The question of whether youngsters should be allowed to watch violent television programs has sparked discussion. Numerous psychologists, sociologists, and psychiatrists have vehemently opposed the showing of such programs. They have observed that because there are no limits on the aforementioned programmes, kids can access and watch them. The public has also brought up the connection between viewing violent television and the numerous gun shootings by teenagers at the primary school. They contend that these programs have a harmful impact on children and will cause them to grow up to be violent, aggressive, and stubborn. The theories such as strain theory, labeling theory, social learning theory, and the control theory have provided convincing reasons as to why violent television shows have a direct influence on the child’s behavior during the adulthood. The paper seeks to provide an in-depth discussion on the negative impact of violent television programs on the children behavior when they grow to adults.
Prevalently, there have been numerous cases of the aggressive and violent behaviors emanating from the teens. The shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown that took place in 1997 and the mass shooting at a Batman movie in Colorado has raised a strong debate in the psychiatric community on the impact of the media violence on the conduct of the mentioned group (Comstock and Erica 204). As a result of the continuous incidences of violence arising from the juveniles, several psychologists have conducted various research and studies with the aim of finding out the correlation between the depiction of the violence display on the television and the behavior of the youngsters.
On a similar note, in the year 1969, an advisory committee comprising of the members from the Surgeon General Scientific and the Social Behavior was formed to look into the effects of watching violence programs on the television. Reportedly, the finding of the mentioned committee and a follow-up report from the National Institute of Mental Health explicitly indicated that watching violence on TV has three profound effects on the discussed population. First, there is a high probability for children to behave aggressively or violent towards others (Comstock and Erica 230). Secondly, it showed that teens might become less sensitive to the problems, pains and suffer from others. Thirdly, they may grow more apprehensive of the world around them. Similarly, in the 1980s, the research done by psychologists such as L. Rowell Huesmann and others noted that children that spent more hours on watching violence scenes on TV when they are in elementary school would tend to become more aggressive and violent when they become teenagers (Comstock and Erica 204).
Theories explaining Child’s Criminal Behavior
The strain theory developed Robert Merton has been used in the explanation of the existence and rise of the crimes in the United States. Though it was established in the 1940s, it remains relevant in the field of criminology. Merton criticized the cultural foundation of the American dream that implored Americans to work hard in the pursuance of a successful future. Notably, such as success was measured in terms of wealth and material possession. Through this dream, American citizenry has perceived success as the acquisition of richness, and they have to engage in whatever activities to become wealthy (Hunt and David 138). In this respect, there has been a creation of room for the involvement in the crime to achieve the American dream.
A teenager who has taken much of his/her time in watching the violence scenes on the television would start to enjoy such acts and would find no sorrow to those that are affected by cases of violence. The mentioned youngster would grow up with a perception that there is nothing wrong to cause pain to others. Worst to point out is that some of the events watched by the children during their teenage also reveal that there is a high probability for those who are violent to have a success in life as compared to those who are disciplined and fear violence (Comstock and Erica 204). Strain theory reveals that if such as child grow into adults, and failed to become successful in life, then there is a high likelihood of him/her to engage in the criminal activities as a way of becoming successful. The aggressive and violent behavior in adolescent acquired through TV would stimulate him/her to involve in stealing or mugging as a way of making the ends to meet (Hunt and David 138).
Ostensibly, the psychologists have argued that the children who took better part of their day in watching the violent scene on television, they would become more aggressive and revengeful when they become adult. Strain theory argued that such as a person may not take it lightly when they are fired at their jobs places or if their bosses failed to pay them (Hunt and David 137). They would revenge to anybody who stands in their way of success. Most of the criminal reports have revealed that a good number of the inmates who engaged in illegal activities such as murder were people who had no feeling for the pain for others when they were children (Comstock and Erica 230). Consequently, this is a clear indication that the observation of the violence has proportionate impact to the adolescents.
The society is designed in certain norms and all its members are expected to subscribe to these rules. However, some people in the community would pay less regard or rather reject the standard set of the behavior. The labeling theory, established by Howard Becker in 1960s, argues that there is a significant impact of labeling individual in the society (Hunt and David 137). In the workplace, for instance, if the staff has been labeled has an immaculate and clean. Naturally, this employer would maintain the new status that has been given to him/her. On a similar note, if someone has been labeled has a thug, there is a high probability for him/her to behave in the same way (Hunt and David 137).
This theory clearly elucidates the reasons as to why the watching violent programs would make the children deviant when they become adults. A point to note is that through the viewing of the violent shows on TV; children are keen enough to understand and predict the moves and behaviors of their favorite characters on the television. For instance, some of them would label themselves as either Rambo or Commando, famous stars, depending on the film that they have watched. Worst to point out is that they would not only borrow the names of these actors but they would go a notch higher to practice their behaviors (Hunt and David 138). In this respect, there is a higher tendency for them engage in the criminal activities when they become adults. If they aped an actor/actress in the movie who is fond of stealing or killing innocent people, they would also behave in semblance manner when they come of age.
Another important point to note is that through watching the violent television programs, children have a tendency of neglecting their real identity and picking of someone else character. Most of the reports from the criminal departments have indicated that labeling of the teenagers as a tender age would make them to borrow the behaviors of the person whom they have been labeled (Hunt and David 138). Worst to note is that as the violent programs permit children to label themselves with various names. They become violent and aggressive and would take much of their time learning the tactics and behaviors of the person whom they have been labeled. In this respect, it is clear that this theory can adequately be used to provide valid reasons as to why labeling of the children through viewing of the violent programs will makes them criminals and deviant when they come of age (Hunt and David 137).
