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How Television Affects Children

            Many television programs involve substantial amounts of violence in one form or another that causes people to think that television is the cause of violence in today's youth. Many question whether television disturbs the minds of adolescent children who cannot yet comprehend the truth of fiction and reality. Studies show that violent television viewing affects younger children more since their perception of what is real or unreal is not as acute as in older adults - meaning that aggressive adults learn their behavior as children. By watching portrayals of violence, children learn to accept aggressive behavior by becoming desensitized to the effects of violence and imitate it by modeling aggressive behaviors.
             According to the Institute for the Social Research, an aggressive behavior is learned behavior which is being taught to our children by the media violence that they are exposed to daily (Chen, 1994 p.23). In Aggression: A Social Learning Analysis, written by Albert Bandura in 1973, indicates that sometimes watching a single violent program can increase aggressiveness. However, the impact of viewing violence on television may become immediately evident in the child's behavior, or it may not surface till later (Canton and Wilson, 1984). While violence portrayed on television is not the cause of aggressive behavior, it is clearly a significant factor.
             Children "are predisposed to seek out and pay attention to violence" (Canton and Wilson, 1984). It is not the violence itself that makes programs attractive to children, but the vivid images accompanying them. Children are unlikely to put the violence in context since they are likely to misunderstand the violent images being portrayed - children cannot comprehend fiction from reality. They don't realize TV programs are people acting out a script and the scenes are not real. They become less sensitive to pain and suffering of others, and children are more likely to behave in an aggressive or harmful way toward others (Dietz & Strasburger 1991).

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