February 7, 2005

ARTICLES / INTERVIEWS: Violence in children's entertainment a reason for concern

Violence in children's entertainment a reason for concern


Question: I'm concerned about the violent content of some children's cartoon shows and the toys and other products connected with them. My husband thinks they're harmless. What's your point of view?

Dr. Dobson: I share your misgivings. There's a trend toward a brand of violence in some of today's cartoons and toys that I see as a dangerous departure from the more traditional combat-type games in which boys have always engaged.

For one thing, the characters tend to be adults involved in adult activities, some of which are highly questionable. I don't think they are appropriate role models for impressionable young children. The settings are mythical or futuristic, and the action often revolves around superstition, sorcery and magic. For these reasons they concern me for spiritual as well as psychological reasons.

The electronic media have incredible power to "sell" these dubious heroes and their exploits to our children. Studies have measured actual psychological changes that occur when kids are watching a violent television program or movie: The pulse rate quickens, the eyes dilate, the hands sweat, the mouth goes dry and breathing accelerates. It should be obvious that this kind of "entertainment" has a dramatic emotional impact - especially if it's repeated often enough. And the toys that are marketed as "spin-offs" from such programs serve only to reinforce or extend those negative effects. What's more, there's no balancing positive, healthy or educational component to these products.

That's why our organization, Focus on the Family, and others have made major investments in high-quality videos and other materials for children. We must provide alternatives for families that want their kids to have wholesome entertainment but are determined to protect them from the popular culture. We will continue to do what we can to meet that need.

Question: I don't believe kids are as easily influenced by the media and entertainment industry as you say. What they see does not necessarily determine how they behave.

Dr. Dobson: Well, look at it this way. Back in the early '80s, the most popular movie was a science fiction film entitled "E.T." It included a brief scene where the little creature from outer space was given a few pieces of the candy, Reese's Pieces. The brand was not named, but children recognized it during its few seconds on the screen. In the months that followed, the sale of Reese's Pieces went through the ceiling. Isn't that a clear example of a movie's influence on children's thinking?

Why do advertisers spend billions of dollars to put their products before the people if what we see and hear does not influence our behavior? Why do schools and colleges purchase textbooks for children and young adults if what they read does not translate into influence of one form or another?

Of course children are vulnerable to what they witness! We all are. How much greater impact is made by dramatic, sexually oriented, no-holds-barred musical and theatrical presentations that are aimed at the hearts and souls of our kids? Who are we kidding when we say they are not harmed by the worst of it?

Chris Schuepp
Young People's Media Network - Coordinator
c/o ECMC (European Centre for Media Competence)
Bergstr. 8 / 10th floor
D-45770 Marl - Germany
Tel.: +49 2365 502480
Mobile: +49 176 23107083
Fax: +49 12126 23107083
Email: cschuepp@unicef.org
URL: www.unicef.org/magic
Mailing list: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/youthful-media
The YPMN is supported by UNICEF and hosted by the ECMC.
The opinions and views expressed in this message and/or articles & websites linked to from this message do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.

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