Violence has been a part of television for as long as television has existed, and throughout this relationship scientists and scholars have studied how violent programming effects viewers, both young and old, but studies are not black and white and instead point to both positive and negative consequences to watching violence on TV.
TV Violence Reinforces Violent Solutions
Though human behavior is a complicated issue many studies have been conducted that show a correlation between television violence and learned violent behavior in humans, especially children. In 1994 The Independent ran an article that discussed the relationship between television violence and real-life violence. Author Raj Persuad wrote that television “is bound to teach children over time that violence is a viable and acceptable solution to problems in life.” Time and again television characters face major and minor problems, and their solutions invariably involve violence because violence is more fun to watch than passive mediation. And when viewers, especially children, go out into the real world they will first consider violence over safer solutions because they have the pattern ingrained in their minds.
TV Violence Dessensitizes People to Violence
People have a natural instinctual aversion to violence. According to a 2007 study conducted by the Association for Psychological Science, “Most people have an automatic aversive emotional response to scenes of violence, often assessed by changes in heart rate and skin conductance. Such negative emotional responses help inhibit aggressive behavior and inspire helping behavior.” But the study went on to state that people exposed to violent television showed reduce skin conductance and heart rate reactivity when facing real-life violence. The act of watching simulated violence inhibits people’s ability to react naturally and effectively to actual violence and this inhibition may lead to serious problems in dealing with real-world problems.
TV Violence Teaches Children about Consequences
Through watching violence on television programs and news broadcasts children can learn about the world. They can gain an understanding of the problems so that they can better prepare for finding solutions. But watching violence on television can also teach them about the consequences of violent acts. Jib Fowles, an author who wrote a book touting the benefits of TV violence, believes most television shows teach children that good will prevail over evil and crime doesn’t pay. If children know about prison and vengeance and fines and all the negative after effects of violent acts they are less likely, according to Fowles, to commit those same violent acts in real life.
Ben Orlando has written professionally as a columnist, travel writer, education reporter and children's story author. He has a B.A. and an M.F.A., and has published stories in "The Bellevue Literary Review" and "American Drivel Review."