Growing up Fast and Furious: Reviewing the impacts of violent and sexualised media on children
March 19 2010
Presented by The Australian Council on Children and the Media and the Children and Families Research Centre, Macquarie University
Along with other participants, such as health care workers, educators, parents, media producers, children's advocates, and one politician, I listened to academic researchers, (details here http://www.youngmedia.org.au/mediachildren/01_17_speakers.htm) on this topic.
Feel free to distribute.
Here is the summary of the findings.
The evidence that watching violence on TV causes aggressive thoughts, feelings and behaviour was indisputable in the 70s. Now the evidence is clear that listening to music with violent lyrics, watching violent scenes on TV or film, and playing violent video games, causes aggressive thoughts, feelings and behaviour, both in the short and long term. This evidence is comparable with other health risks such as the link to smoking causing cancer, lead causing brain damage and asbestos causing cancer. Violent children become violent adults.
People watch violent video games because they enjoy the action, and the rapid editing of the scenes. Gamers like the feeling of autonomy, of control, of competence, the challenge of learning new skills and building on them. Often the perpetrator of violence is the hero and rewarded for his violence.
Just as we are what we eat, so too we behave according to the influences we feed ourselves. People who use violent media are learning scripts of behaviour. They become more tolerant of violence, and desensitised to its effects. Some violent video games are made for the US military in order to train soldiers. These are then modified and sold as entertainment. People who use them are more accepting of rape, date violence, and are less empathetic.
Playing pro-social video games increases pro-social behaviour. Games can be good, just as TV can be - it depends on the content.
Children are now exposed to, on average, ten hours of media each day.
As parents we can help our children by:
- asking for government regulation by writing to your local member,
- blocking certain types of sites from your computer,
- checking the ratings,
- directing our children to more appropriate sites, games, shows and films, ie, those made for children,
- it also helps to be with your children and talk to them as they consume violent media. Talk about alternate means of conflict resolution,
- we can teach children to regulate themselves, ie, tell their friends they are not allowed to watch M rated (recommended for mature audiences) or M15+ (legally restricted) movies or games,
- audit children's involvement, that is, reduce screen time, and critique the messages.
- Play real, interactive games. Read.
- Teach non-violent problem solving.
- No TV or computers in bedrooms.
Sex in the media
The issue is not about censorship. It is about protecting children.
Advertising works, if not consciously, then when you are tired, stressed, sick, drunk, hurrying or thinking about something else.
Constant exposure to sexualised, and dehumanised, portrayals of women, teaches people to devalue women.
Men who have just viewed pornography or listened to violent, misogynistic lyrics are more likely to find women, even women politicians or well dressed business women, as less competent.
Examples can be found in advertisements, films, tv shows, games, clothing, music, music videos, products marketed to girls and women such as cosmetic surgery, grooming products, Playboy brand accessories for children, toys, magazines, radio advertisements, reality tv, advertisements on billboards and buses. Showing children in an adult context, and showing adults in children's context, is problematic.
Adult sexual images and themes are being imposed on children in a developmentally inappropriate manner. This has an impact on children's emerging understanding of sex and gender. It holds the potential for child exploitation and abuse if used for adult sexual gratification. It teaches implicit and explicit gender stereotypes and misogyny in popular culture. Sexual attractiveness is promoted as key to being a girl, to the detriment of other attributes. It fosters insecurity regarding appearance. Sexuality is sold as girl power, that is, girls embracing raunch culture believe they are liberated and empowered, however, the truth is they are they are objectifying, limiting and demeaning themselves.
These messages cause detrimental effects on girls' and boys' self esteem and their body images. It stereotypes, distorts and trivialises their views of gender, limits their expectations for themselves and others, and it leads to early sexual behaviour. It exposes children to possible abuse from predatory adults.
Similar to the influence of violence in the media, hypersexualised gender stereotypes teach children a script for behaviour. This teaches them about sex in a way that undermines their potential for healthy self esteem, healthy sexual behaviour and their future relationships.
Self-monitoring of advertisers and businesses is not working.
As parents we can help our children by:
- trying to minimise their exposure to sexualised images (that is, don't watch music videos, or films or tv shows that sexually stereotype women),
- monitor their Internet use and keep computers and TVs in family rooms,
- check the ratings. The Australia Council on Children and the Media have a movie review service on their Young Media website.
- expand what kids are seeing and doing in an age appropriate way, that is, expose children to wide range of gendered role models, and encourage interest in a wide range of interests that are based on competence and creativity
- promote media literacy, that is, question media messages,
- complain to businesses and advertisers about private adult scenes shown in public where children can see them, and about inappropriate goods marketed to children,
- talk to other parents, and join organisations that are working against the sexualisation of children, such as
If culture is passed on through the stories it tells, what does this level of violence as entertainment and sexualisation in the media say about our culture? Most children get most of their stories through electronic media.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted in 1989. Article 17 recognises "the important function performed by the mass media," It encourages the media "to disseminate information and material of social and cultural benefit to the child," and calls on governments to encourage the development of guidelines to protect children from harmful material.
Anything the media can do negatively, it could do positively.