Researching TV

 The effects of TV and films

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  Totalitarian censorship and daytime TV...

Researchers find that strong language on TV is not a major wind up to viewers (but I couldn't work out what was)


Link Here 16th January 2017

leicester university logoResearchers from Leicester and Birmingham City University have revealed some of the key concerns audiences have with television they find offensive .

Dr Ranjana Das from the School of Media, Communication and Sociology and Dr Anne Graefer from the Birmingham School of Media travelled to towns and villages across Britain and Germany and watched daytime TV with audiences, viewing programmes audiences themselves reported to be offensive or problematic and then conducting interviews with them.

They found that rather than being concerned with swear words, bad language or flashy lighting, audiences' greater concerns were with wider issues -- such as those around the construction of characters, the relative power and positions of the actors/creators behind characters and the absence and erasure of faces and issues. Dr Das said:

We were keen, in our fieldwork, to probe audiences' expectations of the regulatory process in the context of media content they themselves identified as problematic or outright offensive.

In analysing responses which argued for a clearer role of institutions to better serve the needs of audiences, when it came to the production and regulation of content they found problematic, we found a closer alignment with the democratic ideals behind the media's and media institutions' responsibilities.

In investigating people's expectations of actors and institutions in their responses to television content that startles, upsets or just offends them, the researchers suggest it is crucial to treat a conversation on free speech and censorship with caution. Dr Das added:

It is never just about being for one or the other -- as audiences clearly despise totalitarian censorship regimes for right reasons. But equally, they place expectations on producers and regulators to create a media sphere which is engaging, responsible and which contributes to good outcomes for citizens.

 

  Movies should be rated by people who haven't watched many movies...

Ludicrous academics claim that the more we experience, the less our opinions are worth. In every other aspect of life, the more we experience, the better we are able to judge.


Link Here 24th October 2014

annenberg public policy center logo Parents can become less sensitive to violence and sex in movies after watching only a few scenes with disturbing content, according to a study published in Pediatrics that was conducted by researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Parents viewed three brief pairs of movie scenes featuring either violent or sexual content. After seeing the first movie clip, the parents thought the minimum age on average to see a movie with that content should be 16.9 years old for violence or 17.2 years old for sex. After watching the sixth and final scene, the parents were more willing to let younger teens see the movies, 13.9 years for violence and 14 years for sex -- lowering the minimum age by three years or more.

Dan Romer, associate director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) and the study's lead author said:

We know these scenes are somewhat disturbing to parents. When they first see them, they say you shouldn't let someone younger than 17 see them -- which is comparable to an R rating. But they get more and more accepting of that content as they're watching it.

The study Parental Desensitization to Violence and Sex in Movie s, will be published in the November 2014 issue of Pediatrics. The findings were based on an online survey of 1,000 parents who have children from ages 6 to 17. The movie scenes came from popular films targeted at youth (PG-13), rated R (under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian) or unrated in DVD versions.

The study comes as scenes of sex and violence become more prevalent in movies aimed at youth. A 2013 study in Pediatrics from APPC researchers showed that the amount of violence in PG-13 movies tripled in the most popular movies since 1985. That study also found that the amount of gun violence in popular PG-13 movies in 2012 actually exceeded that in popular R-rated movies. Another APPC study in Pediatrics in 2013 found that movie violence was associated with sex and alcohol use as often in PG-13 as R-rated movies.

The possible effect on movie raters

The authors noted that people who rate movies for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), who are themselves parents, could be subject to the same desensitization and thus more likely to be lenient when it comes to evaluating the appropriateness of such content for children. The study said this effect could help to explain the ratings creep that has allowed more violence into films aimed at youth.

Parents in the study viewed scenes from six of these eight movies: 8 Mile (2002, rated R); Casino Royale (2006, PG-13); Collateral (2004, R); Taken 2 (2012, PG-13); Die Hard (1988, R); Live Free or Die Hard (2007, unrated DVD); The Terminator (1984, R); and Terminator Salvation (2009, PG-13).

 

 

 Offsite Article: TV time does not breed badly behaved children...


Link Here 26th March 2013
Teletubbies Time DVD Spending hours watching TV or playing computer games each day does not harm young children's social development, say experts

See article from bbc.co.uk

 

16th March
2012
  

Viewing Social Aggression Induces Similar Responses to Physical Aggression...

