in their family ties identify themselves with leading TV characters.
• Though the same character or person may be selected by a great number of children, each one of them will only select or integrate that trait which makes up for his specific need.
• Children with similar problems will draw from different characters similar compensatory elements.
• A careful analysis of what and how they select and integrate contents will enable us to deal with this material as a projective test; thus we can unveil not only the need but also the actual compensatory mechanism used, an aspect which standard psychological tests fail to show.
• These findings are valid both at personal and social levels. The needs and wants of significant groups in our society are projected into the selected and integrated television material. Here we may speak of a projective social test.
• In both cases television plays a similar role to that of dreams.
• Violence presented by television is used as a code of communication; this does not necessarily mean that inner personality structures will be modified.
• Violence is selected and integrated specifically through the target characters of a projective identification.
• Violence on television is only selected and integrated by children showing aggressive traits as seen in the analysis of the projective tests.
• Even when identified with an aggressive character, children with a "normal" degree of aggression for their age neither select or integrate their aggressive traits.
• Violence drawn from television, whenever manifest aggression is seen in a child, acts as a means of attaining a catharsis. [1]

These findings are only a close synthesis of what, in the fashion of a hypothesis, is to be demonstrated in this chapter.

Case study

The purpose of the following work is to delve into the deeper unconscious aspects that lead us to prefer certain television characters and programs; to analyze the material selected, the reasons for its selection and the use made of the material; and, finally, to establish the relation between one's own aggression and violence as featured in television characters and programs.

Methodological aspects

Approximately ten hours work was spent on each child. The techniques used for gathering information were:

1) A battery of psychological tests:

a) drawing a person's body

b) drawing a person of the other sex

c) drawing an animal

d) writing a story with the chosen animal

e) drawing a family in action

f) three free subject drawings in color

g) writing a story using one or all free drawings

The basic aim was to determine aggression, identification and family ties.

2) A questionnaire on the use of television.

The questionnaire was designed as an open interview on a number of subjects in a guide. It included the following questions:

1. What programs do you like best?

2. What do you like about these programs?

3. Which is your favorite character?

4. What do you like about him?

5. Would you like to be like him?

6. In what way?

7. What for?

8. Would you like to be like him when you grow up?

9. In what way?

10. What program do you like the least?

11. Why?

12. What character do you like the least?

13. Why?

14. Do you discuss TV programs with your friends?

15. Which programs?

16. What do you talk about?

17. Do you play things you see on TV?

18. What do you play?

19. With whom?

20. Where?

21. What other games do you like to play?

22. What sports do you play?

23. How often?

24. Where?

25. With whom?

26. If a child comes up to you and calls you names, what do you do?

27. If you were a grown up and a thief broke into your home, what would you do?

28: How many hours a day do you watch TV?

3) Children's life history as told by parents.

The usual model for interviews was used to draw up the guide, adding a few supplementary questions regarding parents knowledge of their children's TV habits.

Procedures of analysis

Once the information was gathered, the results of the projective tests were handed to a psychiatrist (Dr. Usandivaras) for interpretation. He was asked to pinpoint the topics he considered highly relevant for the study:

• aggression
• identification with one's own sex
• role identification
• family ties

Questionnaires and life histories were studied by analyzing the same items simultaneously. With regard to children's preferences special attention was given to the outstanding ones checking for coincidences, or the lack of them, with family and personality traits. Before knowing the results of the psychological study, an individual analysis was carried out for each case.

Therefore, initially, the analysis of the material gathered took place separately: the tests on the one hand, and the questionnaires and stories, on the other, only to match the results at a second stage.

Schematic analysis of relations between variables

Four variables of manifest behavior associated with television were selected:

• conversation
• selection of aggressive elements from the screen: mention of deaths, shootings, fist blows, etc.
• games
• character identification

Three family and personality variables were derived from the psychological study:
• family ties
• identification
• aggression

The variables Conversation, Games and Identification stand in the analysis of the material gathered as more clearly manifesting the degree of apprehension and internalization of television patterns by children (variable justification).

The psychological study was based on the variables known as Family Ties, Identification and Aggression; the choice was part of an effort to detect their implication concerning greater or lesser receptivity to television violence as manifest in behavior.

Conversation deals with the use children make of television content as a subject of conversation with their peers. It could be discussed either within or outside school. In the first case it is considered a superficial manifestation possibly conditioned by the environment. The second case implies a personal choice to discuss television subjects. This first variable itself is consistent with the level of apprehension.

Games refer to the use made by children of television contents in their games. The importance of this variable with regard to the world of children can never be overemphasized. It is also interesting to see here whether these games take place exclusively within the school environment. Although also related to the apprehension level, this variable is manifest to a greater degree as the child here not only airs the subject but also incorporates it into his activity.

Identification with the character is said to exist whenever the child expresses his/ her wish to be, either at present or in the future, like the chosen television character. Here we are at the internalization level, for the identification responds to the individual's innermost personality traits. Let us not forget that personality itself is gradually formed through a series of identifications.

The personal and family variables were selected in order to determine a) the presence or absence of problems in family ties as probable cause of a greater assimilation of television violence; b) whether aggression as a personality trait was affected by the internalization of violent patterns drawn from television; and c) if an adequate identification with their own sex served as a cause concomitant in the integration of such patterns.

Although these variables, being specifically psychological, are dealt with as such by specialists carrying out the analysis, when describing the way they were gathered and processed our definitions will be operational.

Aggression means as manifest in tests on aggressive attitudes (in as far as it deviates, one way or the other, from the adequate discharge usually corresponding to the age).

Identification refers to the adequate or inadequate identification with sex and roles. Sexual identification refers to the degree of adjustment between the biological sex and the perception of belonging to the same sex. Identity is constructed by means of different integrated models and is defined by relationships. Understanding this basic trait can possibly be related to the assimilation of violent behavioral patterns.

Family ties was assigned great importance since previous works have indicated a relation between parental image, communication, etc., and certain preferences in children's choices of television programs. A deeper analysis of the reasons for possible conflicts is not as relevant for the study as the particular way in which the child perceives the relationship with the family group. It is common knowledge that what often appears as a conflict situation, feelings of abandonment or fantasies of being slighted by the family group can be modified by adequate treatment or simply outgrow. This makes the findings valid only for the moment the test is carried out, so precautions were taken to have both the interview conducted and the test taken on the same day.


This schematic study shows:

• All children discuss television based subjects: this is what is known as using television as a common frame of reference. Thus, TV acts as a socially leveling factor, enabling children's access and use of a single code of communication.
• Children's identification with a television character was always present whenever problems in the family ties were found. 85% of the children sampled had some type of family conflict.
• In all cases with good family ties identification by the child with the television character was not found.
• Although 66% of children's games include elements or issues drawn from the television programs, no element link with personality variables was found. Even so it may be considered as part of the shared frame of reference.
• Sexual and role identification is adequate in most of the children (58%). The 42% showing inadequate sexual and role identification show difficulties in their family ties and an "identification with television characters".
• In the tests, 66% of children show signs of aggression, this trait being again associated with family conflicts. All members of this group show an identification with television characters. However, not all children who identify themselves with a character have aggressive traits.
• Preference arises as the variable determining the use made by children of the television programs. Practically all children watch programs because other children do, yet, identification is only found in those who prefer the program.
• Children presenting signs of aggression select the violent traits from their favorite characters and programs.
• Fifteen years later similarities and differences among the various variables studied became evident. Results regarding the degree of aggression and the selection of violent screen elements remain 100% constant in both studies. When the first work was carried out, the proportion of children with a good sexual and role identification stood at 80%. In the 1994 research work this had changed dramatically -- only 20% children showed a good identification. Although generalizations based on qualitative work are not possible, I still want to point out the fact that in many family drawings the mother received preferential place and size, often aggressive ones, while the father figure appeared as much smaller.

Television as a means of compensating for personal wants -- some comparative examples

We will now compare similar cases in order to specify and clarify the relation between them.

Ricardo and Matias

Two children with very different personality traits, Ricardo and Matias, prefer the same characters with supernatural powers. In the tests Ricardo showed a correct sexual identification and no signs of aggression; his family ties are good; according to his mother he is afraid of being alone. He watches [TV] an average 6 hours a day, but never with his mother.

Matias, on the other hand, shows evident signs of aggression in all his drawings and presents a correct identification; yet, through the life history as told by the mother, the female figure appears as dominant in the family. The child is with his mother "at all times" except during school hours; she watches "every" television program with him. According to Matias he watches TV between 6-1/2 to 8 hours a day, is afraid of darkness and of being alone. Both children have professional parents.

Let us turn to what each of these children states about his favorite character: Matias chooses an imaginary character with powers; he likes the violence about him, "I would like to be like him when I grow up". He discusses his favorite programs with friends and, at home, usually makes believe that he is one of theses characters ("I like him and the way he lies"), imitating everything they do, "particularly the strength". This child not only identifies himself with the character but he plays this game at home where he is not conditioned to do so as he would, for example, be at school where friends may choose television subjects to play.

Ricardo chooses the same character "for the good he does", but admits he "wouldn't like to be like him at all". He discusses with friends what he watches on TV, they talk about "its production and the science fiction elements in it", in other words, about factors we may regard as incidental. He does not mention the character as an element in his conversation. As for playing TV subjects, he admits doing it: he mentions football, that is to say, he does choose a game specifically drawn from television, but a popular sport also broadcast on TV.

Although both children watch TV for many hours and have chosen the same character, there is an obvious difference between them: Ricardo neither identifies himself with any character trait in particular, nor draws from any of them for his games; namely, he uses the entertaining aspects and the subjects for his conversation. This means that we are at an apprehension level: the child draws from TV at a superficial level. At this level television acts as a means of social leveling conveying the patterns, theme, and language serving to conform a frame of reference where everyone shares a common experience.

In Matias, identification with the character can be clearly seen by the way it is integrated with his games and conversation; what Matias looks for in the character responds to some characteristics in his personality. He needs a powerful and fearful figure to identify with and thus possibly channel his great aggression, transferring his fear to others by becoming the frightening character. Here we face a selective and integrating process responding to deep personality traits that upset his normal development.

Pedro and Santiago

Let us now study two children with similar problems that have also picked the same character: Pedro and Santiago are the only children in the sample whose parents are separated. None has a clear idea of the situation in the family and from the life history told by their mothers they appear as introverted and afraid of being alone. Pedro is a child who shows his aggression and suffers almost total loss of sight in one eye. Santiago's drawings and stories, on the other hand, show no signs of aggression.

Both pick Joe, a character from the Bonanza series, as their favorite character and identify themselves with him. Santiago likes everything about him, he wants to be like him even as a grown up, "to ride on horseback alone around the country", but does not refer to any aggressive character trait. Pedro also wants to be like him, yet he repeatedly points out his wish to be a "good shot" and talks about guns, shooting and fighting with pleasure.

The aggressive child thus chooses a character for those aspects, while the other prefers other behavioral traits. Pedro's eyesight problem no doubt is the reason for the great importance he attaches to being a good shot. Once again we see here the possible need of a masculine model being compensated whereas the interesting projection of a physical problem like the loss of eyesight is also observed.

Adriana and Mariela

Adriana and Mariela both seek "joy" on television. In the tests both girls present a satisfactory identification with their sex but have feelings of abandonment and isolation. Mariela does not even draw other family members, which is very unusual in a test, although understandable when knowing her parents' attitude towards her. She is left alone most of the day and expected to perform most household chores which are usually a mother's task.

Both Mariela and Adriana's parents have high school education and work outside the home. The choice of joyful characters becomes these girls' defense against sadness and anger. Mariela picks the female entertainer of children's programs (Xuxa) as the character she wants to be like when she grows up, so that she can be "joyful". Adriana chooses another children's program entertainer; she wants to be like her now and in the future "to be happier", "because she is always cheerful". They also choose cartoons because they make them laugh.

Special interest was given these two cases and Dr. Usandivaras was consulted. He commented on how the search for joy as a means of denial and compensation, by turning repressed aggression into kindness, acts as a defense mechanism against depression caused by intense feelings of abandonment. We see here a similar conflictive situation and the same defense mechanism: the search for joy as denial and compensation of the repression. Yet the characters expressing it and being identified with are quite different. Once again television appears to be acting as a compensatory mechanism that may also be thought of as an oniric function, a sort of daydreaming used to attain psychological balance.

Maria and Silvia

Let us now compare Maria and Silvia who chose the same character: a police woman. In her tests Maria shows signs of aggressive discharge, an adequate identification and some difficulties in her family ties (fantasies of being left out). She spends most of the day with her three brothers. As for her parents, they report that Maria plays and talks with her mother (she keeps nothing from her) but does not watch television with her, while the father watches in the evening and occasionally at noon.

Silvia shows clear signs of aggression in her tests, particularly in the oversized manly female figure. As for the relationship with her family there are signs of little communication. Silvia, unlike Maria, has a younger sister she is friendly and protective towards, though dominant. Her parents say that Silvia tends to become irritable, still they do not know what causes it, and that she does not discuss her affairs. If ever she discusses anything it is about family issues and she does it with her mother. Although Silvia is all day with her, there is no mention of sharing any activities either with her or with the father who comes for dinner. There is only mention of her relationship with the sister she plays and fights with, and whom she favors as company.

Let us see now why each of these girls choose as her favorite character the police woman. Maria picks her because she is "strong and powerful". She likes her because "she is always the best, she hides, stands for other people and always wins". Maria admits talking about police women and playing this with brothers and sisters (a game in which the boys are being persecuted). She feels identified with them: "I would like to be like them, because if anyone should attack my parents I could defend them. I can also jump and climb quite high. When I grow up I want to be like them, to be strong."

Instead Silvia chooses the police woman because she "goes into action; I would like to be like her in everything when I grow up ... to save people ...". At home with her sister she plays that she is a police woman and has powers. Strangely she chooses a program she is "not allowed to see but I see it anyway for I go to bed very late".

Both girls choose the same character to compensate for similar wants. Maria seeks to stand out and differentiate herself in a family group she feels excluded from (being excluded generates aggression). Thus, the search for a successful female figure combines channeled aggression (being a police woman) with recognition. Silvia, on the other hand, by identifying herself with the police woman seeks to get into action as an overreaction to a family that does not seem aware of her position in it.

Ricardo and Ana

A particular case is that of the twins, Ricardo and Ana, children of professional parents. The father is a psychiatrist and the mother a social worker though not working. The family gets together on weekends, holidays and Wednesday evenings.

Ricardo shows no sign of aggression in his tests. His sex identification is adequate and there does not seem to be any problems in his relation with his family (roles are well defined). He shares most of the time with both mother and sister, whom he plays, talks, and also fights with. His only fear is loneliness. He shares a bedroom with his sister and never watches television with his parents.

Ana, on the contrary, is dominant and protective of Ricardo. According to their parents, she prefers to imitate actions of strong women with powers. She seems to fear nothing and is quite an extrovert, affectionate and cheerful. Usually talkative, particularly with her mother, she sometimes watches television with her father. Which are their television choices? Ricardo enjoys programs with "science fiction", as his parents also agree. His favorite character is Robocop because of all the things he can do, "though I wouldn't like to be like him at all". He discusses the making of films with his friends. He does not play this character or any other subject drawn from TV. Apparently television only provides him entertainment as the test data also confirm. As for Ana, she prefers Hunter's partner, a police woman, "because she likes it when she runs after someone". She wants to be like her both now and when she grows up; if she were like her she would run races and beat her. In this case we can appreciate how consistent with their personal characteristics and family ties the different use that the two children, of the same age and family, make of television. Ricardo seems well integrated in the family, showing no signs of aggression or lack of identity. Therefore television becomes a mere entertainment while, at the same, keeping its socializing function. Ana, instead, needs to discriminate herself from her twin brother and gain a position in her family. By identifying herself with a police woman she can, as a woman, gain recognition from her successful father and siblings, coming out as a winner before them.

This case is particularly interesting in that it presents two children within the same family environment, where the differentiation for television receptivity is given by emotional needs consistent with individual psychological processes.

Carmen and Veronica

We turn now to the case of Carmen and Veronica. The program chosen as favorite is Pa, a soap opera presenting the relationship of a widower with his three daughters. Carmen is a girl with signs of repressed aggression as a defense against the environment in her tests; she has an adequate identification but family problems (lack of communication, a feared paternal figure and a need to remain secluded from the family). She has two brothers, one older and one younger. The father is a university graduate with a hierarchical position at work. His mother, a housewife, has grammar school studies. The family gets together in the evenings, Saturdays and Sundays. Carmen spends most of the time with her mother and shows a dominant attitude toward her brothers. She is an extrovert and very sociable. "She likes to stay overnight at the houses of friends she hardly knows."

Veronica presents clear signs of aggression and repressed expansion, identity problems (confusion, she is embarrassed when it comes to feminine parts of her body), and highly dissociated family ties: a disqualified paternal figure and an omnipotent mother. Both her parents are professionals, he is a physician and she is a lawyer, "although I do not have a practice so that I can take care of the girls". She has a younger sister and her pregnancy reportedly cost her mother "blood, sweat and tears". It should be noted that this pregnancy followed a miscarriage. According to her mother, Veronica confides in her, she loves girls and is very tidy: "she washes her butt, she is a darling, feminine, her closet is unbelievable ... nobody would say she is 9, she does not sit with her legs astride". The mother states she has been teaching her all this to bring her up as she was: respectful, feminine, having good manners and habits. When referring to the programs she watches, she says "we watch".

