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violence on tv

            Does exposure to violence--from television, the internet, and games screens--make children violent? Robert DuRant (Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA) certainly thinks so. And he isn't alone in his belief that what kids are exposed to teaches them how they are supposed to act. Since the early 1990s, DuRant has studied the effects of exposure to violence on outcome measures that include fighting, carrying a visible or a concealed weapon, and an intention to use violence. His work shows that media exposure correlates most strongly with an intention to use violence. More recently, he has examined the effects of watching World Wrestling Federation (WWF) television programmes. Wrestling shows, seen by as many as 35 million people in the USA each week, include fighting, sexually explicit gestures, violent behaviours, and vulgar language. Watching WWF was significantly associated with increased use of cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs; date-fight perpetration and victimisation; and weapons carrying. Girls were more affected than boys, and, unlike boys, were still engaging in health-risk behaviours 6 months later. With WWF broadcasts spreading beyond the USA, an Israeli researcher, Dafna Lemish (Tel Aviv University) examined their influence on more than 900 children in Israel. Children aged 7-12 years evaluated their own and their peers' behaviour. Those who watched WWF were thought to be more violent in school, and those children already predisposed to violence were more likely to imitate the behaviour they saw on television. Lemish calls WWF a "particularly problematic genre" because it looks like a sports competition. It is a staged fantasy, a concept that many children have difficulty comprehending because they lack the cognitive and literacy skills necessary to interpret what they are seeing. This seems to be peculiar to the genre, since children of this age are not generally confused about the difference between fantasy and reality in other genres.

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