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Media researchers seem to suggest that censors should be equally concerned about EastEnders as they are about TV violence
Link Here

iowa state university logoSome research over the past few decades has shown that viewing physical violence in the media can increase aggression in adults and children. But a new study, co-authored by an Iowa State University psychology professor, has also found that onscreen relational aggression -- including social exclusion, gossip and emotional bullying -- may prime the brain for aggression.

Douglas Gentile, an associate professor of psychology at Iowa State, was one of four authors of the study Frenemies, Fraitors, and Mean-em-aitors : Priming effects of viewing physical and relational aggression in the media on women, which was recently published by the journal Aggressive Behavio r. The study of 250 college women showed that mean screens may also activate the neural networks that guide behavior.

Sarah Coyne and David Nelson, both researchers in the religiously affiliated Brigham Young University's School of Family Life; and Jennifer Ruh Linder, a professor of psychology at Linfield College (Ore.), were the study's other authors. Studying cognitive patterns of college women

In the study, the researchers evaluated the cognitive patterns of the college women after they viewed one of three fictional video clips. One clip depicted physical aggression, including a gun and knife fight that ended in murder. A second clip portrayed relational aggression, where girls steal boyfriends, spread malicious gossip and kick someone out of their social circle. The third clip was simply a scary scene, one that would raise the heartbeat.

Researchers assessed physiological arousal, finding that all three films produced similar levels of excitement. They then measured reaction times when aggressive or neutral words flashed on a screen. Participants who had watched either aggressive film clip ascribed more meaning to words connected with aggression.

Gentile sees the study having significance to today's societal norms:

This matters because relational aggression tends to be considered more socially acceptable -- it's often portrayed on television as funny and how friends treat each other, he said. Yet, several studies are starting to show that relational aggression can cause long-term harm.

And some of the most highly publicized effects have been a result of the rising incidence of cyberbullying, which Gentile says is a classic case of relational aggression.

We're treating cyberbullying as if it's something totally different and totally new. It's actually relational aggression and it does all the things that relational aggression does, Gentile said. You can spread rumors, you can ignore people, I can unlike you on Facebook, I can tell your secrets, and I can lie and make up stuff. So this study relates to cyberbullying.

 

26th June
2010
  

Offsite: Dr Terror...

  Video Universe - Buy New Release DVDs, TV on DVD, Music Videos and Much More

US Mainstream DVDs

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Quaint horror films invoke life long fear
Link Here

Psycho Anniversary Special Steelbook Blu ray Terrifying films can leave viewers with life-long fears, says an academic.

Professor Joanne Cantor questioned hundreds of adults and found that women who have seen Psycho are often frightened to go into the shower, while the threat-laden soundtrack of Jaws can make men tremble.

It , the 1986 film based on a Stephen King novel, shows a clown attacking children in the bathroom, after coming in through the toilet or shower drain.

Professor Cantor, of Wisconsin University in the U.S., told BBC Focus magazine: It produced extended nightmares, and many children avoided the bathroom after that. For many of these children, fear of clowns extended into adulthood.

The professor found the five most frightening films, not ranked in order, were:

  • Jaws
  • Psycho
  • It
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street
  • Poltergeist.

In Psycho , Alfred Hitchcock injected terror into the most benign of places - the shower. The professor, a world expert on the psychology of films, said: Hitchcock took a normal activity that most people do daily and infused it with terror, by showing a totally unanticipated attack in blood horror accompanied by intense music. Many women in my studies who saw that movie are uncomfortable in the shower to this day.

The 1984 slasher movie , A Nightmare on Elm Street , resulted in many sleepless nights, said professor Cantor. This film provided the quintessential recipe for insomnia because the bloodthirsty villain, Freddy Krueger, could only attack you in your dreams, she said. So your only defence against him was to stay awake - and that's what many reported doing.

...Read the full article

 

13th January
2010
  

Watching TV Shortens Life...

All enjoyable activity is already frowned upon or deemed unhealthy, so now researchers find that doing nothing is equally bad
Link Here

BHDI logoIn a warning for couch potatoes everywhere, Australian research has found that relaxing in front of television for hours every day can shorten your life.

Each hour [per day?] spent vegging out in front of television increases the risk of early death by up to 18%, according to researchers from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne.

Even healthy people who exercise increase the chances of premature death from heart disease by 18% for each hour spent in front of television. They have a 9% increased risk of cancer and an 11% increased risk of death from all causes claims the Australian and French team, whose findings are reported today in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association.