Let us compare the common choice made by these girls. Carmen chooses Pa because they are fun as a family, just as Friends will be friends and The Simpsons. She states watching television is her "favorite pastime," and she usually discusses "with cousins and friends what we watch." She rejects programs as Zorro and Incredible Hulk for "they are for men".

Veronica, instead, says she "adores Pa" and went to see the play. She constantly compares each character with her own family. She identifies herself with the daughters, who "sometimes get along with their Dad and sometimes don't". She wants to be like her mother: "she is like me, a woman" and adds "I want to be a doctor like my Dad".

The same program allows for different projections. For Carmen Pa stands as the ideal family: exciting, with a loving and rewarding father. This family compensates for her feelings of being left out and the lack of communication within her own family environment, the same feelings that make her wish to be permanently away from home. On the other hand, the program provides Veronica an important frame of reference regarding the father and the feminine roles. The father in Pa is a clear figure with a predominant position in the family as opposed to the disqualified image of her father. In this fictive family the mother is absent, making room for a somewhat different meeting space for both father and daughters -- as opposed to the omnipotent role played by Veronica's mother that gives no chance for individualization. Obviously for both girls Pa stands as the ideal family, the one they dream of to compensate for the actual difficulties with their own.


From the comparisons of the projective tests run with children, from their answers on TV subjects, and from the life histories as told by parents, a clear association arises between character traits, seen in the psychological study, and what the child manifests about TV through language, games and particularly identification, or lack of it, with the characters portrayed in the media.

On the one hand, it might be said that the child uses and needs those "patterns", language, contents, etc., to communicate with his peers, by using the same television language, sharing experiences that, though not their own, are common to all of them. That is why we see some children who hardly watch television or talk about it at home, discussing the subject at school.

In this sense, TV can be said to act as an element of social leveling, since it conveys a unique message that may be shared by all, making children feel on an equal standing through the same shared knowledge they use to communicate. This is the most general aspect of the learning carried out by the child by means of television. It is also the shallowest, for the elements being used are incidental and the process takes place, unconsciously, without any manifest intention of learning. This subtle learning, by reading "between the lines", may affect speech, gestures, attitudes, general habits and in the long run, the culture.

Thus, we are concerned to see that there is no child whose intellectual, emotional and spiritual life is not directly affected by this television "sub-culture", competing to a greater or lesser extent with traditional socializing agents. Most children spend more time in the company of the television than at school or with their parents.

We can also talk about a deeper training carried out by television contents. This responds to the various psychological or personal needs of children who no longer draw from incidental aspects of the television subjects, but from actual characters they identify with to different extents. They want to be like them, today and in the future, that is, they are taken as life models.

These characters respond to different compensatory traits of their own personal complex of problems, favoring defense mechanisms of either denial or idealization before feelings of loneliness and anxiety, mishandled aggression or even physical problems. In this sense we can no longer speak of only grasping the television message but also, in certain cases, of a process of identification.

Identification is a selective process; it responds to deep personal needs and therefore it can be inferred that influence takes place to a much greater extent at an individual level. Emotions, basic needs for affection, are satisfied through daydreaming in front of the television.

As seen in these findings, children learn from television; they either use the message, the issues, the language or its style, and not only in their conversation but often in their games as well. It is their own common frame of reference conforming to a child subculture, both new and unknown to the adult at the same time.

Since children cannot possibly watch everything TV has to offer, whether for parental decision, lack of time, or whatever, it is interesting to observe how they manage to get to know, usually through friends, about the programs exclusively for adult audiences and off-limits for them. This is important because in a way it means everything on TV can enter into the children's world.

As for the deep internalization of television patterns (identification), the elements apparently accounting for this selective individual receptivity to a single TV message are those of needs, particularly when referring to the family.

All children with some kind of conflict in the family identify themselves with television characters. However, those children with a good relationship with their families do not and only use TV as the subject of conversation and games with their peers. Moreover, the closer a child is to what we may call normal or carefree, the more incidental and superficial the aspects he draws from TV, generally only to use them in his conversations.

Learning is carried our in two stages: imitation and identification. When beginning, learning comes through imitation; when faced with deeper wants, identification takes place. What goes on as this reality is imitated? Is it an open door to "magic thought"?

McLuhan (1987) states that TV conveys highly active and participant experience; the child is always actually the associate TV producer. The mosaic quality and the little information characteristic of image triggers a "warm" or "highly participative" effect. "Any information obtained must be completed by the observer". According to McLuhan's hypothesis, children complete whatever television has to offer with their own reality.

Following the findings of the research work, it could be said that whenever reality is unsatisfactory, children complete it with elements they select and integrate from TV. This selection and integration of favorite characters and programs may serve as projective tests providing elements never available from any psychological test so far, for these may show their needs, but not the compensating mechanism appearing clearly in the use that children make of television.

It is important that we ask ourselves here which consequences may arise in children who are exposed to a programming whose only aim is consumption, lacking profound awareness of the formative and socializing role it fulfils.

The choice of programs reflecting a social reality

There is a trend in every research where age is taken into account with regard to program choices -- the older the person the greater the selection of adult programs. It follows that children's preferences also change as they grow older: from those typically for children to more adult subjects. This apparently obvious relation was confirmed in the above-mentioned research work, when both variables were crossed regardless of children's social levels (see Table 1a).

After applying the statistical test of X2, the result as a measure of significance was 189.8, a value which for a 5% risk level generously exceeds the value required to confirm the interdependence between studied variables.

The chart depicts clear trends: Interest in programs with themes for children, particularly cartoons, slowly decreases as viewers grow. This does not mean they do not watch them, only they do not prefer them. An interesting case is that of educational programs, that is, those designed to teach. Only 10% of all children chose them, a trend which rises up to the ages of 11 and 12.The trend reverses as the children become 13 and older.

If we take into account the characteristics of this group, as shown in the descriptive analysis, we see once more the close relation between reality as lived by the child and the use he makes of television. Naturally, programs dealing with adult issues are increasingly preferred as children get older, which is only natural since the real world is where they should learn to live. To adapt better, they are supposed to know about these realities.

Table 1a. Children's Program Preferences by Age


These trends are more clearly marked when regrouping the information:

Table 1b. Children's Program Preferences by Age (regrouped data chart)


To determine the statistical significance of the age/program relation, X2 was again applied. The result 135.7 (critical independence value 12.59) shows a strong relation between the two variables.

Why do we want to stress such an obvious relation? Simply because when considering both variables and taking the children's different social background into account, the relation is no longer obvious. Once again, the social background stands as the clue for understanding both the relation and the influence that television has on children.

The most important findings from such an analysis are:

• As children get older the preference for children's programs decreases while there is a growing interest in adult issues. This relation was clearly proven statistically significant among children from the social levels A, B and C, that is, those living in a high and medium level socio-cultural environment.
• However, children at level 0, that is, those living in slums, conventillos and orphan boarding schools, still prefer children's programs regardless of age.

These findings are absolutely consistent with the results of the case study which shows how children with problems of loneliness or abandonment turn strictly to children's programs. In other words, the deeper the problem or the greater the want, the more likely its resolution is sought through a more general or undefined compensation achieved through mechanisms we might call primary, such as the search for joy or regression. These children do not find a way out of their problems, not even through compensating mechanisms ... they simply flee. Isn't this the same reason teenagers give for using drugs?

• This trend, marked and therefore easier to see in this group of children, is also found among children with serious problems regardless of their social status.

The same conclusion is reached by advertising professionals when using segmentations based on psychographic methods. Aiming at the most "vulnerable", they study vulnerability types based on more basic needs. Hard variables as sex, age, educational or economic level are no longer used when considering the population; the new research technologies group persons according to the so-called "soft variables", dealing precisely with deep private needs and wants.

Further results are:

• Children from the middle social levels show the greatest diversity of interests. This becomes evident in that they include as preferred choices or options every one of thirteen program categories used in the study. Children from higher and lower levels chose only half the options.
• Younger children obviously have fewer interests, as observed in every group. Still, those from the middle class present the widest variety of program types as choices, that is, they are open to various possibilities.
• It is also remarkable that in the lowest social level group (0) younger children (7 and 8 years old) choose a comparatively higher percentage of adult programs, as compared with children from other levels.

Findings, as they build up and are analyzed with regard to the different aspects related to the development and adaptation of children, show how reality is projected into the selection and integration of television contents. They also show that this selection and integration will depend, from a psychological perspective, on the individual needs of the child, and from a sociological perspective on "soft variables", which allow a segmentation and grouping of children, youngsters and adults according to their needs or wants.

Television as a compensation for social wants

Findings obtained on an individual level are also valid for the different groups conforming to our society. The Vals or Risk segmentation used in publicity, where the population is grouped according to the so called "soft variables" or "the deepest and most powerful individual needs", is also valid when studying children in relation to the product "television".

To be honest with ourselves we will have to acknowledge that television programming is just a product, and children its potential consumers. This, at least, is a fact in most countries where there are no other criteria than the exclusively commercial one, when it comes to program selection. No matter in which light we choose to see it -- some programs may aim higher than others, but if the rating is not high enough to compete with other broadcasting stations, the program is discontinued.

People's needs may be said to provide the stimuli ruling behavior and, by this means, they stand as the root of the functioning of both society and the culture.

The most outstanding and active of man's psychic needs is perhaps the emotional response to others. In a modern city, the individual finds reciprocal interaction easier in formal terms, without having to evoke emotional responses. In this situation his or her psychic need remains unsatisfied. S/he is actually caught in a feeling of loneliness and isolation, which is more depressing than genuine solitude, for we all know what it is like to be alone in a crowd. A person's need for favorable responses stands as the main stimulus for sociably acceptable behavior.

When our children and youngsters turn to television, they do not do so, as it is usually (and easily) said, for entertainment or information; rather they are desperately seeking to learn what they must be like to elicit a favorable response from others, and not to be alone. "Experience determines a subject's behavior. But this, in turn, derives from the contact with the environment in which he lives. Therefore, to understand both individual personality and general personality, it is indispensable to know the environment" (Ralph Linton).

If we limit our study to the number of hours a child or youngster spends daily before TV and the use they make of the contents in their conversations and games with their peers, we cannot but wonder if the "television environment" is the ruling environment in their lives.

Who do they "communicate" with most -- their parents or the television? Who do they turn to when feeling lonely? And when they do not know how to behave to gain acceptance? Which are the never questioned and globally accepted ideal social models for identification?

The individual use of television by the child or the youngster can be generally applied to our society groups. This use is not restrained to the time lapsed between switching on and off the set; rather it dynamically permeates everyday reality.

When taking into account the prevailing psychic, affective and cultural needs in our child and teenage population, they are found to match similar trends in the use made of the television. No matter which program they draw the elements from in order to achieve social adaptation, what identifies them is the use of a common means, television, for attaining their ends.

Thus, groups with similar traits, for example, children or adolescents with problems of loneliness, abandonment and frustrations, will find on television the outlet for those situations they are unable to cope with by watching programs of a neat cut for children: cartoons or entertainment programs for children.

Others, with the possibility of getting out of a very low cultural and social level through their intellectual capacity, as shown in their school performance, spend the greater number of hours before the screen as compared with their social group. They claim they do so to learn ... yet no one chooses didactic programs (Merlo-Flores, 1996a)!

There are also those with a poor identification with their parents. The only resource they turn to for models is television. Today, unlike in the past, no child will choose a teacher or an uncle as model. Whenever an adequate identification is lacking, the screen magically solves the situation by presenting heroes who never die, who everybody knows and accepts.

To find the clue to the interpretation of the television and child relationship process, children and adolescent populations must be considered as grouped according to their most imperious needs regarding their adaptation, development and, basically, their acceptance by others.
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Re: Children and Media Violence, by Ulla Carlsson

Postby admin » Fri Sep 06, 2013 11:13 pm


The paradox as a symptom

The great paradox is that at a time of overrated image, when being young, successful, blonde, beautiful, almost perfect, and when studies are followed to keep up with the joneses, children and youngsters choose to view reality shows, violence, and issues where human misery is portrayed. Young people are trapped in a culture that fails to offer models, an essential element for adequate growth. Personality is conformed through a series of identifications. Young people stand as their own models, everyone wants to be young; young people are wanted in high positions, experience gained with age does not count as much as the vigor of youth. Being young is a value in itself, as if one could choose. Life phases seem all upset, young people have become models for adults.

A study I am working on with Michael Morgan from Massachusetts University, conveys interesting data regarding life models from a sample of 1,000 Argentine youngsters. We asked them who they wanted to look like and why. The most remarkable aspect is the extremely high level of dispersal; there are no common models for the young.

A 7% chooses one of the parents (3.3% the mother, 2.3% the father, 1.4% both parents) and a 6% talk about what I call sacrifice models, since they are dead, like Gandhi, Che Guevara, Eva Peron and Theresa from Calcutta. Most of the remaining choices fall, with very low percentages, on people from the media. What we may call life values are mentioned basically with regard to sacrificed models and parents. Is there worse violence than not being able to be oneself?

It is important to remark about the reasons why young people prefer programs containing violence. Most of the true deeper explanations belong to the unconscious level.

One phenomenon of the times that we cannot overlook is that life stories used to be told by the elderly, parents, teacher, priests; the young received information according to what their elders deemed convenient, respecting their phases. Today television is the indisputable narrator and its messages no longer respond to children's developmental phases, but to economic concerns of a group of adults.

The stories connect with the unconscious mind and the unconscious functions by means of primary associations. The tragedy, literature and cinema filled and still fulfils this narrative function but television is the indisputable "grandmother storyteller" of our age. The story has always filled the mission of showing, uniting and giving meaning to the internal contradictions of human personality.

Another fundamental element to take into account in this analysis is that we ought to approach television from an emotional standpoint, with our perceptions and feelings instead of rational logic -- the image acts, in the psyche, as the nexus between sensory, perceptive, emotional and motor experiences, on the one hand, and language on the other.

Television has taken the lid off repression. The id, the long repressed dark side of the heart, is on the screen available to everyone. Television has pulled down a formerly insurmountable barrier behind which the dark side of human nature together with what had been veiled and repressed come into the open, the pendulum swinging to the opposite side.

Young people perceive the violence, envy, misery presented on the high rated programs as related to them, to their innermost being, they recognize themselves in it and get to know themselves from formerly forbidden angles -- angles they never would have dared to mention or even surmise as their own. Commenting on one of the highest rated reality shows in Argentina, a 16 year old said to me: ''they show human misery, yet when I watch them I wonder how much of it is in me." How long is it since the word misery was used other than to denote material poverty? I had almost forgotten how true it is -- misery dwells also in ourselves and in me. And I had to be reminded by a 16 year old adolescent! Word of restricted usage ... misery.

This also accounts for the systematic rejection by most adults of The Simpsons. I would rather call it adult incapability to read it from the same angle as children and youngsters do. A young woman of 21 talking about The Simpsons in a focus group said "it's what happens to us every day, even our physiological needs that are so embarrassing to us, it's mixed feelings; and one feels uneasy watching this, yet at the same time, it is such a great relief".

At the 1995 Melbourne World Summit on Television and Children, 30 children held a full session acting very rational and committed. However, the last question was: "What program do you prefer?", and absolutely all of them chose The Simpsons. Leaving all logic behind, to enter the plane of emotions, Barr becomes the model for numerous children to the consequent teacher's and parent's horror. The younger children prefer him because he makes all the mistakes, because he is terrible, because we like him, because what happens to him also happens to us.

When the feelings conveyed by the screen are either too strong to be taken in, or cannot be related to experience, they become disturbing. For this reason children, when asked about programs that younger children should not watch, claim they cannot see them for they cannot understand them. They do not mean this from a rational perspective, for they are not talking about programs on politics or economics. Rather they mean they cannot assimilate from the emotional perception, they cannot put into words, they cannot relate to their own experiences.

If parents are asked, "What are they going to say?" they add. They are also aware of the great difficulty adults have in expressing their emotions.

These are the most common answers in a research work with a focus group methodology, which I am working on together with senior students from the University of Buenos Aires. We work with 150 children of ages 11 and 12 whom we asked to act as judges determining what younger children could and could not watch, justifying their decision.

In another focus group a 22-year-old said: "television contents are like triggers, sometime watching lesbians I can talk about things that otherwise I wouldn't have dared to ... like my fears, my sexuality. It is like inner recognition, and this creates strong bindings because I can share what I really am inside ... "

There is a great number of testimonies like these with young people who can explain the reasons for their choice of programs containing violence, sex, scandals, pornography, intimacy -- as if youth were going through an path of inner search for identity from the darkest areas of their own nature. A difficult and lonely path, that adults should understand and accompany, because the big risk is their noticing only the dark side of human nature, believing that is all we are.

Listening to the little ones when demanding limits is just as important as helping them when faced with "what they cannot understand".

