In the latest wake-up call for parents, an authoritative study at the University of Michigan shows a clear link between young children who watched violent TV programs and their violent behavior as adults. That behavior included spousal abuse and other aggressive, even criminal, acts.
The study marks a departure from past research in showing a tie between TV violence and violent behavior in girls and women. Intellectual ability or socioeconomic status also had no effect on the TV-violence link.
These results put a heavy burden on those who produce graphic, violent programming, as well as on parents who let children watch such shows.
The study also found children who perceived a greater "realism" in violent shows were more likely to be aggressive. That's all the more disturbing, considering the programs used in the study ("Starsky and Hutch," "Six-Million Dollar Man," and "Road Runner" cartoons, for example) are relatively tame compared with today's TV fare. Technological advances have further blurred the distinction between reality and fantasy, making it much harder for children to distinguish what's really going on. This suggests that misperceptions of "realism" could have even more adverse effects.
The study's author suggests that violent programming could even work to wear down a natural aversion to violence. He suggests that parents restrict their children's TV viewing of violent programming at least through the preteen years to help reduce the cumulative effects.
With so much choice on TV these days, ranging from the refined to the ridiculous, parental monitoring should be a much easier task.