Big Media's Verdict On Violent TV And Kids: Show Me Where It Hurts

TV shows, violence, and kids, have always been a misunderstood trio.

With that in mind, here is a conclusion that wouldn't seem damaging to the TV industry: Aggressive children tend to want to watch more violent shows. That would seem to say that TV, in itself, didn't cause kids to be aggressive.

That isn't as bad as this assumption: Non-aggressive children become violent by watching violent shows.

Researchers have been debating the TV-violence issue for years. The Federal Communications Commission and many other researchers have come up with studies down through the years that say there is a "correlation" between kids who watch violent TV, and those who become violent.

A longtime critic of this research, University of Toronto Professor Jonathan Freedman, continues to say there is a big difference between "correlation" and "causation."  Big media companies -- NBC Universal, Time Warner, News Corp., Viacom, Tribune and Gannett -- have used his research in their recent battle with the FCC.



Even if you are not much of scientist, Freedman says a decade and a half of compelling data proves his point: The violent crime rate has been declining for the past 15 years.  Let us add, while this crime rate has been dropping, the amount of TV viewing has been steadily increasing all through those years.  And not just viewership of TV, but all sorts of entertainment -- video, theatrical, and Internet.

That would seem to offer up a pretty obvious verdict: TV is not guilty.   Does that mean we should just let go? No. We should just monitor all those yawning kids.

Some TV shows with violence may actually be boring violent TV shows. And if you are a TV programmer, the worst thing you can do is bore kids. They'll resent you, change the channel, but in no way think about smashing their cell phones or iPods onto the floor.

The notion that aggressive kids seek aggressive TV shows seems obvious, and also enlightening, making one look at non-aggressive kids in a different light -- if at all.  The key, Freedman says, is that there is little research about  "causation" --where you can trace a large number of TV shows' violent actions to a large number of kids' violent actions.

Are TV programmers off the hook?  CBS may want to wait on that morning "CSI: Disneyland" spin-off.

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