However, understanding youngsters and children and the use they make of violent television contents does by no means imply the justification of their broadcasting and production.


Obtaining knowledge, particularly of oneself, is one of the most arduous tasks man has to face to gain unity, and only by knowing himself can he establish deep ties with others. That is why television is used to make up for the biggest needs of man in this age: getting to know who he is, recovering his identity in a historical period when one is what one seems to be, and in the second place, to accomplish a deep interpersonal communication, when the consumption and materialistic culture drives us to communicate through possessing, through the memory numbing overdose of information, forgetting that the greatest need of a human person is to know himself in order to realize himself.



1. Catharsis in the Aristotelian sense of the word, i.e. purification of strong emotion, as a result of involvement in the tragic drama.


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Re: Children and Media Violence, by Ulla Carlsson

Postby admin » Fri Sep 06, 2013 11:28 pm

The UNESCO Global Study on Media Violence: Report Presented to the Director General of UNESCO [1]



This report presents the results of the UNESCO global study on media violence which was conducted between 1996 and 1997 as a joint research project by the World Organization of the Scout Movement and Utrecht University under the scientific supervision of Prof. Dr. Jo Groebel. It is the largest ever intercultural study on the role of media violence for children with a total of more than 5,000 pupils from 23 different countries all over the world participating.

The study is also unique in several other respects. For the first time, International crisis regions (war zones and high crime areas alike) were part of the research sample. Several of the countries which covered the whole global range of social and technological development had never before participated in an empirical social science study on media.

The methodology used was also unique in so far as all participating 12-year old children answered exactly the same standardized 60-items questionnaire which was translated into the different languages like, for example, Japanese, English, Russian, French, Arabian, etc. The content of the questions was not culture-bound, as otherwise a direct comparison of the data would have been impossible. The children reported their media behaviour, their habits, preferences, and social environment. By January 1998, app. 350,000 individual data had been collected and processed in the context of the study.

The following countries participated in the core study: Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Croatia, Egypt, Fiji, Germany, India, Japan, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, South Africa, Spain, Tadjikistan, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Ukraine. These countries represent the broad spectrum of human and technological development, and major world cultures, and thus reflect a representative range of countries as covered in the 1997 UNDP Human Development Report. In a next stage, additional countries will be part of an extension of the research program with countries like the United States, Russia, Finland, Poland, etc.

In each country, the data were collected in metropolitan and rural areas, in high-and low-aggression environments, from boys and girls, and from different types of schools. The only groups of children who could not be considered in the study were those who were not attending any school or living in extremely remote areas. However, even children who lived in refugee camps have been participating. The logistics and distribution of the questionnaires among average children were organized by members of the Scout Movement; the scientific supervision and analysis was conducted at Utrecht University.

Five major issues were addressed:

• Which role do the media, and in particular TV, play in the lives of children on a global level?
• Why are children fascinated by media violence?
• What is the relationship between media violence and aggressive behaviour among children?
• Are there cultural as well as gender differences in the media impact on aggression?
• How do violent environments (war/crime) on the one hand and the state of technological development on the other influence the coping with aggressive media content?

The results demonstrate:

93% of the children in this study have access to a TV-set. The range is 99% for the North-Western hemisphere to 83% for Africa with Asia and Latin-America in between. In the areas surveyed, the screen has practically become a universal medium. For schoolchildren, it is the most powerful source of information and entertainment. Even radio and books do not have the same global distribution.

The world's children spend an average of 3 hours daily in front of the screen with of course a broad International spectrum of individual viewing behaviour. That is at least 50% more time spent with this medium than with any other out-of-school activity including home-work, being with family or friends, or reading.
Thus, TV has become a major socialization factor and dominates the life of children in urban and electrified rural areas around the globe.

In particular boys are fascinated by aggressive media heroes. Some of these, like Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator, have become global icons; 88% of the world's children know him. 51% of the children from high-aggression environments (war; crime) would like to be like him as compared to 37% in the low-aggression neighbourhoods. Clearly, children need and use media heroes as role models to cope with difficult situations. And these are plentiful for the children of the world.

A remarkable large number live in a problematic emotional state. Nearly half of the children report that they are anxious most of the time or often; 9% had to flee their homesite at least once in their life; 47% report that they would like to live in another country. In the high-aggression areas, 16% of the children report that most people in their neighbourhood die because they are killed by others. Here, 7.5% of the children have already themselves used a weapon against someone.

In this situation, media heroes are used for escapism and compensation of the children's actual problems. For boys, it is primarily aggressive role models (30% name an action hero), for girls, pop stars and musicians. There are regional differences for the favourite heroes: Asia has the highest ranking for action heroes (34%), Africa the lowest (18%), with Europe and the Americas in between (25% each).

The children's world views are obviously influenced by actual as well as media experiences. Nearly one third of the aggression-environment group believe that most people in the world are evil as compared to a fifth in the low aggression group. A remarkable number of children from both groups report a strong overlap in what they perceive as reality and what they see on the screen (about 44%). Many children are surrounded by an environment where "real" and media experiences both support the view that violence is natural.

The impact of media violence can primarily be explained through the fact that aggressive behaviour is rewarded. 47% of those children who prefer aggressive media content would also like to be involved in a risky situation (as compared to 19% with another media preference). This holds again in particular for boys. In addition, nations with a high level of technological development reinforce the risk-seeking tendency. The broad spectrum of different available audio-visual communication means have increased the desire to permanently satisfy physiological stimulus needs which are triggered through aggressive media content.

All in all, one can conclude:

• Media violence is universal. It is primarily presented in a rewarding context.
• Depending on the personality characteristics of the children, and depending on their everyday-life experiences, media violence satisfies different needs: It "compensates" one's own frustrations and deficits in problem areas. It offers "thrills" for children in less problematic environments. For boys it creates a frame of reference for "attractive role models".
• There are many cultural differences, and yet, the basic patterns of the media violence implications are similar around the world.
• Individual movies are not the problem. However, the extent and omnipresence of media violence (with an average of 5 to 10 aggressive acts per TV-program hour in many countries) contribute to the development of a global aggressive culture.
• The "normality" and the "reward characteristics" of aggression are more systematically promoted than non-aggressive ways of coping with one's life. Therefore, the risk of media violence prevails on a global level.

What can be done in this situation?

Violence has always been an element of fiction and news reporting. It can not be excluded from any media coverage. However, its extent, extremeness, and reward characteristics are the problem. Therefore, three major strategies should be considered on an International level:

• Public debate and "common ground" talks between the five Ps: Politicians, Producers, Pedagogy, Parents, and the future Prosumers (active consumers).
• The development of codes of conduct and self-control among media professionals.
• The establishment of media education to create competent and critical media users.

With communication systems like the Internet, the media will be even more omnipresent, universal, and global. The media bear "risks", as this study has demonstrated. But they also offer many new prosocial possibilities. As a consequence, the new digital environment demands similar attention as culture and education in the traditional world.

The problem

Children and adolescents have always been interested in arousing and often even violent stories and fairy-tales. With the occurrence of mass media, film and in particular television, however, the quantity of aggressive content daily consumed by these age groups has dramatically increased. As real violence, especially among the youth, at the same time is still growing, it seems plausible to correlate the two, media violence and aggressive behaviour. With more recent media developments, video recorders, computer games and the Internet one can see a further increase of extremely violent images which obviously find much attention. Videos present realistic torture scenes and even real murder, computer games enable the user to actively simulate the mutilation of "enemies", and the Internet has -- apart from its prosocial possibilities -- become a platform for child pornography, violent cults, and terrorist guidelines. Even with these phenomena, however, it is crucial to realize, that still the primary causes for aggressive behaviour will most probably be found in the family environment, the peer groups, and in particular the social and economic conditions children are raised in (Groebel & Hinde, 1991).

And yet, media play a major role in the development of cultural orientations, world views and beliefs, as well as in the global distribution of values and (often stereotyped) images. They are not only mirrors of cultural trends but can also channel them, and are themselves major constituents of society. Sometimes they are even direct means of inter-group violence and war propaganda. All in all, it is important to identify their contribution to the propagation of violence, if one considers possibilities of prevention. Thousands of studies have demonstrated the risk of media violence to stimulate aggression. Until now, however, no single study dealt with the problem on a global scale. In this situation UNESCO decided to initiate a project which should analyse the International importance of the issue. In particular, possible cultural differences, as well as the influence of different aggressive experiences in the actual environment (war and crime) and the different media available for the children were to be identified. To that end, an intercultural questionnaire study was developed. About 5,000 12-year old boys and girls from 23 different countries around the world have participated in the project. This means that this study is the biggest of its kind ever conducted with respect to the number of subjects and countries included. For at least half of the countries involved in this research study, it was the first time that a research of this type was undertaken.

The World Organization of the Scout Movement accepted overall responsibility for the field work of the study, including the organization of International logistics, training of people responsible, questionnaire distribution, and data collecting procedure. The scientific supervision, data processing, and integration of the study was done by Prof. Dr. Jo Groebel of Utrecht University. Statistics were supplied by Willem van Leerdam of Tangram. The University of Utrecht offered overhead support through its stimulation fund. Jean Cassaigneau and Mateo Jover of the World Scout Bureau supervised most of the logistics and contributed to the methodology. We thank all the national contributors and supporters of the study, in particular the National Scout Organizations involved, their officials and leaders, teachers and parents, and not least, the thousands of students who participated in the project all over the world.

The media

With the technical means of automatization and, more recently of digitalization, any media content has potentially become global. Not only do individual news reach nearly any part of the world, also mass entertainment has become an International enterprise. E.g., American or Indian movies can be watched in most world regions. Much of what is presented contains violence. In high literature art as well as in popular culture it has always been a major topic of human communication. Whether it is the Gilgamesh, a Shakespearean drama, the Shuihu zhuan of Luo Guanzhong, Kurosawa's Ran, stories of Wole Soyinka, or ordinary detective series, man seemed always to be fascinated by aggression. This fascination does not necessarily mean that destructive behaviour is innate; however, it draws attention as it is one of the phenomena of human life which cannot be immediately explained and yet demands consideration of how to cope with it if it occurs. Nearly all studies around the world show that men are much more attracted to violence than women. One can assume that, in a mixture of biological predispositions and gender role socializations, men often experience aggression as rewarding. It fits with their role in society but may once also have served the motivation to seek adventure when exploring new territory or protecting the family and the group. Without an internal (physiological thrill seeking) and an external (status and mating) reward mechanism men may rather have fled leaving theirs unprotected. But apart from "functional" aggression humankind has developed "destructive" aggression, mass-murder, hedonistic torture, humiliation, which cannot be explained in terms of survival. It is often these, which are widely distributed in the media.

The media themselves differ in their impact. Audio-visual media in particular are more graphic in their depiction of violence than books or newspapers; they leave less freedom in the individual images which the viewers associate with the stories. As the media become ever more perfect with the introduction of three dimensions (virtual reality) and interactivity (computer games and multimedia) and as they are always accessible and universal (video and Internet) the representation of violence "merges" increasingly with reality.

Another crucial distinction is that between "context-rich" and "context-free" depiction of violence. Novels or sophisticated movies usually offer a story around the occurrence of violence: What is its background, what are its consequences? Violence as a pure entertainment product, however, often lacks any embedding in a context which is more than a clicheed image of good and bad. The final difference between the individual media forms has to do with their distribution. A theatre play or a novel are nearly always singular events, the modern mass media, however, create a time- and space-omnipresence.

Even here, a distinction between problematic and non-problematic forms of media violence has to be made. A news program or a TV documentary which present the cruelty of war and the suffering of its victims in a non-voyeuristic way are part of objective investigation or may even serve conflict-reduction purposes. Hate campaigns, on the other hand, or the glorification of violence stress the" reward" characteristics of extreme aggression. In general, one can roughly distinguish between three different modes of media content: purely investigative (typically news), message oriented (campaigns, advertisement), and entertainment (movies, shows). For any of these, one can distinguish between problematic and non-problematic forms:


Although often these criteria may not be easy to determine, there are clear examples for each of the different forms: Reality TV or paparazzi activities may have to do with the truth but they also, in the extreme, influence this very truth through their own behaviour -- see the discussion surrounding Princess Diana's death. Through the informal communication patterns on the Internet also rumours have become part of "serious" news-reporting, as the discussion around the American president in January 1998 has shown. Whether true or not, deviant groups and cults can influence the global information streams more efficiently than ever before. The cases of Serbia and Rwanda on the other hand has demonstrated the role which "traditional" mass propaganda through the radio still can play in genocide. Many incidents around the world finally indicate that children often lack the capacity to distinguish between reality and fiction and take for granted what they see in entertainment films stimulating their own aggression. If they are permanently exposed to messages which promote that violence is fun or is adequate to solve problems and gain status, then the risk that they learn respective attitudes and behaviour patterns is very high.

Theories and research studies

General theoretical background

Many scientific theories and studies have dealt with the problem of media violence since the beginning of the 20th century. Most of them originate in North-America, Australia/New Zealand or Western-Europe. But increasingly, Asia, Latin-America and Africa are contributing to the scientific debate. The most influential studies are briefly presented. They cover a broad range of different paradigms: cultural studies, content analyses of media programs, behavioural research. However, the terms aggression and violence are exclusively defined here in terms of behaviour which leads to harm of another person. For phenomena, where activity and creativity have positive consequences for those involved, other terms are used. Recently, scientists have overcome their traditional dissent and have come to some common conclusions. They assume a media effects risk which depends on the message content, the characteristics of the media user, and his family, as well as his social and cultural environment. All in all, children are more at risk to be immediately influenced than adults. But certain effects, like habituation, also hold for older age groups. While short-term effects may be described in terms of simple causal relationships, the long-term impact is more adequately described as an interactive process which involves many different factors and conditions. Yet, as the commercial and the political world strongly rely on the influence of images and messages (as seen in the billion dollar turnover of the advertising industry or the important role of media in politics), it seems naive to exclude media violence from any effects probability.

The most influential theory on this matter is probably the social learning approach by Albert Bandura and his colleagues. As much of what people learn happens through observation in their immediate environment it can be concluded that similar processes work through the media. Many studies have demonstrated that children especially either directly imitate what they see on the screen or they integrate the observed behaviour patterns into their own repertoire. An extension of this theory considers the role of cognitions. If I see that a certain behaviour, e.g., an aggressive one, is successful, I believe that the same is true for my own life. Groebel & Gleich (1993) and Donnerstein (National Television Violence Study, 1997) both show in European and US-American studies that nearly 75% of the aggressive acts depicted on the screen remain without any negative consequences for the "aggressor" in the movie or are even rewarded.

The so-called script theory, among others, propagated by Rowell Huesmann and Leonard Eron, assumes the development of complex world views ("scripts") through media influence. If I over-estimate the probability of violence in real life (e.g., through its frequency on the TV-screen), I develop a belief-system where violence is a normal and adequate part of modern society.

The role of the personal state of the viewer is stressed in the frustration-aggression- hypothesis (see Leonard Berkowitz). Viewers who have been frustrated in their actual environment, e.g., through having been punished, insulted, or physically deprived, "read" the media violence as a signal to channel their frustration into aggression. This theory would explain why in particular children in social problem areas are open to media-aggression effects.

The contrary tendency has been assumed in the catharsis-theory, and later the inhibition-theory by Seymour Feshbach. As in the Greek tragedy, aggressive moods would be reduced through the observation of similar states with others (substitute coping). Inhibition would occur when the stimulation of own aggressive tendencies would lead to (learned) fear of punishment and thus contribute to its reduction. While both approaches may still be valid under certain circumstances, they have not been confirmed in the majority of studies, and their original author, Feshbach, now also assumes a negative effects risk.

A lot of the fascination of media violence has to do with physiological arousal. The action scenes, which are usually part of media violence, grab the viewer's attention and create an at least slight "kick", more probably among males. At the same time, people tend to react more aggressively in a state of arousal. This would again explain why arousing TV scenes would lead to higher aggression among frustrated/angered viewers, as Dolf Zillmann explains in his excitation-transfer theory. In this context it is not the content but the formal features, sound and visual effects that would be responsible for the result.

Among others, Edward Donnerstein, Neil Malamuth, and Donald Linz have investigated the effect of long-term exposition to extremely violent images. Men in particular get used to frequent bloody scenes; their empathy towards aggression victims is reduced.

The impact of media violence on anxiety has also been analyzed. George Gerbner and Jo Groebel both have demonstrated in longitudinal studies that the frequent depiction of the world as threatening and dangerous leads to more fearsome and cautious attitudes towards the actual environment. As soon as people are already afraid or lack contrary experiences they develop an anxious world view and have difficulties in distinguishing between reality-and-fiction.

Cultural studies have discussed the role of the cultural construction of meaning. The decoding and interpretation of an image depends on traditions and conventions. This could explain why an aggressive picture may be "read" differently, e.g., in Singapore than in Switzerland, or even within a national culture by different groups. These cultural differences have definitely to be taken into account. Yet, the question is, whether certain images can also immediately create emotional reactions on a fundamental (not culture-bound) level and to what extent the International mass media have developed a more homogeneous (culture-overspanning) visual language.