However it is not television per se that is the killer, but long periods of sitting doing nothing, said David Dunstan of the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute who led the research. Sitting for long periods at an office desk was also bad for the health, but the research focussed on television watching as that is the most common sedentary activity

The human body was designed to move, not sit for extended periods of time, said Professor Dunstan. But technological, social and economic changes mean that people don't move their muscles as much as they used to. For many people, on a daily basis they simply shift from one chair to another - from the car to the chair in the office to the chair on front of the television.

Dr Dunstan and his colleagues tracked 8800 men and women aged 25 and over, over a period of six and a half years. The group, which did not include people already at risk of premature death from pre-existing cardiovascular disease, were tested for glucose tolerance and provided blood samples so researchers could measure biomarkers such as cholesterol and blood sugar levels. They were divided into three groups; those who watched fewer than two hours of television a day, those who watched two to four hours, and those who watched four or more hours a day.

Compared with people who watched less than two hours of television daily, those who watched more than four hours a day had a 46 percent higher risk of death from all causes and an 80 percent increased risk for CVD-related death, the researchers said in a statement.

The next stage of the research is to test the hypothesis that taking breaks from sitting still to move around will help in the breakdown of fats and glucose.

 

12th April
2009
  

Disney Unsuitable for Children...

Researchers find Disney films with inappropriate personal contact of children by adults
Link Here
Pinocchio

   Carleton University researcher

Classic Disney cartoon films are giving children the wrong message about how to deal with stranger danger , psychologists have warned.

They claim films like Sleeping Beauty , Snow White and Robin Hood contain scenes in which children receive unwanted personal contact or threatening approaches from adults, and that the victims fail to set a good example in the way they respond.

The study warns that the films also undermine efforts to teach children about personal safety and how to minimise the risk of sexual abuse, by treating the victims' discomfort with humour.

In one example, the researchers found that the Pinocchio had been groomed by the adult characters Honest John and Gideon but that his response to the abuse resembled victim blaming.

The report says: It is possible that viewing these scenes could influence children to believe that telling a trusted adult about a stranger's advances is unnecessary because the film characters model successful independence. The academics wrote that they were surprised to find depictions of children being touched, usually by adults, contrary to the expressed desires of the child.

The research, published in the journal Child Abuse, was conducted by a team of psychologists, sociologists and anthropologists at Carleton University, in Canada.

They studied 47 animated feature length Disney films, released between 1937 and 2006. In ten of them, they found examples of unwanted personal contact or scenes which show child characters in risky situations.

The report concludes: The findings raise questions about potential impacts on child audiences. Is the unwanted contact and risky situation content appropriate viewing for children, given efforts to teach children sexual safety?

 

5th March
2009
  

Thirst for Knowledge...

Watching drinking on TV gets viewers reaching for the bottle
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Rovers ReturnWatching alcohol being drunk on TV can make viewers reach for the bottle themselves, a study has found.

Volunteers were more likely to help themselves to beer or wine than a soft drink when shown films or adverts portraying alcohol, said researchers.

The findings, reported in the journal Alcohol And Alcoholism , provide the first clear evidence that alcohol on TV has an immediate effect on drinking habits.

The Dutch and Canadian scientists set up a "home cinema" at their laboratory, complete with a large-screen TV and minibar stocked with a choice of alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks.

Pairs of young male students aged 18 to 29 were asked to make themselves comfortable and watch an hour-long movie clip with two commercial breaks. During this time they had unrestricted access to the minibar. Different movies and adverts were shown that varied in the extent to which they featured alcohol.

The 80 students were split into four groups. One group watched the film American Pie , in which the characters drank alcohol 18 times and alcoholic drinks were portrayed an additional 23 times. The film was interrupted by commercial breaks which included adverts for alcohol.

Another group watched the same film with neutral commercial breaks devoid of alcohol adverts. The third group watched the film 40 Days And 40 Nights , in which alcohol was consumed only three times and alcoholic drinks shown 15 times, with commercial breaks advertising alcohol. The fourth group watched 40 Days And 40 Night s and commercials in which alcohol was absent.

Students in the first group, who saw alcohol portrayed extensively both in the film American Pie and adverts, drank an average of nearly three bottles of alcohol. In contrast, those who watched 40 Days And 40 Nights together with "no-alcohol" adverts, drank just 1.5 bottles.

Professor Rutger Engels, from the Behavioural Science Institute at Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, said: This is the first experimental study to show a direct effect of exposure to alcohol portrayals on TV on viewers' immediate drinking behaviour.

 

6th November
2008
  

Sex and the City Causes Teen Pregnancy...

Research claims that racy TV leads to teen pregnancy
Link Here

AAP logo A research suggests that pregnancy rates are much higher among teens who watch a lot of TV with sexual dialogue and behavior than among those who have tamer viewing tastes.