Social Learning Theory
The social learning theory argues that there is a higher possibility that people learn from others through imitation, observation, and modeling. The founder of this theory, Bandura has noted that most of the human beings have acquired their conduct through observing how other people behave. Through this observation, an individual is able to form an idea of how the newly acquired behavior can be performed (Akers and Gary 69). Notably, as time goes by, the coded information would then serve as a guide for their conduct. In this respect, the theory, therefore, argues that the behavior of people is determined by the interaction between environmental, cognitive and behavioral.
The social learn theory provides an in-depth proof on how the adults acquired the aggressive and violent behavior during the adolescent age. The theory posits that the environment is a major component in the determination of the teenager’s behavior. A child brought up in an environment in which he/she mostly watches the violent act on the television would be likely to reciprocate to such an environment (Comstock and Erica 222). This means that the child would acquire violent and aggressive behavior, thereby making him/her engage in criminal activities at an older age. According to Bandura, the adolescents have no control towards their behavior but it is the environment that dictates the kind of a person that the children would be as they become adults. In this respect, the engagement in the criminal activities can be pinned down to the violent programs that the teens watch on the television (Akers and Gary 109).
According to the social learning theory, the cognitive interaction also plays a significant role in the determination of the behavior of adolescents once they reach the adult age. Through the cognitive development, a child is able to entertain images in minds and languages. This means that they would be able to reproduce the same images that they had initially watched. The ability of their brain to generate the symbolic coding of these images makes them behave in a way that correlates to the coded images (Akers and Gary 69). The theory, therefore, noted that if a child spends more of his/her time in viewing the violent programs on television, then his/her mind would be able to completely transform their conduct to aggressive and violent behavior. The theory further argues that the brain of a child has not only ability to code the violent images that they watch on TV but also to retain them and reflect a similar violent behavior when they grow to adults (Akers and Gary 121).
Bandura also noted that the motivation of the observed behavior has a direct impact on the conduct of the adolescents when they grow up. The theory argues that through watching the violence scenes, the mind can store such images. Interestingly, if the child admired the stored images, then they would be motivated to imitate them. For instance, if the kid views a television program that has actor/actress who invariably engages in a bank robbery. The youngster would store the robbery images in his/her brain. If the child is excited by these images, then he/she would be motivated to engage in the robbery during adulthood (Akers and Gary 110). The theory further pointed out that those who do not watch the discussed programs, would rarely involve themselves in criminal activities. The theory, therefore, provides a valid reason for the children who spent most of their time in watching violent programs.
The control theory put forth by Travis Hirschi, argues that the behavior of a person is not determined by the outside stimuli, but it is caused by what an individual wants most of the time or at any given time. The theory further noted that the existence of the weak system within the society would play a major role in making a teenager deviant. This means that they would ignore the right norms and spent most of their time in activities that are outside the societal norms (Akers and Gary 30). In essence, it explains that the deviant behavior emanate when the external controls of conduct are weak and have no influence on the citizenry behavior. In a similar note, it contends that the existence of a bond between a person and influence would affect the behavior. For instance, if a person has a strong social bond with the negative influence, then the deviant is more likely to occur as compared to those who have a strong bond with the positive influence. He also pointed out that the society has four vital elements that include attachment, belief, opportunity and involvement and any of the outlined bonds are weakened, then there is the likelihood that a person would act in defiance (Akers and Gary 7).
In relation to the control theory, the external factors such as the watching of the violent programs on the television would make a child to detach himself/herself from the societal norms and become violent, aggressive and deviant. According to the theory, if the control factors within a society have failed to positively influence a child, then there is a high probability for him/her to conform to the negative influences through external environment (Akers and Gary 17). The theory further affirms that by spending more time in activities that attract negative influence then someone is likely to become deviant. This means that when a child is allowed to spend the better part of his/her time in viewing the violent movies on the TV; the kid would be influenced by this violent act, making him/her a criminal at an old age (Akers and Gary 30).
Prevalently, the theory also noted that the weaker system within a society also plays a role a significant in the determination of the individual behavior. Notably, children are supposed to be brought up in a calm, healthy, non-violent, and peaceful environment. Ostensibly, by allowing the children to watch violent television programs, is a clear show of the weakness in the social system (Akers and Gary 18). Through the mentioned system, the adolescents would be impacted by the scenes on the TV. In this respect, the weaker system would have provided a platform for the child to be negatively influenced and act in defiance when he/she become adults. The adults’ engagement in the criminal behavior can, therefore, be connected to this theory.
From this discussion, it is clear that when children spent most of their time in watching the violent programs on the television, then there is a likelihood of their behavior to be negatively influenced and making them violent and aggressive when they become adults. The strain theory measures success in terms of wealth and this will makes the adults who had initially watched the discussed TV programs to engage in the criminal activities with the aim of acquiring wealth. Conversely, labeling theory notes that through watching of violent programs on television one would label himself/herself with the violent actors/actress, and making them behave in a similar way when they come of age. On the other hand, social theory noted that through the interaction with the violent act on TV would make a child to code the violent images and later be motivated by these images, and making them turn into gangsters at the adult age. Control theory, on the other hand, noted that the weaker system on the society, such as the existence of the violent television programs would make a child deviant and criminal at the adult stage.
Akers, Ronald L., and Gary F. Jensen, eds. Social learning theory and the explanation of crime. Vol. 1. Transaction Publishers, 2011.
Comstock, George, and Erica Scharrer. Media and the American child. Academic Press, 2010.
Hunt, Elgin F., and David C. Colander. Social Science: An Introduction to the Study of Society–Pearson EText. Routledge, 2015.