Increasingly, theories from a non-Anglosaxon background have offered important contributions to the discussion. In Paris, a UNESCO-sponsored congress was held in 1997 chaired by E. Auclaire where many of these approaches, including Psychoanalysis and Psychiatry, were presented. This event continued a series of meetings which had been started in Lund in 1995, where the global platform on media violence had led to the creation of the UNESCO International Clearinghouse on Children and Violence on the Screen, with headquarters in Goteborg (and probably Utrecht; see the reports of Nils Gunnar Nilsson).

The compass theory

As basis for the UNESCO study, Jo Groebel has formulated the compass theory. Depending on already existing experiences, social control, and the cultural environment, media content offers an orientation, a frame of reference which determines the direction of one's own behaviour. Viewers do not necessarily adapt simultaneously what they have observed, but they measure their own behaviour in terms of distance to the perceived media models. If extreme cruelty is "common", "just" kicking the other seems to be innocent by comparison if the cultural environment has not established a working alternative frame of reference (e.g., social control; values).

In general, the impact of media violence depends on several conditions: media content -- roughly 10 acts of violence per hour in the average programming (see the recent US National Television Violence Study, 1997); media frequency; culture and actual situation; and the characteristics of the viewer and his family surrounding. Yet, as the media now are a mass phenomenon, the probability of a problematic combination of these conditions is high. This is demonstrated in many studies. Based on scientific evidence, one can conclude: The risk of media violence prevails.

Method and design of the UNESCO study

A study which is to be conducted in different countries and cultures faces several problems: The logistics are difficult; many countries do not have scientific faculties that could run the study there; the cultures are so different that not only language problems but also differences in the social meaning of terms appear. Therefore the authors of this project chose a standardized procedure.

All logistics were centrally organized by the World Organization of the Scout Movement from their Geneva headquarters. The organization used their International network of National Scout Organizations to conduct the study in the respective countries. To that end, two officers of the Scout Movement travelled to the countries in the sample (see below) and instructed their local representatives in how to apply the procedure. In addition, the World Scout Organization took care of the translations into the different National languages and the necessary pretests in each country. The advantage of the Scout Movement, apart from its logistics, is its strict political and ideological independence. Thus, no intended or unintended interference based on a certain belief system was to be expected.

Although language and meaning are always culture-bound we chose a questionnaire-procedure to analyze the relationship between media preferences and aggression. By applying exactly the same questions all over the world a maximum comparison was possible. As we limited the items to descriptive, preference and behavioural data, excluding evaluations and performance measures, we assume a relatively culture-independent measurement. Of course, systematic differences in preferences are indicators of cultural specifics. That was exactly what we wanted to measure. The reliability and the validity of the data are not reduced through that approach. The regional pre-tests demonstrated that all children could comprehend the questionnaire which they had to fill in during classes and that all items were meaningful to them. Of course, without financial and time constraints, an even better pre-testing would have been possible. However, the a posteriori analyses confirmed the quality of the work.

The questionnaire itself consisted of a mixture of text-questions with mostly multiple-choice answers and very simple (again, culture-free) sketches which depicted a number of social situations. The children then had to choose between several options, e.g., an aggressive or a peaceful solution to a depicted conflict. Several factors were investigated: the children's demographics, their social and family situation, media use and preferences, level of aggression in their environment, their own aggressive tendencies, level of anxiety, and their perception of values and orientations. All in all, about 60 different variables were included.

The sample for the study consisted of an original core group of 23 different countries around the world, where, depending on country-size, between 150 and 600 12-year old school children (boys and girls) were to be investigated respectively. The countries were selected to represent different regions and social development structures, cultures, and economic and social circumstances. After finishing the remaining core data, roughly 5,000 International 12-year-olds contributed to the project. The participating countries are: Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Croatia, Egypt, Fiji, Germany, India, Japan, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, South Africa, Spain, Tadjikistan, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Ukraine.

In addition to the core-group, an even broader "control group" of countries was organized by the scientists from Utrecht University. With this additional group, including Austria, Russia, the USA, and most probably France, Great Britain, Sweden, and Poland, a link with already existing national research shall be established.

A quota-sample was used, which considered three criteria: gender, rural versus metropolitan environment, high versus low level of aggression in the students' actual environment. With the last two, the sample was systematically structured. Gender was assumed to be equally distributed across the schools. In addition, the types of school were nationally chosen to represent the respective school systems.

The age was fixed at 12 years in order to standardize possible developmental effects. Many studies have dealt with age differences, and the age of twelve seems to be a period where the interest in media is particularly high; at the same time children are still in the process of socialization. 12 years is the age where they start to become adolescents and are particularly interested in adult role models and respective media images. Of course, "psychological age" and maturity may differ interculturally but still fundamental developmental stages are valid across cultures, as many studies have shown. In any case, we decided to standardize the age factor.

The gathering of the data started in the fall of 1996 and finished with this report in September 1997. Thus, it is not only one of the largest, but also one of the most actual and "fastest" media-effects projects ever conducted.

The results

About 350,000 individual data were obtained and processed (more than 5,000 students with more than 60 variables each). In the first step, simple analyses were applied, in order to get a general overview of the demographics, the global media use, and the state of violence among children around the world. In addition, first indicators of the correlation between media use and individual aggression were obtained. In this stage, most results are based on frequency-and percentage-tables plus a few cross-tabulations. More sophisticated analyses will be featured in a later stage (for the experts: including structural analyses and multivariate models).

The demographics

Global statistics:

2,788 boys and 2,353 girls participated in this stage of the study; all were 12 years old. Boys (54.1%) are thus slightly over-represented compared to girls (45.6%). However, this was intended as we regarded boys as the bigger risk group.

About 80% of the children live with both parents; 13% only with their mother, 2.5% with their father. The remaining live with relatives, in orphanages, or alone. 49% live in a big city, 28% in a small town, 20% in little villages, and the remaining 3% in camps or single houses. The majority of children have fathers who work as employees; 10% do not know their father's profession (as they may not know him). About 9% of the children already have experienced fleeing a country. Nearly 40% of the mothers around the globe take care of the household as their primary profession. Most children live in small to medium-size families either alone with their parents or with just one or two more brothers or sisters (about 90%). About one third of the children were rated (by the local Scout representatives) to live in an aggressive environment or to face problems. The originally proposed 50% match could not be reached as several countries seem to have hardly any such area, which could be easily identified.

Regional differences:

In this stage of the study, we concentrated on four "regions", not the individual countries: Africa, Asia/Pacific, Europe/Canada, Latin-America. By doing so, we brought together areas which between themselves may differ immensely. We "merged" Europe and Canada as we assume some common cultural basis. This, of course, is also partly true for Europe and Latin-America. However, for Latin-America there were sufficient numbers of countries to form their own cluster. In any case, this clustering was not more than a first testing of rough cultural differences or overlaps. Some results: Africa has the fewest children of our sample which live together with both parents (app. 72%), Asia the most (88%). Latin-America (75%) and Europe/Canada (83%) are in between. Asia has the most children living in big cities (56%), Europe/Canada (43%) the least. Africa has the most refugees (12%), Latin-America the least (4%).

Not all of these numbers may fit with an objective global count, but some regions were not accessible at all; we also could only investigate children who were able to read. Yet, for the purpose of the study the data seem to be sufficiently valid.

A remarkable difference showed with respect to the mother's profession: While in Latin-America 51% and in Asia 55% of the mothers were reported to take care (exclusively) of the household, the numbers for Europe/Canada are 33% and for Africa 9.9%. For different reasons, most mothers in these two regions also work in other positions (take care of everything; are employed).

All in all, the country selection represented the complete UNDP-index range.

Media use

Global statistics:

97% of the school areas in our sample can be reached at least by one TV broadcast channel. For most areas the average is four to nine channels (34%). 5% receive one, 3% two, 9% three channels, 11% ten to twenty, and 18% more than twenty channels. The percentages are minimum values, as 17% did not answer this question.

91% of the children in our global sample have access to a TV set, primarily at home. Thus, the screen has become a universal medium around the world. Whether it is the favelas, a South Pacific island, or a skyscraper in Asia, television is omnipresent, even if we consider that we did not cover some regions where TV is not available at all. This result justifies the assumption that it still is the most powerful source of information and entertainment outside face-to-face communication. This is confirmed by further statistics. Even radio and books do not have the same distribution (91%, 92%).

All other media follow with some distance: newspaper 85%; tape recorder (e.g. cassette) 75%; comics 66%; video recorder 47%; video games (like "gameboy") 40%; PC 23%; Internet 9%.

The children could report how much time they spend with several favourite activities. The children spent an average of 3 hours daily in front of the screen. That is at least 50% more time spent with this medium than with any other activity including home work (2 hours), helping the family (1.6 hours), playing outside (1.5 hours), being with friends (1.4 hours), reading (1.1 hours), listening to the radio (1.1 hours), to tapes/CDs (0.9 hours), or using the computer (0.4 hours, for whom it applies).

Thus, TV dominates the life of the children around the globe.

Regional differences:

Europe/Canada have the highest distribution of TV (nearly 99%), Africa the lowest (83%). Actually in our study the distribution of TV may be over-represented for Africa, as we did not consider non-school groups or areas without any electricity available. Latin-America comes a close second after Europe/Canada (97%), Asia has "92%. The order is roughly the same with most other audio-visual media, like video, PC, games -- see the numbers under global statistics above. Radio plays still an important role in Africa; here the percentage is similar to Europe/Canada and Latin-America (app. 91%), and slightly higher than in Asia (88%).

Orientations and values

Global statistics:

The emotional states, as well as their ideals are important factors which moderate how children cope with their environment and how they evaluate what they observe in the media. Of course, the media themselves can influence these states and norms.

What is the general emotional state of the children? About two thirds report that they are happy most of the time. About one fourth know the feeling, but do not regularly experience it, and about 2.5% say that they are never happy. There is no difference between boys and girls. Nearly half of the children are anxious most of the time or often, with again no difference between boys and girls. About 47% of the children report that they would like to live in another country (either for adventure or for escapism reasons).

Although the majority of the children are relatively happy, a remarkable number live in a problematic emotional state.

What kind of persons are perceived as role models by the children? They could give a name which then was ordered along a list of different characteristics. The results again demonstrate the importance of the media.

Most children (26%) name an action hero, followed by pop stars and musicians (18.5%). However, there are important gender differences. 30% of the boys mention an action hero, as compared to 21% of the girls. But even for the female group this character comes second after pop stars/musicians (girls: 27%, boys: 12%).

Other personalities play a less important role: About 8% name a religious leader, 7% a military leader (boys: 9%, girls: 3.4%), 6% a philosopher/scientist, 5% a journalist, and only 3% a politician. The remaining are personal acquaintances or have other roles.

This confirms the global trend: Action heroes and pop stars are the favourite role models among children.

Nevertheless, religious beliefs are still widely spread: About 90% of the children report that they believe in (a) God.

What are the personal values of the children? 40% report that their favourite wish is to have a family, because they either live in a functioning parent-child relationship or because they lack it but would like to have it. For 10% enough food is the favourite. This may mean that this group regularly experiences food-deprivation. For 25% of the boys the favourite wish is always to be a winner, 19% of the girls say the same.

Regional differences:

The emotional states seem to differ somewhat between the world regions. While happiness is more or less equally distributed (with Latin-America being a little "happier" than Africa, Europe/Canada, and Asia, in that order), remarkable differences occur when it comes to being anxious. Around 50% of the children in Africa, Latin-America, or Asia are (very) often anxious as compared to about 36% in Europe/Canada.

There are regional differences between the favourite heroes: Asia has the highest ranking for action heroes (34%), Africa the lowest (18%), with Latin-America and Europe/Canada in between (25% each). This may have to do with the significantly lower saturation of audio-visual media in Africa, but may also have other cultural reasons.

However, there is a clear correlation between the presence of TV and reporting action heroes as favourites.

The favourites in Africa are pop stars/musicians (24%) with Asia the lowest (12%). Africa has also high rankings for religious leaders (18%), as compared to Europe/ Canada (2%), Latin-America (6%), and Asia (6%). Military leaders score highest in Asia (9.6%), and lowest in Europe/Canada (2.6%). Journalists score well in Europe/Canada (10%), low in Latin-America (2%). Politicians rank lowest in Europe (1%), highest in Africa (7%).

Again, there may be a correlation with the distribution of mass media: the more TV, the higher the rank of media personalities, and the lower the traditional ones (politicians, religious leaders). In Europe/Canada, journalists get ten times as many votes as politicians.

There is a strong correlation between the accessibility of modern media and the predominant values and orientations.

Violence and aggression

Global statistics:

As reported, roughly one third of the children in our sample live in a high-aggression environment or problematic neighbourhood. This ranks from high-crime areas over recent-war zones and (refugee) camps to economically poor environments which of course do not have to be aggressive per se. Yet, in these areas, more than twice as many people seem to die of being killed by others than in the low-problem neighbourhoods (children's reports: 16% versus 7%).

Again, twice as many children there are member of an armed gang (5.2%) as compared to the low-aggression areas (2.6%). They report more personal enemies (9% versus 5.9%) and regard attacking more often as fun than the children from the low-aggression neighbourhoods (8% versus 4.7%). They also have used weapons more often against someone (7.5% versus 5.5%). Thus, it comes as no surprise, that they are also more anxious (most of the time: 25% versus 19%), and would like to live in another country (53% versus 46%). But they also report a similar happiness as the low-aggression group. However, their world view is obviously influenced by their experience: Nearly one third of the aggression-environment group believe that most people in the world are evil (compared to slightly more than a fifth of the low-aggression- area group).

The pattern is clear and plausible: In high problem areas, children do not only experience more aggressive behaviour, they are also emotionally and cognitively affected: more hedonistic violence, more anxiety, a more pessimistic world view.

Regional differences:

Different forms of aggression are evaluated differently in the cultures of the world. We wanted to know whether a physical attack or a verbal insult is perceived as more "damaging". The results confirm the cultural differences: In Europe and Canada, children regard a physical attack with fists as worse (55.5%) than being given insulting names (44%). In Asia, the opposite is the case: for nearly 70%, verbal insults are worse than physical attacks (29%). Africa is similar to Asia (verbal: 63%, physical: 35%). Latin-America is balanced (50% each).

In different situations, where is the highest probability of aggressive reactions to be found? We presented a number of simple sketches which showed a variety of social situations: A verbal conflict, a physical attack, a recorder damaged by another child, a stereo which a child urgently wanted to have, a group of people hanging around. For each of these situations, the children should say how the involved persons would react, and what they themselves would do in a similar situation.

In situations of social conflict, children in Africa reported most frequently that they would regard physical attacks as adequate reaction: e.g., 32% hitting the other as reaction to verbal insult (Asia 15%, Latin-America 14%, Europe/Canada 16%); 9% even reported shooting the other as adequate. Nearly one third in Africa reported, that a group of people hanging around would attack another group as next action (Asia 28%, Europe/Canada 20%, Latin-America 19%).

At the same time, children in Africa experience having a gun as a powerful feeling more often than in the other regions (25%; Latin-America 18%; Europe/Canada 18%; Asia 10%). They also report that they themselves have a gun more often (4.5%; Latin-America 3.5%; Asia 3.3%; Europe/Canada 2.4%). In general, children in Africa and Asia have twice as often used a weapon against someone (7.1 %; 8.3%) as those in Latin-America and Europe/Canada (4.4%; 3.6%).

All in all, the children's aggressive behaviour patterns and perceptions are a mirror of what they experience in their real environment: frustration, aggression, problematic circumstances.

However, to what extent do the media contribute to these patterns? To what extent do they channel the already existing aggressive predispositions?

Media violence

Most studies show that the relation between media violence and "real" violence is interactive: Media can contribute to an aggressive culture; people who are already aggressive use the media as further confirmation of their beliefs and attitudes, which, in turn, are reinforced through media content. This interaction is especially true for long-term developments. At this stage of the study, we can offer some correlations between media and "real" violence. A one-directional effect cannot be assumed on the global level and could also not be empirically tested. The study focuses on the role of the media in the complex culture of violence beside other influences.

A major question is, whether children are able to distinguish between reality and fiction. Another one deals with the perception that media and everyday-experiences are similar. We compared the children from the high- and the low-aggression environments and asked them whether what they saw in the media resembled their own experiences.

In all cases, the high-aggression-area group reported a stronger overlap between reality and fiction than the low-aggression-area group (movies: 46% versus 40%; TV: 72% versus 69%; radio: 52% versus 48%; comics: 26% versus 22%; all in all not an extreme, but homogeneous trend). Thus, they are more probably confronted with similar aggressive messages in their actual environment and in the media with a higher probability than children from a less-violent neighbourhood. Obviously, media content reinforces the already mentioned belief that most people are evil.

Many children are surrounded by an environment where "real" and media experiences both support the view that violence is natural.

The fascination of violence is often related to strong characters who can control their environment, are (in the end) rewarded for their aggression, and can cope with nearly every problem. The message is at least threefold: Aggression is a good means to solve conflicts; aggression offers status; aggression can be fun. The larger-than-life hero of course is an old theme of art and literature. It serves both needs, the compensation of one's own deficits, and the reference point for one's own behaviour. Relatively new, however, is the global uniformity of such heroes through the mass media and their commercial weight.

