Saturday 17th December, 2005


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Stop teaching kids to kill

By Dr Harold G Mahabir

School’s out! And the invasion of television into our private sanctuaries will bring new meaning to discretionary viewing. The much idolised European Santa, with his commercial bags and baggage representing big business, will steal young minds and pull the purses and wallets of succumbing adults.

But there is a bigger invader who will have a cutting impact. And if your home is fortunate/unfortunate to have cable/dish hookup, you will see him regularly. Television violence or, if you prefer, TV, will have a profound influence in shaping your impressionable child or adolescent during this holiday period.

Research data collected in T&T concluded that your child will be watching Mr TV for 12-13 hours a week. And at the end of this holiday of peace and joy, your child would have seen close to 700 murders and 6,000 acts of violence.

Kicking, stabbing, shooting, dismemberment are all gift-wrapped in this holiday package.

Children in this country overwhelmingly settle for “action movies.” Exit polls taken in Port-of-Spain, San Fernando, Sangre Grande and Tobago show close to 75 per cent prefer “guns and gore” movies.

Among the popular gifts on their list are cell phones and video games. Without proper parental supervision, most will select games with explicit scenes of blood, killing and dismemberment battles.

It supports the basic contention that children’s exposure to violence is pervasive. And who gives a care?

Little Tommy S stood by his dad at a video store in Tunapuna. His favourite movie is RoboCop. His friend Jordon M countered that Die Hard 2 was “the best.”

Murder is one of the main themes in both movies. In the first RoboCop, 32 people were killed followed by 81 in the sequel. In Die Hard 2, 264 met death.

The Hollywood set is conditioned, contained and controlled by the murder theme.

Film critics affirm that it is the most violent place on Earth. Slow motion, pyrotechnics and a penchant for leaving nothing to the imagination all conspire to make movies and TV shows more gruesome than ever.

There is research data to prove that in the US, children leaving elementary school would have seen 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence. By the time they reach 18, school-leaving age, they would have seen 40,000 murders and 200,000 acts of violence.

Like their American counterparts, we can safely conclude that children in T&T are seeing too much violent TV. For example, when most leave elementary school, they would have seen 2,000 murders and 25,000 acts of violence.

Upon completion of high school, most would have seen 10,000 murders and 60,000 acts of violence. These figures were calculated from shows aired by the dish network and local cable stations. Also adding fuel are ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox networks.

Lt Col David Grossman, author of Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill, explains, “Violence is like the nicotine in cigarettes... the reason why the media have to pump ever more violence into us is because we’ve built up a tolerance... In order to get the same high...we need ever-higher levels... The television industry has gained its market share through an addictive and toxic ingredient.”

This mental impact on our children, who have difficulty discriminating between real life and fantasy, is a serious matter.

In fact, over 1,000 studies have been done within a 30-year period documenting evidence to suggest the causal relationship between televised violence and antisocial behaviour.

In the US, the National Institute of Mental Health did a study, “Ten Years of Scientific Progress and Implications for the 80s,” showing then the “overwhelming” scientific evidence that “excessive” violence on television spills over into the playgrounds, the schools, and streets. Are we seeing evidence of this in our society?

Complicating this already volatile situation is the sex madness that is coming right into our living rooms.

It was recently reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation that there were nearly 3,800 scenes with sexual contents spotted in more than 1,100 shows.

The American Parents Television Council says, “Kids who have repeated exposure to sexual content become sexually active at an earlier age.”

However, not every child exposed to the filth on the TV screen will grow up to be violent or “hurried into sexual relationship.” Vigilant and caring parents must be commended for incorporating spiritual values into their homes to counteract this violent scourge. A few suggestions are offered:

Seek ways to restrict children from viewing certain violent shows (the V-chip and other tools can help).

Parents should limit the amount of media exposure in their homes.

Watch TV with children.

Help children select appropriate rated movies and video games.

Create a safe environment for children.

Teach vigilance without creating hysteria.

All parents must work to establish guidelines.

Parents can make their children enjoy this holiday period. Accepted that violence is the scourge of our society, but parents can put a dent on this bothersome trend.

Peace and goodwill to all.




©2004-2005 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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