One such media figure is the Terminator character from two movies of the same name, starring the actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Our results confirm that Terminator is a cross-cultural hero. About 88% of the world children population (if our sample is representative) know him.

In the comparison between high- and low-aggression areas it is remarkable that 51% of the children of the high-aggression environment would like to be like him as compared to 37% in the low-aggression neighbourhoods. He seems to represent the characteristics which children think are necessary to cope with difficult situations.

Equally successful are heroes like Rambo, and of course "local" heroes from the respective domestic media markets, e.g., India, Brazil, or Japan.

An aggressive media hero is particularly ''successful'' as role model in the high-aggression areas of the world. Some of these heroes have become culture-overspanning icons.

Are there any systematic patterns in the aggressive cognitions which link personal motives, actual environment, and media content? We analyzed the correlation between different forms of "sensation seeking" (the motive to be thrilled through risk and adventure), a relatively stable personality characteristic, on the one hand, and different actual and media environments on the other.

There was no difference in sensation seeking in the high- and the low-aggression environment. That is plausible, as this personality characteristic is assumed to be highly genetically determined, thus relatively free of environmental influences. However, when we split up the sample into a group with a comparatively well developed technological infrastructure and one with a less well developed one (criterion: distribution of computers, then "median"-split = 50% high/low dichotomy), the picture changed. Twice as many children in the "high technology"-group as in the "low technology"-group reported a risk-seeking tendency (20% versus 10%).

In terms of regions, Africa has by far the lowest (7.3%), Europe/Canada (18.9%) the highest scores, with Asia (18.5%), and Latin-America (15.9%) following close.

This may have to do with two aspects:

a) the sensory stimulation is probably higher in high-technology environments; it thus creates a generally higher state of permanent arousal;

b) with a higher availability of media programming, the risk-seeking tendency is modelled into uniform patterns which mirror the content of the media (e.g., the car chase as a movie icon).

To test the latter, we linked the sensation-seeking tendency in an additional analysis with the preference for media content. The picture is clear. Children, and in particular boys, with a risk seeking tendency have a higher preference for aggressive media content than those who lack this tendency (boys: 40% versus 29%). When asked, whether they would themselves want to be involved in an aggressive situation, the tendency was even stronger: 47% of those who prefer aggressive media content would also like to be involved themselves in a risky situation (as compared to an average of 19% with other media preferences, range: 15%-23%). In the recent analysis, this result comes closest to a direct effects measure:

There is a link between the preference for media violence and the need to be involved in aggression oneself.

The overall result can be interpreted as follows:

The tendency of sensation-seeking is possibly genetically determined (with an extremely strong gender influence: 25% of the boys, but only 4% of the girls report risk-seeking!). The level and direction of this tendency, however, is moderated through the environment. When violence is presented as "thrilling" in the daily media environment, this reinforces the "reward characteristics" of the respective behaviour. When children actually experience violence in their immediate environment, the hedonistic value of "heroism" makes place for its "survival"-value (see the action hero-results).

Thus, depending on the "real" environment, media violence can serve different functions. Nevertheless, in both cases it confirms the "reward"-characteristics of aggressive behaviour.

Conclusions and recommendations

At this stage, we can summarize the role of the media in the perception and application of aggression as follows:

Media violence is universal. It is primarily presented in a rewarding context. Depending on the personality characteristics of the children, and depending on their everyday-life experiences, media violence satisfies different needs: It "compensates" own frustrations and deficits in problem-areas. It offers "thrills" for children in a less problematic environment. For boys, it creates a frame of reference for "attractive role-models". There are many cultural differences, and yet, the basic patterns of the media violence implications are similar around the world. Individual movies are not the problem. However, the extent and omnipresence of media violence contributes to the development of a global aggressive culture. The "reward-characteristics" of aggression are more systematically promoted than non-aggressive ways of coping with one's life. Therefore, the risk of media violence prevails.

The results demonstrate the omnipresence of TV in all areas of the world. Most children around the globe seem to spend most of their time with the medium. What they get is a high portion of violent content. Combined with the real violence, which many children experience, the probability is high that aggressive orientations are promoted rather than peaceful ones. But also in lower-aggression areas, violent media content is presented in a rewarding context. Although children cope differently with this content in different cultures, the transcultural communality of the problem is the fact that aggression is interpreted as a good problem-solver for a variety of situations.

Children want a functioning social and family environment. As they often seem to lack these, they seek role models which offer compensation through power and aggression. This explains the universal success of movie characters like Terminator. Individual preferences for films like this one are not the problem. However, when violent content becomes a common phenomenon up to the occurrence of an aggressive media environment, the probability that children develop a new frame of reference, and that problematic predispositions are channelled into destructive attitudes and behaviour increases immensely.

What are possible solutions? Probably more important than the media are the social and economic conditions in which children grow up. However, the media as constituents of cultures, beliefs, and orientations also deserve much attention. Centralized control and censorship are not efficient and do not meet the criteria of democratic societies.

Three major strategies should be considered:

• Public debate and "common ground" talks between politicians, producers, and teachers.
• The development of professional codes-of-conduct and self-discipline for producers.
• Innovative forms of media education to create competent and critical media users.

Apart from media professionals non-governmental organizations in general and nonformal educational agents with a global perspective such as Scouting can play an important role in this respect.

With communication systems like the Internet, the media will be even more omnipresent and universal. As a consequence, the new digital environment demands similar attention as culture and education in the traditional world.



1. The study is a joint project of UNESCO, The World Organization of the Scout Movement and Utrecht University. This report was presented by Prof. Dr. Jo Groebel to UNESCO on February, 19, 1998.


Groebel, J. (Ed.) (1997). New Media Developments. Trends in Communication I. Amsterdam, Boom Publishers.

Groebel, J. & Gleich, U. (1993). Gewaltprofil des deutschen Fernsehens [Violence Profile of German Television]. Landesanstalt fur Rundfunk Nordthein-Westfalen. Leverkusen, Leske & Budrich.

Groebel, J. & Hinde, R. (Eds.) (1991). Aggression and War. Their Biological and Social Bases. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Groebel, J. & Smit, L. (1997). Gewalt im Internet [Violence on the Internet]. Report for the German Parliament. Bonn, Deutscher Bundestag.

National Television Violence Study (1997). Santa Barbara, University of California.

United Nations Development Program (1997). Human Development Report 1997. New York, Oxford University Press.
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Re: Children and Media Violence, by Ulla Carlsson

Postby admin » Fri Sep 06, 2013 11:42 pm

Children's Media Situation

Research Articles

Children's Voice in the Media: A Study of Children's Television Programmes in Asia


I like what I get is the same thing as I get what I like. [1]

Most mass media programmes are not produced with children's interest in mind. Like other commercial commodities these are produced for profit in the market place. However it is sometimes asserted that the market place provides the people with what they like to get. The quotation, from Alice in Wonderland, cited above is a reminder to us that things are not as simple as that.

In most Asian countries children under the age of 15 comprise around 40 per cent of the population. This proportion is even higher in poorer countries such as India and Bangladesh. However only a very small proportion of TV programmes, radio programmes, cinema, books, periodicals and newspapers are made for children. While published data on the proportion of children's media are scanty, it has been estimated that in some Asian countries, such as India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, this is less than five per cent. The lack of information on Children and Media is indicative of the lack of interest among research community and the ruling classes about this issue. It is also indicative of the absence of an accepted policy regarding communication for children. This situation becomes all the more glaring when one considers the fact that in many poorer countries in Asia, a large proportion of children who should be in school are not in school. The proportion is particularly high in the case of Asian girls.

In those countries where the economies are growing rapidly and racing ahead to stay competitive, rampant commercialism has entered children's media programming. For instance, programme related products are heavily advertised and marketed to children. Different media systems collaborate to produce and market children's products as part of their media fare. For example, the TV programme Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles spawned comic books, computer games, movies and countless commercials over radio and TV to make it a household name.

In this situation what kind of television programmes are offered to children between the ages of 6 and 15 years in Asian countries? Do they get what they like or do they like what they get? What sort of a world is created for children by these television programmes? To what extent are the policy makers and programme producers in Asian television stations aware of children's rights as enunciated by UN? [2] What are the resources available for the production of children's television programmes in Asia?

These are some of the questions that the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) addressed in an empirical study of television and children in nine Asian countries. [3] The study is expected to be completed by the end of 1997. A monograph containing the more significant findings is planned for publication in 1998.

It is common knowledge that countries in Asia have many cultural, economic and social differences. At the very elementary level one could discern two Asias: the poorer Asia and the richer Asia. Access to television are different in these two regions of Asia. Bangladesh and Nepal, two of the less developed countries in Asia, have around six television sets per 1000 population. The comparable figure for India and Indonesia are 38 sets and 46 sets respectively. In contrast to this in the richer parts of Asia ownership of television is quite wide-spread. South Korea has 416 sets per 1000 population, Singapore 200 sets and Malaysia 102 sets (Goonasekera and Holaday, 1993).

There are also different types of ownership and management of television stations in different countries in Asia. The stations may be owned by government, they may be owned by private individuals or it can be a mixture of the two. These factors have an important bearing on development of television broadcasting in Asian countries. They also influence the policies that are followed in relation to children's television programmes in these countries. Table 1 is a summary description of the television scene in terms of the level of economic development and patterns of ownership in 11 Asian countries.

Table 1. Television Ownership in Eleven Asian Countries


What are the types of television programmes available for children in Asia? For purposes of this research television programmes were classified into 12 types, The 12 categories are: Animation or Cartoons; Puppets; Story Telling; Serial/Drama; Pre-school Magazine; Magazine Information; Information/News; Magazine Entertainment; Quiz/Games; Pop Music; Religious; Cultural/Traditional. There is also an "other" category to include those programmes that cannot be classified within these 12 categories.

Tables 2, 3 and 4 give data on the basis of this classification for two countries. The countries are India and Malaysia. India is from the poorer region of Asia, and Malaysia is from the richer region. India has an open skies policy regarding reception of satellite television programmes by its citizens, whereas Malaysia has imposed restrictions.

Table 2. Telecast of Children's Programmes Doordarshan India

* Based on schedule for 1 week.
** Calculated on the basis of broadcast time per week 1995.
*** Covers variety programmes for children which include story telling, drama, quiz/games, music.

Table 2 gives data for Doordarshan (DDI) in India. It is based on programme schedules for one week in January 1995. Two factors stand our in these data. One is the predominance of animation programmes. It is the single largest category of programmes (19.83%). This is so for many other countries in Asia. The second is the dominance of foreign programmes in this category (63.8%).

The predominance of foreign programmes is compounded by a more recent phenomena in the television scene in India. This is the transmission of programmes by foreign multinational television broadcasters such as StarTV, CNN and BBC World Service to Indian audiences. In addition India has its own satellite channels, some of which are up-linked from foreign points of origin such as Hong Kong (see Table 3).

Table 3. Telecast of Children's Programmes in Indian Satellite Channels


Here again the dominant type of programme for children are animation or cartoon programmes (41.8%) followed by drama programmes (20.9%). India has not controlled direct access to satellite programmes by its citizens. However most of the foreign satellite programmes are distributed mainly through Indian cable companies. Most people in India cannot afford satellite reception dishes as they are too expensive for them. These people subscribe to the cable services which re-transmit foreign satellite services along with local programmes such as local language movies.

Table 4 gives comparable data for Malaysia which is a much wealthier country than India. Unlike India, Malaysia controls access of its citizens to foreign satellite broadcasts by requiring them to get a license to use a satellite dish. The data in this table are in respect of locally broadcast programmes in three Malaysian channels viz. RTM 1, RTM2 and TV3. Here again there is a predominance of foreign material among children's programmes. Nearly 88 per cent of all children's programmes are of foreign origin. Controlling satellite access to its citizens alone is not enough to prevent the dominance of foreign programmes. Alongside such a policy there should also be active encouragement of local programme producers to produce programmes for children. Market forces by themselves may not generate sufficient local television programmes for children.

Table 4. Telecast of Children's Programmes in Malaysia (RTM1, RTM2, TV3) (1994)


Table 5. Availability of Children's Programmes in 7 Asian Countries by Programme Type Duration (minutes) for One Year


How widespread in Asia are the characteristics of children's programmes we have described for India and Malaysia? Table 5 and table 6 give a summary of comparable statistics for seven Asian countries. The statistics show a predominance of animation programmes followed by drama. Furthermore nearly 47 per cent of all programmes for children are of foreign origin. The data also show paucity of informational, cultural and preschool programmes among the total fare offered to children.

Table 6. Telecast of Children's Programmes in seven Asian Countries 1994/1995


While these characteristics are common to many Asian countries there are also significant differences in policies regarding children's television in Asia, Some of these are described below.

In China [5] there are two kinds of programmes relating to children. One is programmes aimed directly at children. Such programmes include entertainment, education and news. The other type is programmes aimed at educating adults regarding their duties towards children. How familiar are the TV producers of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC)? Leading group of China Central Television (CCTV) in Beijing and particularly CCTV Youth and Children's Department were aware of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Contents of the Convention are consciously incorporated into TV programmes. Examples of such television programmes are those made for the International Children's Day of Broadcasting (December), the International Children's Day (June), and programmes telecast on winter and summer vacations. Big Wind Mill and Tell It Like It Is are two television programmes that incorporated the principles of UN CRC. Implementation of the UN CRC provisions is often considered in combination with that of the National Programme of Action for Child Development in China.

In India [6] the total number of children's programmes in all channels is less than one per cent. Most of these programmes are designed for upper class urban children. However these are not popular among this audience because of lack of entertainment. Not a single of the programmes recalled by the sample of children interviewed was made in India. When respondents from DDI were asked about programme priorities none of them mentioned children's programmes. None of the networks has any specific policies to create awareness or to create programmes on children's rights. An obvious gap in children's television programming in India is the virtual absence of programmes specifically made for early teens.

In Indonesia [7] tight competition for advertising revenue has resulted in little attention being paid to children's programmes because such programmes are perceived as being less attractive to advertisers. The emergence of private television and lack of proper policies and guidelines about programming content has resulted in an uncontrolled and confused situation. In this situation it has become difficult to develop children's television. Of 15 programmes most preferred by children, seven were programmes for adults. Station managers had little or no knowledge about UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In Japan [8] NHK has taken a leading role in the production of children's programmes. Its productions are enjoyable and has educational value. Children's programmes are broadcast in three out of four NHK channels. A project called YUMEDIA uses a travelling caravan to bring hands on broadcast experience to grade school children. In contrast to NHK, which is a public broadcast organization, the commercial stations in Japan do not have separate children's programmes. Children's programmes are included in programmes for family viewing. In commercial TV stations animation and metamorphosis drama are the main kinds of children's programmes. All children's programmes top rated by Japanese children are produced in Japan. Producers in NHK are well aware of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Publicity for children's rights are given through information and educational programmes.

In Malaysia [9] the government broadcasting station, RTM, is making a serious effort to produce children's television programmes. The commercial stations, TV3 and Metrovision, have nor shown similar enthusiasm. This neglect is due to the perception that children's programmes do not have much appeal to the advertisers. RTM producers are quite aware of the UN Convention on Children's Rights. They have gained this knowledge through international conferences in which they have participated. Private broadcasters on the other hand are unaware or vaguely aware of UN CRC.

In Nepal [10] severe financial constraints have hampered the production of children's television programmes. Children's programmes hold low priority due to the perceived lack of advertising/ market support. This is made worse by lack of adequate training in the production of children's programmes and lack of creativity. Nepalese television producers have heard of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child but are not familiar with its detailed provisions.

In Philippines [11] there has been an increased interest in children's television programmes in recent years. However this still remains a neglected area. Lack of profit in children's programmes is the main reason for its neglect. Furthermore many children's issues have become politicized. Sometimes the way television handle these issues are not in the best interests of the children. For instance, child victims of sex and violence are made to relate gruesome details for the benefit of TV cameras. Several bills have been filed in the Philippines Congress to improve television programming for children. These include the introduction of a rating system and regulating television advertising.

In Singapore [12] there has been some revival of children's television programmes after corporatization of television in 1994. Locally produced children's TV programmes target a wide age range: from 4 to 12 years. Children within this age range have a wide variation of cognitive abilities. Television programmes targeting such a wide age range are generally ineffective in appealing to such a group. Television stations also broadcast a large number of programmes for pre-schoolers. Older children's needs are not sufficiently met. Consequently, older children consume a large proportion of adult programmes. No special training has been provided for children's programme producers. The programmes reflect Singapore's political and cultural climate. Stress is on maintaining racial and religious harmony and political stability. The priority given to children's programmes is low. This is because of the belief among managers that the audience ratings of these programmes do not justify high expenditure. Only few producers were aware of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In Vietnam [13] every year the government sets targets for producing children's programmes. These programmes are directed at children or are aimed to educate adults regarding the needs of the children. Financial limitations are a major factor which inhibits production of children's television programmes. There are very few programmes catering to children over ten years of age. Producers are aware of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and related state policies.

Overall children's programmes produced in many Asian countries do not appeal to the children for whom they are meant. Consequently only a small percentage of what is made available are actually watched by children. According to Mira Aghi (1996), an Indian media researcher, around 75 per cent of her sample of children mentioned programmes made for adults as the ones they liked. Crime, thrillers, comedies and family serials form the core of the programmes liked by her respondents. The Sri Lankan researcher Dharmadasa (1994) observes that locally produced children's programmes are often not up to the level with regard to quality and content that most children demand. According to a survey carried out by Survey Research Malaysia (1994), of 100 most viewed programmes in Malaysian television by children between the ages 6 and 14, only three are children's programmes. These are all foreign productions. Their rank is given in brackets: Cyber Cop (39th place), Uetraman Trio (63rd place), Alamria Disney (80th place).

Of the countries surveyed three have followed policies conducive to the development of television programmes for children. These are China, Vietnam and Japan. In China and Vietnam support received from the government was crucial. In Japan public broadcasting policy of NHK was behind the success of children's television. However in many other countries children's television programmes had to compete in the marketplace. In this it could not succeed. The advertisers and marketers saw little profit to be made from children's television. The AMIC survey shows clearly the need to develop children's television in many countries in Asia. It also shows that market forces will not do this. A concerted effort by concerned groups is needed to mobilize support for children's television in Asia. Resources of government, civil society, educational institutions and commercial organizations need to be mobilized. At the Asian Summit of Child Rights and the Media [14] AMIC proposed the creation of an Asian Children's Communication Fund for the production and marketing of quality children's programme for television, radio and press. We believe that this is a practical way of addressing issues concerning children and media in Asia.



1. March Hare at the Mad Tea Party in Alice in Wonderland.

2. Children have inalienable rights. This fact was endorsed by the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the UN General Assembly in 1989. 191 governments are now State Parties to this international treaty including all nations in Asia-Pacific.

3. The countries are China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam. The study was partially funded by UNICEF. In addition to these countries data for Sri Lanka and Thailand are also included in this paper.

4. Philippines does have two government supported stations.

5. Prof. Huang Chang Zhu, Deputy Director & Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Documentation & Information of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, was the lead researcher for the study in China.

6. Ms. Lalita Eashwer of Kanoi Marketing Services, Madras, was the lead researcher for the study in India.

7. Mr. Bob Gantarto, Researcher at Indonesian Child Welfare Foundation in Jakarta, was the lead researcher for the study in Indonesia

8. Ms. Sachiko Kodaira, Senior Researcher at NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute, Tokyo, was the lead researcher for the study in Japan.

9. Prof. R. Karthigesu and Dr. Shanti Balraj of the School of Communication, University Sains Malaysia in Penang, were joint lead researchers for the study in Malaysia.

10. Ms. Josefina Dhungana of DECORE Consultancy Group in Katmandu was the lead researcher for the study in Nepal.

11. Dr. Theresa H. Stuart, Social Mobilization Officer in UNICEF, Manila, was the lead researcher for the study in the Philippines.

12. Ms. Lin Ai Leen of the School of Communication Studies at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, was the lead researcher for the study in Singapore

13 Prof. Chung A, Director, Centre for Sociology at Ho Chi Minh National Political Academy was the lead researcher for the study in Vietnam.

14. The Summit was held in Manila, Philippines, during 2-5 July 1996. It was the first Children's Summit organized for the print, broadcasting, film and advertising media. It was supported by Asian Broadcasting Union (ABU), Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC), Philippines Children's Television Foundation (PCWF), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Government of the Philippines.


Aghi, Mira (1996) Cited in Television and Children: What Kids Are Viewing in Asia. Presentation by Anura Goonasekera at International Forum of Researchers: Young People and Media Tomorrow. GRREM, Paris 1997.

Dharmadasa, P.(1994) Sri Lanka Research Data on Children and Television compiled by P. Dharmadasa. Singapore, AMIC holdings.

Goonasekera, Anura & Duncan Holaday (1993) Asian Communication Handbook. Singapore, AMIC.

Karthigesu, R. (I 994) Children and Tekvision. Malaysian Interim Report. Singapore, AMIC.
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Re: Children and Media Violence, by Ulla Carlsson

Postby admin » Fri Sep 06, 2013 11:48 pm

Media Influence and Chinese Urban Children's Ethics Development [1]


In the earlier 1980s, media such as television, tape recorder, video tape recorder, video game machine, etc., began to be popularized throughout mainland China. In 1980, mainland China had 9,020,000 colour TV sets, and by 1990 it had increased 1,956% and reached 185,460,000 sets with an average of 79.4 people to one set. Meanwhile the public prints also greatly increased. From 1976 to 1982, the prints for children and juveniles rose from 880 kinds to 3,690 kinds and the impression from 268,000,000 copies to 1,034,000,000 copies. In 1989, 3,861 kinds of books for children and juveniles with an impression of 1,719,300,000 copies and 76 kinds of magazines with an impression of 145,860,000 copies were published. In 1990, 42 kinds of newspapers with a circulation of 545,870,000 copies were printed. Generally speaking, the main users of these media were in urban areas.

China has a population of 1.2 billion and 320 million families, 20.72% of which, about 66 million, are only child families. The investigation on media use in the only child families (1996) shows that 98.9% of the only child families have televisions, 92.3% have radios, 72.8% have telephones, 62.1 % have video tape recorders, 60.3% have video game machines, 35.9% have learning automations, and 20.6% have computers. Each family subscribes to 3.8 newspapers and magazines on average, 2.58 of which are for the only child.

It is obvious that using and enjoying media has become an important part in children's lives because of the popularity of media and thus their lives have been greatly influenced by media. Therefore, the relationship between the use of media and the ethics development of children has become a new question for study. So the purpose of our research is to: (1) describe and analyze the conditions of the use of media among Chinese urban children; (2) describe and analyze the conditions of the ethics development of Chinese urban children; (3) prove and explain the correlation between the use of media and ethics development; (4) compare the effects of the factors that influence ethics development when children use the media; (5) put forward suggestions how we could utilize media to improve ethics education.


Children's use of media means the actions that children choose so as to use media to meet their needs under a certain social influence.

As for ethics, it has many different definitions given by different countries and academic fields. But according to Piaget, "each ethics has a system which has many rules in it, and the nature of ethics is that one learns to obey these rules". Thus what we mainly study is the contents and the standards of the ethics in the current society and how well children learn and obey these rules.

According to the children's ethics education outline issued by China State Education Commission in 1993 and referring to the contents and the standards of ethics as defined by the earlier researchers, we define the contents and the standards of the ethics learned by children as those which cover the main aspects of their individual and social lives. Ethics can be roughly divided into two kinds: (1) individual ethics -- individual ethics mainly refers to the social ethical standards that children learn and obey in order to satisfy their needs for self-development. It includes: in the aspect of material life -- eat food that benefits health, dress plainly and neatly, love sports, study hard, fulfill tasks independently, love labor, practice thrift; in the aspect of social life - strong desire for knowledge and information, love art. (2) social ethics -- social ethics mainly refers to the moral standards, the nature and the codes of conduct that a child should follow when he coordinates the relationships between himself and another person, a collective or the society. It includes: honesty, equality, independence, being ready to help others, care for collective, patriotism. The difference in children's ethics level lies in: (1) whether or not they obey all the ethics codes; (2) to what extent they can obey the rules.

In modern society, the mass media have been regarded as one of the most important factors affecting children's socialization, other important factors being family, school and same age groups. However, the educational and recreational contents in media have high heterogeneity. The media spread educational information close to social reality, which corresponds to the ethic concepts and behaviors the modern society demands. On the contrary, the recreational contents spread information about the imaginary world that is far from the actual world, so they maintain a distance from the ethical concepts and behaviors modern society demands.

Considering the above analysis, our hypotheses are: There is a correlation between the media and the moral concept and the behavior of children. The more contact children have with media that contains knowledge, the better their moral concept and behavior will meet the needs of modern society.


Our research is carried out mainly by questionnaire.

According to China Urban Society Economic Almanac (1992), China has 469 cities, in which there are 13,800,000 primary pupils and 6,311,500 junior middle school students. 187 out of the 469 cities are medium or above with a total population of 178,070,000 that accounts for 15.6% of the total population in China and 53% of the total population in urban areas. We took 3,360 samples from grade 3 of primary school to grade 3 of junior middle school from 112 schools in 16 cities out of the 187 medium or above cities, and 3,337 valid questionnaires were taken back. The cities are Shanghai, Huizhou in Guandong province, Baoji in Shaanxi province, Wuhan in Hubei province, Changchun in Jilin province, Wenzhou in Zhejiang province, Jinchang in Gansu province, Huaiyin in Jiangsu province, Taiyuan in Shanxi province, Yingkou in Liaonin province, Cangzhou in Hebei province, Juijiang in Jiangxi province, Puyang in Henan province, Neijiang in Sichuan province, Rizhao in Shandong province, Sanya in Hainan province, and so on.

The composition of the sample is as follows: Boys comprise 47.2% of the total, while girls comprise 52.8%. 1% are 8 years old or below, 9.2% are 9 years old, 13.9% are 10 years old, 15.7% are 11 years old, 15.2% are 12 years old, 11.1% are 13 years old, 13.4% are 14 years old, 12.7% are 15 years old and 7.2 % are 16 years old or above.

Besides questionnaires, we organized 32 seminars in the 16 cities attended by 300 teachers and parents to get their ideas and suggestions on media influence and children's ethics development. In addition, comparative studies on average children, model children and exceptionally gifted children were conducted. The utilization of the various study methods assured the objectivity, accuracy and the scientific quality of the results.

Principal results and analysis

Firstly, Chinese urban children are exposed to many kinds of mass media. Although most children watch TV, it does not lead to a lessening interest in print. Children have limited reading ability, however over 50% of Chinese urban children's contact with print (2,407) is higher than with electronic media (2,052). This is of great importance to children's all-round development, especially the formulation of modern concept, and intelligence development. When children are about 10 years old, they are able to select different media to meet their needs. They will choose electronic media such as television, tape recorder, video tape recorder or video game machine when they need recreation or stimulation; they will choose television, broadcast or newspaper when they want to get news; they will choose print such as books, magazines or newspaper when they want to realize the present world and understand themselves; they will choose video game machine, tape recorder, television and telephone when they want to lessen life pressures, loneliness and annoyance. More than half of the children like pop music, which means children are likely to become socially involved when they are pupils. If the time a child has contact with electronic media exceeds two hours a day, it is possible that the child's social intercourse and study, even his mental health, will be affected. Generally speaking, the frequency, duration and kinds of media that Chinese children have contact with are reasonable. The abnormal phenomenon of children lost in some electronic media has not spread out in China. One important reason is that the economy in China developed so rapidly that various media developed almost at the same time; thus it is possible for children to select media to satisfy their own needs. Besides, the proper care of schools and families play an important role.

Secondly, Chinese urban children have the principal nature of ethics and behavior, however it is not satisfactory. In the aspect of patriotism, they got the highest average mark that was 4.56 points (total 5 points); as for the three other aspects -- point of view on money, confidence and attitudes towards study -- their marks are above the average. In the aspects of care for collective and others, good habits and customs, aspiring after knowledge and arts, physical training and independence, they obtained a mark lower than average, and the lowest mark was 3.27 points in independence, which could not meet the demands of a modern society.

According to research on the personality development of Chinese urban only children, we find that the only child has a greater desire for affinity and persistence and that 70% of the only children can accept themselves. But most of the only children do not have a strong desire for achievement although they are in better living conditions and their parents place high hopes in them. Some only children are relatively aggressive, which has become a main shortcoming in their personality.

Thirdly, there exists a correlation between children's contact with media and their ethics points of view and behavior:

1. There exists a notable positive correlation between children's moral marks and the frequency and duration of children's contact with broadcast and print, such as newspapers, magazines, books, and so on. That is, the more frequently and longer children listen to broadcast and read newspapers, magazines and books, the higher moral marks they gain; the higher moral marks they gain, the more frequently and longer they have contact with these four kinds of media. On the contrary, there exists a negative correlation between children's moral marks and the frequency and duration of children's contact with television, video tape recorders and video game machine. That is, the more frequent and longer children's contact with television, video tape recorder and video game machine, the lower moral marks they gain; the lower moral marks they gain, the more frequent and longer their contact with these three kinds of media.

A study on Chinese children's ideological, ethical and cultural condition (including rural areas) in 1996 shows that as high as 75.4% of the primary pupils regard books as the most helpful to their growth (see Table 1).

As for middle school students, what they think is a little different from the primary school pupils (see Table 1). What is worth paying attention to is that 28% of the middle school students think that the computer is the most helpful, which ranks the sixth in the list. That is, at least 28% of the middle school students are computer users, and have entered the information society.

Table 1. Media that Is Most Helpful


When we ask a primary school pupil or a middle school student "Which media in the list do you think has the worst effect on you?", 87.2% primary school pupils will answer that it is video game machine (see Table 2).

The middle school students' ideas are a little different from the primary school pupils (see Table 2).

Table 2. Media that Has the Worst Effect


But we cannot simply conclude that electronic media is harmful to children. In fact, television, video tape recorder and video game machine are neutral; therefore their effects depend on the users -- who use them, how they use them, for what purpose they use them and how they understand them, and so on. Media is only one of the various factors that affect children's ethics development.

Video game machine will exercise bad influence over a child when his/her family relations become strained, or when his/her own life is not successful or when he/she has a strong desire for violence.

2. As for the contact with print and broadcast, there is a notable difference between the high frequency group and the lower frequency group in their preference for the contents of the media: children in the high frequency group obviously prefer the educational contents on television, broadcast, newspaper and books; while the lower frequency group obviously prefers the recreational and stimulating programs and popular literature in books. There exists a notable positive correlation between the knowledgeable contents in different media and children's moral marks. Thus, our hypotheses are proved.

3. There exists a notable positive correlation between children's moral marks and the contents of children's literature in television, broadcast, newspaper, magazine and books. With the development of China's commodity economy, the main tendency of children's literature is healthy and helpful and good for children's development. And children think it is most helpful. Children's literature refers to animated cartoon TV plays, TV play serials for children, theatrical performances for children, fairy tales, children's stories, reportage, fables, essays in magazines and newspapers, and songs for children. We can conclude that children who gain high moral marks like children's literature, and there forms a benign cycle between the contents of children's literature and children's ethics development.

4. There exists a negative correlation between children's moral marks and the recreational and stimulating contents in television programs. The two possible reasons for this negative relationship are: (1) the ethical point of view and behavior standards that exist in the media are contrary to those that the children are asked to learn and follow; (2) when the ethical point of view and behavior standards that exists in media agree with those the children are asked to learn and follow, the negative relationship is probably caused by children's misunderstanding of the programs for adults because they lack the necessary and complete background knowledge; therefore they might misunderstand or distort the contents of the programs. Sometimes the two reasons take effect at the same time.


The above research is just the first step and worth continuing. Your support and cooperation are welcome.

Based on our present results, we make the following suggestions:

1. Encourage children to come into contact with print and advocate and organize their listening to broadcasts for children. For this purpose, we should make well-known to parents and teachers the meaning of print and broadcast, and pass on all the effective experience.

2. Strengthen, promote and spread educational contents and children's literature. Guide children to better contact with the educational contents and children's literature in such media as television, broadcast, newspaper, magazine, etc.

(1) Encourage and advocate writers to produce high quality, educational and literary works which reflect children's lives so as to attract them to reading.

(2) Make great efforts to develop television art for children. Because of the lack of the literary and educational TV programs that are appropriate for them, children have been in contact with programs for adults, such as gong-fu films, amorous films, and so on. If this continues, it may probably cause misunderstanding and misbehavior because of their lack of knowledge and experience. According to a report in the 4th issue of Juvenile Study by China Youth and Juvenile Research Center, titled Tragedy from Teenage-Research on the Causes of 115 Capital Prisoners, all the 115 capital prisoners committed crimes during their teenage years. 30.5% of them had been juvenile offenders and 61.5% of them had criminal records by their teenage years. 103 of the 115 were affected by indecent video tapes, which accounted for 90%. A rapist raped a young girl when he saw two lovers flirting on TV. Thus, it is of great importance to give energetic support to the development of healthy television art for children.

3. Strengthen the guidance of children's use of television, video tape recorder and video game machine. Spread the related knowledge to parents and teachers. Improve children's ability to analyze and evaluate electronic media. Ask children to lessen the frequency of using electronic, audio and video media, for example, three times a week and 1.5 hours each time. Encourage children to learn to exist, care for others and develop themselves in order to grow up as physically and mentally healthy modern people.



1. This paper was presented at the International Forum Researchers Youth and Media -- Tomorrow, April 21-25, 1997, in Paris, France, organised by GRREM (Group de recherche sur la relation enfants/medias).


China Youth and Juvenile Research Center has made a series of investigations since 1992, such as Media Influence and Chinese Urban Children's Ethics Development (1992), The Childhood and Education of the Outstanding Youth (1995), The Ethic and Cultural Condition of Chinese Children and Juveniles (1996), The Personality Development and the Education of the Chinese, Urban Only Child (1996).
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Re: Children and Media Violence, by Ulla Carlsson

Postby admin » Fri Sep 06, 2013 11:59 pm

Children and Electronic Media: An Australian Perspective


Radio, free-to-air television, pay television, prerecorded videos, computer/video games, on-line services -- the electronic media choices available to children in Australia in the second half of the 1990s are extensive. The following statistics provide an indication of the choices available and help set the scene for children's use of the media.

• Nearly all Australian households (approximately 99%) have at least one television set. Of these television households, 43% have one set, 40% have two and 17% have three or more.
• A majority of television households (85%) also have one or more video cassette recorders (VCRs).
• One in five (22%) have a video game connected to a television set. [1]
• Penetration of pay TV services and the Internet are lower but increasing. Figures for February 1997 put penetration of both at around 6% of television households. [2] More recent estimates put pay TV penetration at more than 10% of households. [3]

Research conducted in 1995 indicates that penetration of various media in households with children is higher than in households generally. The Australian Broadcasting Authority's (ABA's) monograph Families and Electronic Entertainment cited Reark Research figures on media ownership rates for all households compared to households with children (6 to 11 years) and households with teenagers (12 to 17 years). Table 1 reproduces the figures and indicates higher rates of VCR ownership and Internet access in households with children and teenagers.

The ABA's research for the Families and Electronic Entertainment monograph included an inventory of electronic entertainment equipment in homes with children and teenagers aged between 8 and 17 years. Table 2 includes a selection of results from the inventory.

Table 1. Ownership of Media in Australian Households


Source: Reark Research: Information Technology and Communications Monitor, June 1995.

It is interesting to note that in mid 1995 when these data were collected, 58% of households with children and teenagers had a TV-linked games machine. This compares with the 1996 ACNieisen figure of 22% of all households with a video game connected to the television set. It is also worth noting that pay TV equipment was not included in the inventory. This was due to the relatively late commencement of pay TV services in Australia. When the Families and Electronic Entertainment research was being devised in late 1994, pay TV services had not yet commenced. [4]

Table 2. Household (with Children and Teenagers 8 to 17 Years of Age) Ownership of Electronic Entertainment Equipment. Mid-1995


Time spent using electronic media

While the majority of Australian children and teenagers have a variety of electronic media options available to them in the home, it is still free-to-air television which dominates their leisure time. The Families and Electronic Entertainment research included a three day time-use diary for children and teenagers to complete in relation to their leisure time, i.e. excluding time spent at school, travelling, sleeping, personal care and doing household chores.

Diary results showed that an average of 5 hours and 40 minutes a day was spent on leisure activities by the 500 children and teenagers who completed and returned diaries. This comprised:

• 3 hours and 10 minutes on electronic entertainment activities, and
• 2 hours and 30 minutes on non-electronic entertainment leisure activities.

On top of this, an average of 41 minutes a day was spent doing school homework.

Analysis of time spent on leisure and homework activities indicated that television was the most time-consuming activity with an average of 33% of available time. This was followed by:

• going to places (11% of time spent on leisure and homework activities),
• doing homework (11%),
• general play (10%),
• playing sports (8%),
• listening to music on radio, CD or cassette (7%),
• playing computer/video games (5%), and
• hanging around (5%).

The relative amounts of time spent on different activities varied depending on the age and gender of the child or teenager. The Families and Electronic Entertainment monograph describes these variations:

The amount of time spent listening to music, watching television, hanging around and doing homework increased with the age of the child. Listening to music on cassette, CD or radio tended to be highest among 12 to 17 year olds. Compared to older children and teenagers, younger children spent more time drawing or writing letters and general play.

Compared to girls, boys spent significantly more time watching television, playing sport and playing video games over the survey period. Girls spent more time reading, listening to tapes and CDs and drawing or writing letters than boys ... (pp. 22-23)

Even with these age and gender variations, television viewing remained the single most time-consuming activity amongst all groups of children and teenagers. ACNieisen figures for television viewing by children and teenagers indicate that the average amount of time spent watching per day has remained relatively stable over the last six years (see Table 3).

Table 3. Average Daily Television Viewing - 1991 to 1996


Given the dominance of television viewing in the lives of children and teenagers in Australia, it is useful to spend some time considering the channels and content available to them and the programs they actually watch.

Television services in Australia

A 1996 survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that there were approximately 12.2 million television sets in Australia or 1.9 sets per television household. [5] A large majority of television households have access to three commercial free-to-air television services as well as the Government-funded national broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC).

In the capital cities, larger metropolitan centres and many regional areas, households also have access to the other Government-funded service, the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS). The principal function of the SBS is to provide multilingual and multicultural radio and television services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians, and, in doing so, reflect Australia's multicultural society.

Community television services also operate in some markets.

The level of Australian content on the free-to-air commercial services is governed by a standard administered by the ABA. The Australian Content Standard requires that at least 50% of all programming broadcast between 6 a.m. and midnight be Australian. This requirement will increase to 55% from the beginning of 1998.

The ABA also administers the Children's Television Standard (CTS) which has its objective:

Children should have access to a variety of quality television programs made specifically for them, including Australia drama and non-drama programs.

Commercial television services are required by the CTS to broadcast at least 390 hours of children's programs per year. For the purposes of the standard, children's programs are those classified either C or P by the ABA. C programs are aimed at primary school children and P programs at preschool children. The 390 hours per year of children's programs are made up of at least 130 hours of P programs and at least 260 hours of C programs.

To be classified as either C or P by the ABA, the program must meet a number of criteria. These are:

1. made specifically for children or groups of children within the preschool or primary school age range;

2. entertaining;

3. well produced using sufficient resources to ensure a high standard of script, cast, direction, editing, shooting, sound and other production elements;

4. enhances a child's understanding and experience; and

5. appropriate for Australian children.

In addition to C and P programs, there are many other programs on commercial television which target a child audience. These are classified either G (General) or PG (Parental Guidance Recommended) by the broadcasters under the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice.

The ABC is not subject to the Australian Content Standard and the CTS. However, in line with its charter, a large proportion of its programming is Australian and its children's programming is extensive.

Pay TV services also carry children's programming. There are three drama pay TV channels which provide programming specifically for children: Nickelodeon Australia, The Fox Kids Network and The Disney Channel Australia. Each stresses the importance of localising their channels to the needs of Australian audiences and have set up local offices and facilities to encourage this. [6]

What children watch

ABA research conducted in 1995 and published in the monograph Kids Talk TV: 'super wickid' or 'dum' asked children 5 to 12 years of age what they liked and didn't like to watch on television. Comedy, drama, action adventure and variety were favourite program types. Favourite programs ranged from Bananas in Pyjamas and A*mazing (both Australian) for the youngest age group (primary school grades one and two), to The Simpsons (USA) and soaps such as Neighbours (Australian) which were popular with the oldest of the groups (grades five and six).

The children who participated in the research liked watching characters who were their own age or a bit older, or teenagers and young adults who seemed to be doing more interesting things. Acting ability and attitude were considered more important than the presence of good looking characters.

They defined boring programs as those without humour, action and adventure, those they had outgrown, news programs, programs with 'grown up' humour that children did not understand, and some documentaries. A Sydney girl in grade five talked about 'grown up' humour versus humour children could appreciate:

Some of it is at our level and humour we can understand -- some of the adult shows they have this grown up humour we can't understand (Melrose Place) but The Nanny ... it's out of the ordinary. Would you really have a nanny like for these three sensible kids with a mini skirt and all these weird clothes? (pp. 51)

ACNieisen's television ratings data provide a quantitative measure of what children like to watch. Table 4 presents the top 30 programs for children 5 to 12 years of age in Sydney in August 1996. The 1996 Olympics took place during this period and broadcasts of the Olympics dominate the list with nine of the top 30 places.

Other programs represent a mixture of Australian and overseas (predominantly the USA) productions. There are a wide variety of program types including situation comedies (e.g. The Nanny and 3rd Rock from the Sun), 'reality' amateur video programs (e.g. Australia's Funniest Home Video Show), action adventure programs (e.g. Hercules: Legendary Journeys) and a game show featuring physical competition between competitors (Gladiators). While many of the top rating programs were not specifically aimed at children, some were, e.g. The Genie From Down Under and Saturday Disney.

Table 4. Top 30 Programs for Children 5 to 12 years - Sydney, August 1996


Parental concern

Given the amount of time children in Australia spend watching television and using other forms of electronic entertainment equipment, the question arises as to what level of concern parents have about their children's electronic media usage. It is a question explored in the ABA's Families and Electronic Entertainment research.

Initially it was explored in the context of concerns about a range of social issues. Parents were asked which three issues were of greatest concern in relation to their child's well-being. The issue mentioned by the largest proportion of the sample was education (70% of parents mentioned it as one of their top three concerns). This was followed by:

• personal safety/security (68%);
• quality of life (53%);
• drugs (29%);
• employment (23%);
• electronic entertainment (18%); and
• natural environment (16%).

Within the electronic entertainment category, television was the issue of most concern, followed by computer/video games, video game arcades and videos. This ordering was reflected in the degree of concern expressed by parents when subsequently asked about the amount of time their children spent with different electronic media. Almost one in three parents (32%) indicated they had some level of concern about the amount of time spent by their child using television, 15% had some concern about the amount of time spent using computer/video games, while 9% had some concern about use of videos.

These findings indicate that while some parents have concerns about their children's use of electronic media, for most parents it is not a major issue. When asked about the balance their child had achieved between use of electronic media and other activities, 75% thought that their child had achieved a reasonable balance, while 15% indicated they wished their child was more involved in other activities and interests. The rest indicated that they wouldn't be bothered if their child was more involved in electronic entertainment.

The future

Australian children appear likely to have an increasing range of electronic media choices available to them. The number of households connected to the Internet continues to grow as does Internet access through educational institutions. ACNieisen data collected between August 1996 and January 1997 indicate that 44% of males and 35% of females in the 14 to 17 year age group had ever accessed the Internet, while 28% and 21% respectively had accessed in the previous month. [7]

The introduction of digital radio and digital television services, while some years away, also has the potential to increase the range of electronic media services available. With increased choice, there may be some erosion of the current dominance of Australian children's leisure time by free-to-air television. Patterns of media usage may change with increased use of interactive media and media catering more to specific interest groups rather than mass audiences. In the near future, however, free-to-air television is likely to remain a major consumer of Australian children's leisure time.



1. Figures for televisions, VCRs and video games ate national averages for 1996 and are sourced from ACNieisen's publication TV Trends 1997. ACNieisen (now known as ACNielsen McNair) is the organisation in Australia which compiles the television ratings data.

2. Cited in article 'Pay Household Profiles Emerging as Ads Get Closer' in Pay TV News, February 21 to March 7, 1997, and sourced to ACNieisen.

3 Estimate reported in article 'Things not going better with pay TV' in The Mercury newspaper of 6 September 1997.

4. Pay TV services commenced in Australia in 1995.

5. Australian Bureau of Statistics' Population Survey Monitor September 1996 cited in AFC News, March/April 1997.

6. For further details see 'Pay TV for Australian Children, by Belinda Mullen of the ABA's Children's Television Section in the June 1997 Newsletter (Issue No.4) of the International Research Forum on Children and Media.

7. Source: ACNieisen's publication TV Trends 1997.


Cupitt, M. & Stockbridge, S. (1996), Families and Electronic Entertainment, Monograph 6, Australian Broadcasting Authority. Sydney.

Sheldon, S., Loncar. M. & Ramsay, G. (1996), Kids Talk TV: 'Super Wickid' or 'Dum: Monograph 7. Australian Broadcasting Authority, Sydney.
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Re: Children and Media Violence, by Ulla Carlsson

Postby admin » Sat Sep 07, 2013 12:06 am

An Overview of Children's Broadcasting in South Africa


In South Africa, where children have been, and in some cases still are, witnesses to violence and a general lack of self worth, are without hope and pride, broadcasting becomes a very important medium for overcoming fears and building optimism. [1]

This article seeks to introduce the reader to the broadcasting landscape in South Africa, focusing on children's broadcasting. It will also highlight the developments within the country in advocating for quality children's programming.


On June 16 1995, the South African Government of National Unity ratified the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). In so doing, it committed South Africa to implementing the principle of a "first call for children" whereby the needs of children are considered paramount throughout the Government's programmes, services and development strategies. [2] This principle was adopted by the Reconstruction and Development Programme and is the basis of South Africa's commitment to children. [3]

It is estimated that more than 35% of the total South African population (according to the last Census report) is below the age of 14 years. [4] Although South Africa has only recently ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, it succeeded prior to the 1994 election, in having children in the country draft their own Children's Rights Charter in June 1992. This Charter referred to rights of the child in keeping with the UN CRC.

As an emerging democracy there is a need for more in-depth attention and focus to be placed on children and the media -- in particular children and the electronic media. Research in the field of media and its effects on children, and in general the relationship between children and the media, is limited. This sector of the population is under-researched; however a Youth Commission [5] has been set up to address the needs and concerns of South Africa's young population.

A brief history of the South African broadcasting environment

Until 1993 broadcasting was predominantly the domain of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). Established in 1936, as a radio service, the SABC developed regional services in the sixties and later ethnic language services in line with apartheid policy. Public television was finally introduced in 1976 after intensive parliamentary debate as the nationalist apartheid regime had been holding up the development of television since the early fifties. In 1985 the first independent television channel, Electronic Media Network (M-NET), was launched as a subscription service.

As the transition from apartheid to democracy began to unfold, and South Africa was to have its first democratic election, increasing attention was placed on the electronic media. For years it had been the mouthpiece of government and controlled by the state. Coalitions of anti-apartheid organisations were campaigning vehemently for open democratic broadcasting. As a result of these campaigns, questions of press freedom were placed on the agenda of the multi-party negotiations towards a democratic election. The Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) was thus brought into being in 1994, by the then Transitional Executive Council. The main objective of the IBA at the time was to ensure a free, fair and open election and to create a transparent broadcasting environment.

The IBA Act was enacted on the 27 October 1993, and was the first Act of Parliament in the pre-election period which made provision for the public nomination of Councillors to head the IBA, and for a public hearings process of selection. The primary object of the Act is to provide for the regulation of broadcasting activities in the Republic in the public interest and to open the airwaves so as to

promote the provision of a diverse range of sound and television broadcasting services on a national, regional and local level, when viewed collectively cater for all languages and cultural groups and provide entertainment, education and information." (Section 2 (a) IBA Act)

Although the IBA Act is not explicit on programming for children, it does mandate the Authority to regulate in the public interest. Children make up a large part of the public and constitute a sector (or special community) of the broader public. Programming in the public interest and thus programming for children is becoming a priority. This is evidenced in the IBA's Position Paper on Private Television (1997) where it mandates the first private free-to-air television service to broadcast at least 12 hours per week of children's programmes. These programmes in addition to being diverse in genre, must also take into consideration the needs of two age groups: 0-9 year olds and 9-15 year olds.

Broadcasting for children

Children's television in South Africa as a mass medium is in an embryonic stage of its development. Until 1990, there had been no real attempt to develop programmes that where relevant to the vast majority of children and thus have not been reflective of the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-lingual society, nor of the everyday experiences of young people in the country.

I would argue that apartheid has prevented children from developing a sense of belonging and from becoming a holistic sector of the society, able to participate effectively. Indeed. apartheid has arguably brutalised children through its coercive policies especially in townships and rural areas. The propagandistic ambit of watered down projects of the SABC in the past, have been the result of programming policies for children that have been skewed under apartheid. The challenge now for public and private broadcasters alike, is to fulfil the requirements of the IBA Act and to develop programmes that entertain, educate and inform, [7] whilst correcting the exclusive practices of the past.

As stated before, children's responses to, and their consumption of, media remains under-researched in South Africa. The amount of time they spend watching television or listening to the radio is not monitored with any regularity, nor is the specific scheduling of their programmes analysed to determine their programme preferences.

The most relevant research conducted by the South African Advertising Research Foundation (SAARF) into the child audience was completed in August 1997. It was the first time that 12-15 year olds were reported on in such a focused and detailed way.

The SAARF research on 'tomorrow's adults' was the first of its kind to be released in 13 years. Mr Ron Silke, MD of SAARF, argues that "analysers of the report will no doubt spot many marketing and advertising opportunities to target this market'.

Under the apartheid system people were classified according to race, i.e., White, Indian, Coloured (sometimes grouped together, WIC) and Black. The Black group refers to African citizens. Research is still conducted this way.

The study concluded the following:

It is estimated that there is a population of 3.6 million 12-15 year olds (urban, rural, all races).

• 58% (2.1 million) listened to the radio 'yesterday' and 85% (3.1 million) in the 'last seven days'.
• 53% (1.95 million) watched TV 'yesterday' and 67% (2.45 million) in the 'last seven days'.
• 32% (1.18 million) read any magazine 'yesterday'.
• 14% (505,000) read any newspaper 'yesterday' (of whom 5% read any daily English or Afrikaans newspaper, and 12% read any weekly newspaper). [8]
• 12% (442,000) saw a film in a cinema in the 'past 12 weeks'.

Consumption can be grouped as follows:

Table 1. Media Use among 12•15 Year Olds, by Race


South Africa has a very low level of television penetration if compared to western democracies; however, within Africa, South Africa has a substantially high access level. It is estimated that of the 41 million citizens, there are about 8.5 million households of which 5.2 million have television sets. This equates to almost 62% of South African households having access to television. This will no doubt increase as housing, electrification and employment increases. It must be noted that access to television, computers and the Internet is largely concentrated in the White, Indian and Coloured groupings.

Television services


The public broadcaster, SABC, has three channels and delivers the bulk of its children's programming on SABC 1 and SABC 2. These programmes, though categorised separately for children and youth, do overlap substantially. In keeping with the policy of reconstruction and development, a considerable amount of work has gone into educational broadcasting. There is finally a concerted effort on the part of the restructured SABC to fulfil its mandate, to educate and inform children by providing both formal and informal knowledge building programmes.

Boputhutswana television (Bop TV), previously a 'homeland' broadcaster as set up during the apartheid government, is currently being incorporated into the SABC. It also broadcasts some children's programming as well as youth programming.


M-NET, the only private and subscription based television service offers its subscribers a dedicated 3 hours per day of children's programming known as KTV or Kids TV. M-NET can be received in 31 African states via digital satellite services.

According to the TBI Yearbook 1997, [9] the share of adult audiences are as follows:

Table 2. Television Channels' Share of Adult Audience


Radio services

While radio continues to play a major role in reaching a mass audience, and the radio landscape of South Africa has grown rapidly, there is not much dedicated children's service. Of the 75 community radio stations only a hand-full deliver programming specifically for children. The private radio services (currently 16) offer no scheduled children's programmes. The public broadcaster with its 16 radio services has a limited children's focus. According to a survey conducted recently, of the 12 full spectrum stations, there are at least five stations [10] delivering dedicated programming to children. The majority of these programmes are aired weekly (Saturday mornings ranging from 7am to 10am) with one station delivering programming from 3pm to 4pm each weekday. However, as stated before, the public broadcaster is beginning to address the educational needs of all South Africa's children in a more holistic way.

South African programme content

The most popular television programmes according to recent audience ratings are local (i.e., South African) programmes. However, across the three SABC channels and M-NET, the most popular children's programmes are American sitcoms and musical programmes. Although the percentage of local children's programming across all broadcasters has increased in the last two years, children and adults alike argue that these programmes should be more 'relevant' and less foreign. [11]

These audience ratings refer only to television programmes. The popularity and success of radio programmes for children is not well researched or documented.

Local and African advocacy for quality children's programmes

As a result of the First World Summit on Television and Children held in Melbourne, Australia, in 1995, a South African lobby group, known as the Children and Broadcasting Forum (CBF), was formed. This group is represented by a broad cross section of stakeholders and the public, and includes broadcasters, children's rights organisations, NGO's, the regulator, and several government line departments. The CBF seeks to place children's broadcasting issues on the national agenda and challenge broadcasters to address the broadcasting needs of children.

In 1996, the CBF organised a regional (Southern African) summit on children's broadcasting. The summit produced a regional charter, in keeping with the International Children's Television Charter (CTC), which focused on the regions' concerns. It was then agreed that an Africa summit be organised for wider dialogue and exchange so that Africa can develop a policy framework for children's broadcasting to prioritise the needs of Africa's children.

In October 1997, the first Africa Summit on Children's Broadcasting was held in Accra, Ghana, and an Africa Charter on Children's Broadcasting was drafted and accepted (see under the headline International Declarations and Resolutions). The Charter is also written in the spirit of the CTC and is inclusive of radio as the widest broadcast medium in Africa.

In August 1995 the Independent Broadcasting Authority accepted the International Children's Television Charter and also committed to give further consideration to the protection of children. [12]

The CBF is currently campaigning for endorsements from African broadcasters and relevant stakeholders to support the Africa Charter on Children's Broadcasting.

Africa will be represented at the Second World Summit on Children's Television (UK, March 1998), and a dedicated plenary session has been organised for the region.


I would like to thank Mr Ron Silke, MD of The South African Advertising Research Foundation, for his assistance.



1. Independent Broadcasting Authority Triple Inquiry Report, 1995.

2. Stated at the launch of the National Plan of Action (NPA), 1996.

3. RDP -- now disbanded as a ministry, but still has influence in each individual ministry.

4. Census figures are contentious and this figure could be much higher.

5. Government introduced a Youth Commission on June 16 1996 (Youth Day). This is a Statutory Body placed within the Office of the Deputy President.

6. My emphasis.

7. IBA Act -- Section 2.

8. Access to newspapers in the rural areas remains low and there are very few African language newspapers.

9. TBI -- Television Business International, Yearbook 1991, p. 301.

10. At the time this article was drafted, information about the following five stations were An Overview of Children's Broadcasting in South Africa recorded as doing programming for children: Ukhozi FM, Umhlobo Wenene, Lesedi FM, Thobela FM and Radio Locus.

11. Foreign programming refers to all programmes other than South African.

12. IBA Triple Inquiry Report, 1995.


IBA Act 153 of 1993.

IBA Position Paper for the introduction of the first free-to-air private television service in South Africa, May 13, 1997.

Independent Broadcasting Authority Triple Inquiry Report, South Africa, August 1995.

National Institute for Economic Policy (NIEP), Children, poverty and disparity reduction, South Africa, 1995.

NCRC and UNICEF, A National Programme of Action for Children in South Africa. An Outline, June 16, 1994.

Programme schedules of the SABC and M-NET, September 8-14, 1997.

Teenage Amps, SAARF 1997.

Television Business International, Yearbook 1997.
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Re: Children and Media Violence, by Ulla Carlsson

Postby admin » Sat Sep 07, 2013 12:08 am

Children and the Media in Flanders: A Brief Overview


Belgium is probably the most cabled country in the world with 95% of households connected. Moreover, cabling began early: in 1972 almost 10% of households had already been connected, rising to almost half by 1975 and to almost 80% by 1980. The basic package offered to subscribers by the various cable providers normally consists of over 25 channels, and extra pay channels (e.g. for films and sport) are also widely available.

After a long process of decentralization, broadcasting in Belgium was completely devolved to the two main language communities -- French speaking Wallonia and Dutch speaking Flanders -- in 1991. At around this time there was a steady increase in the total number of hours broadcast by Flemish TV, mainly as a result of the arrival of a commercial channel in 1989. Thus, from roughly eleven-and-a-half hours of TV a day (spread across two public service channels) in 1988, the figure rose to over 24 hours a day (spread over three channels) in 1992. During this period the proportion of entertainment programmes also increased: from 67% to 79% on the commercial channel, and from 46% to 57% on the main public broadcast channel. Moreover, in each case, a disproportionate number of these programmes was broadcast during primetime hours (Tanghe & De Bens, 1993).

Between 1990 and 1993 the total output of programmes on Flemish TV rose by an average of almost a fifth on the two public service channels, and by a third on the commercial channel. During the same period fictional output rose by about 90% on the public service channels and by 53% on the commercial channel. As a percentage of total output, fiction rose from 26% to 40% on the main public service channel and from 42% to 48% on the commercial channel (Biltereyst, 1996; cf. Biltereyst, 1992; De Bens, 1991; Tanghe & De Bens, 1993). 64% of this fictional content was of North American origin -- an unusually high figure for Europe at the time -- followed by Australian, British and German material. However these figures conceal variations across channels, with as much as 83% of the fiction on the commercial channel originating from North America. Dutch-language fictional programmes (Flemish and from the Netherlands) are also very popular and tend to share prime-time slots with American programmes (Biltereyst, 1991).

According to recent figures (Blumler & Biltereyst, 1997), the two Flemish public broadcast channels devote a greater part of their total output time to children's programmes than the European average (15.2% compared to 9.5%). However, between 1991 and 1995 the percentage of self-produced children's programmes on these channels fell from 44.7% to 27.7%, the decline being accounted for by a corresponding increase in imported material, above all from the United States. Consequently, Flemish public broadcast TV now lies appreciably below the European average for self-produced children's TV (28% compared to 39%), and well above the European norm for imported American material (44% compared to 25%). Much of the American input is accounted for by Disney, with the result that cartoons make up 61% of Flemish public service children's programmes compared to an overall European average of 40% (Blumler & Biltereyst, 1997).

Children's TV-use

The first available figures of children's TV-use in Flanders (from 1978) indicated that Flemish children aged 4-11 years at that time watched TV for an average of 53 minutes a day, rising to 70 minutes a day in winter (seasonal variations in amount of TV-viewing remain large -- see Roe & Vandebosch, 1996). By the end of 1996 the figure for the 4-11-year-olds had risen to 114 minutes a day and stood at 112 minutes a day for the 12-17-year-old age group (BRTN, 1996). However, recently, there have been indications that children may now be watching less TV than formally. A comparison between average daily viewing time in December 1995 and December 1996 indicated a drop of 28 minutes a day for 4-11-year-olds and of 16 minutes a day for 12-17-year-olds (BRTN, 1996). The reasons for this drop are uncertain, but recent studies (e.g. Roe & Muijs, 1995; 1997) indicate that the widespread use of VCR's (Video Cassette Recorders) and computer games may be having a displacement effect on television use.

Young children (under 12) have traditionally reported a preference for public service TV. However, in recent years two new commercial channels (bringing the total to three commercial channels) have begun transmission and a recent study of 10-year-olds (Roe & Muijs, 1997) suggests that the majority now prefer commercial television. The results showed one of the new commercial channels (VT4) to be the most popular, followed by the original commercial channel (VTM), the other new commercial channel (KA2) in third place, the movie pay-TV channel Filmnet in fourth, and the main public broadcaster (TV1) ranking only fifth. However, despite the popularity of commercial television, advertising appears to be unpopular. In a recent study of Flemish 9-12-year-olds, Tritsmans (1997) found that many Flemish children are very negative to and critical of TV-advertising. Paradoxically, however, most nevertheless admit at least occasionally buying the products featured.

Music television

The music video channel MTV is very popular in Flanders. In a study of 12-18-year-olds Roe & Cammaer (1993) found that less than 2% stated that they knew nothing about MTV, while 73% were able to name at least 5 MTV programmes. A significant proportion were found to be regular MTV viewers: 26% watching on a daily basis, and a further 16% watching at least every other day. Only 10% reported never watching MTV and of these a third were unable to receive the channel.

Nevertheless, much MTV viewing appears to be sporadic. The study indicated that only 38% watch on a planned regular basis, with 75% usually using the remote control to 'zap' in (and out) of MTV more or less randomly to check what is on. Moreover, 40% regularly use MTV merely as background music while engaged in other activities -- mostly when reading, doing homework, eating and doing housework. Females tend to use MTV more as background than do males. There was a tendency for MTV viewing to increase with age, but amount of viewing was not significantly related to gender or to parents' socio-economic status. However, there was a negative correlation with school achievement (cf. Roe, 1983; 1987; 1988; 1989; 1992; 1993; 1995).

The same study indicated that the strongest motive for watching MTV is to hear the music, followed by 'relaxation', 'to relieve boredom', 'for information' and, 'to be able to talk to others about it'. Viewers were very familiar with the products advertised on MTV, with over 50% able to name three regular advertisers and, unlike the younger viewers in Tristman's study, the teenagers in Roe & Cammaers' were not particularly negative with regard to advertising. 59% agreed that there is just about enough advertising on MTV, compared to 37% who thought that there was too much. Moreover, 61% usually stay tuned during commercial breaks, compared to 27% who 'zap' away from the channel, and 12% who leave the set for some reason during advertising spots.

Gender and socio-cultural background

In the most recent major study of Flemish children's media use (10 year olds), Roe & Muijs (1997) found that a mere 0.7% live in households without a TV-set, compared to 49% living in homes with one, 37% with two, and 13% with 3 or more. Moreover 18% have a TV of their own (in their own room). 88% of the children lived in homes with a VCR, 51% with a personal computer and 72% had access to a computer game console.

The mean amount of TV-viewing was just over 15 hours a week. 68% watched TV on every school day and a further 14% watched on 4 days out of 5. The mean amount of time spent viewing at weekends was around 4 and three-quarter hours. In general boys watch significantly more television than do girls. Schoolday TV-viewing is greatest among those having fathers in unskilled and semi-skilled jobs and less well educated mothers, and is lowest among those with fathers in the professions and whose mothers are highly educated. At the weekend, it is the children of service and sales workers, the unemployed and less well educated mothers who watch most and the children of professionals and mothers with a university education who watch least. On schooldays the average time at which viewing stops is ten past eight, with 14% continuing to watch TV after 9 p.m. The children of unskilled fathers and less well educated mothers tend to watch the latest and the children of clerks and university educated women stop viewing the earliest.

The most popular type of programme amongst Flemish 10-year-olds is comedy, followed by films, cartoons, and police/action series. The least popular are advertising, talk shows, information programmes, and science/technology programmes. However, there are strong gender differences in the structure of preferences (for more see Roe & Muijs, 1997; cf. Muijs, 1997). In terms of programmes actually watched, the most viewed categories are cartoons, followed by films and comedy.

13% used a VCR on 5 days a week or more. The mean amount of video viewing per day was 1 hour and 36 minutes. As with TV, boys use the VCR more than do girls. The children of unskilled and semi-skilled workers and less well educated mothers watch most video and children whose fathers are in the professions and whose mothers have received a university education watch least.

The most popular video genre is action, followed by comedy, karate, crime thrillers and westerns. The least popular are music videos, classic films, war films and sports videos. As with television, there are strong gender differences with regard to video preferences. In general there were no clear relationships between video preferences and socio-economic background, although, interestingly, the highest ratings for horror and action videos were given by those with university educated mothers, a result that can perhaps best be explained in terms of the 'forbidden fruit' mechanism.

Children whose fathers are professionals and whose mothers are university educated are most likely to live in a home containing a personal computer. 18% play computer games 5 days a week or more and the mean amount of time per day spent playing is just over an hour a day. 8% were classified as very heavy users (i.e. 3 hours a day or more). Boys play significantly more than girls. The children of unskilled and semi-skilled fathers and less well educated mothers play most and those with fathers working in agriculture and the professions and with university educated mothers play the least. The most popular game genres are platform games [1] followed by 'fighting' games.

Media use, literacy and school achievement

In the Roe & Muijs study media use was also related to literacy (reading comprehension and spelling) and school achievement: After controlling for gender and socio-economic status, amount of VCR use and amount of computer game playing were found to be negatively related to reading and spelling ability. However, contrary to conventional wisdom television use did not emerge in an especially bad light. Amount of TV-viewing was related to spelling and reading ability (though not to overall school achievement), but the relationship is not linear. On both the spelling and reading tests those watching least TV scored below average while those watching most TV scored best of all. It was the second highest viewing group, rather than the very heavy viewers that scored the least.

Consequently, with regard to any postulated negative effects, it was concluded that, rather than pointing the accusing finger at TV-viewing, parents and teachers should concern themselves more with heavy VCR use and, in particular, with heavy computer game playing -- with which a significant and consistent pattern of negative relationships is beginning to emerge (Roe & Muijs, 1995; 1997).

Multiple mediating factors

One of the most important lessons of Flemish research into children's media use is the central role played by a number of mediating variables. Almost all studies indicate the importance of gender in differentiating all aspects of the media use of children. Most also stress the importance of socio-economic background in general and, in recent studies, the education of the mother in particular. In the past researchers have tended to concentrate on occupational status (and usually only on that of the father) in their analyses of media use. Future research needs to give far more consideration to the role of educational status (and in particular that of the mother). The importance of cognitive, social and biological development for all aspects of children's media use must also be taken into account. The nature, extent and meanings of media use change quickly as children pass through various developmental phases. Consequently, forms of media use which are typical, appropriate and functional at one stage of development may be atypical, inappropriate and dysfunctional at others.

It follows that in all discussions of 'children and media use', it is essential to bear all of these mediating factors in mind. Five-year-olds are not like fifteen-year-olds, the media use of boys and girls -- especially in interaction with socio-economic background and ethnic context -- differs significantly in almost all important respects, the nature of children's understanding of media contents changes as they get older, and their experiences in school structure their media use in important ways. Thus, without first carefully specifying the age, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background, level of cognitive development, and educational achievement (to name only the most important factors) of children, it is impossible to make any meaningful generalizations concerning 'children and the media'; indeed, it is probably dangerously misleading even to try.



1. Platform games, also known as platformers, are one of the most widely available computer formats. The main character moves from one level to another, more difficult, level (and so on) which are set in different decors. The 'sprite' (character) continually has to dodge falling object, holes, and enemies (who have to be fought) and often has to jump from one cloud, rock etc. to another. The character typically moves from left to right on the screen.

Platform games contain significantly less (graphic) violence than game types such as 'shoot em-ups', 'bear-em-ups' and 'slash-em-ups', are less difficult and more action oriented than puzzle games, and have less sophisticated scripts and less puzzles than role playing and adventure games. They also appear to have less street credibility than the above-mentioned games, and are sometimes considered childish by older (adolescent) users.

The characters are often drawn in the manner of humorous cartoons (as opposed to the more realistic depiction of characters in adventure games and fighting games), and a lot of cartoon based computer games (such as Bugs Bunny, Rabbit Rampage) are of this format. The most well-known games in this format are the Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog series, signature games of Nintendo and Sega.


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