The new study is the first to link those viewing habits with teen pregnancy, said lead author Anita Chandra, a Rand Corp. behavioral scientist. Teens who watched the raciest shows were twice as likely to become pregnant over the next three years as those who watched few such programs.

Shows that highlight only the positive aspects of sexual behavior without the risks can lead teens to have unprotected sex before they're ready to make responsible and informed decisions, Chandra claimed.

The study was released in the November issue of Pediatrics . It involved 2,003 12- to 17-year-old girls and boys nationwide questioned by telephone about their TV viewing habits in 2001. Teens were re-interviewed twice, the last time in 2004, and asked about pregnancy. Among girls, 58 became pregnant during the follow-up, and among boys, 33 said they had gotten a girl pregnant.

Participants were asked how often they watched any of more than 20 TV shows popular among teens at the time or which were found to have lots of sexual content. The programs included Sex and the City , That '70s Show and Friends .

Pregnancies were twice as common among those who said they watched such shows regularly, compared with teens who said they hardly ever saw them. There were more pregnancies among the oldest teens interviewed, but the rate of pregnancy remained consistent across all age groups among those who watched the 'racy' programs.

Chandra said TV-watching was strongly connected with teen pregnancy even when other factors were considered, including grades, family structure and parents' education level.

But the study didn't adequately address other issues, such as self-esteem, family values and income, contends Elizabeth Schroeder, executive director of Answer, a teen sex education program based at Rutgers University: The media does have an impact, but we don't know the full extent of it because there are so many other factors.

 

17th July
2008
  

Research a Distraction...

Background TV distracts toddlers from their play
Link Here

University of Massachusetts logo Parents who leave the television on all day are stunting the development of their babies and toddlers, a study claims.

Psychologists say that young children find it significantly harder to concentrate if a TV is on in the background - even if they appear to pay little attention to it. The findings are thought to apply to children aged one, two and three.

Dr Marie Evans Schmidt, who carried out the research at the University of Massachusetts, said TV was a potentially chronic environmental risk factor affecting most children: Parents should limit their young children's exposure to background television.

The study looked at the effect of television on 50 children. Each child came to a laboratory and was invited to play for an hour. For half the time a television was on, showing an episode of the U.S. game show Jeopardy! and commercials. For the rest of the session, the television was turned off. Even though the toddlers appeared to pay no attention to the adult programme, the television disrupted their playing at every age, the scientists reported in the journal Child Development. When the TV was switched on, the children played for shorter periods and spent less time focused on the toys compared with when the programme was turned off.

 

8th January
2008
  

Violent Films Cut Crime...

Economic research study
Link Here

Die Hard with a Vengeance DVD cover In a paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association in New Orleans, researchers from the University of California claimed that the showing of violent films has cut assaults in the US by on average about 52,000 a year over the past

Rather than getting drunk and then going out to look for trouble, would-be assailants are cooped up in cinemas, consuming only soft drinks and simply watching violence, said the study.
 
Prof Gordon Dahl and Prof Stefano DellaVigna analysed variations in the violence of blockbuster films from 1995 to 2004 and studied their effects on same-day assaults.

Comparing national crime reports, cinema ratings and movie audience figures, they found that violent crime decreased on days with larger theatre audiences for violent films.

Although violent crime went down by as much as 1.3% during cinema hours, the researchers found it decreased even more dramatically - by as much as 2.1% - in the six-hours after midnight.

They attributed this to the fact that more violently-inclined moviegoers would probably have been indulging in "more volatile activities", particularly drinking alcohol, rather than "sitting at home reading a book".

Prof Dahl is a Mormon who doesn’t allow his own four children to watch violent films and doesn’t like seeing them himself. He told the New York Times: You’re taking a lot of violent people off the streets and putting them inside movie theaters.

In the short run, if you take away violent movies, you’re going to increase violent crime. His data also showed that crime also fell, though not by as much, when audiences were watching non-violent films that appeal to young men.

Prof Dahl said the lesson to Hollywood, if wanted to help cut crime, was to keep making films that appeal to young men but to cut the gore out of them.

The research is part of the fashion for so-called "freakonomics" among economists who try to transfer their number crunching techniques to aspects of society which are usually ignored by the "dismal science". It is unlikely to convince the growing number of psychologists who have studied on-screen violence and concluded that exposure to it increases aggressive behaviour.



TV: The Cause of All Evils

From The Scotsman

19th Feb 2007

It is the number of hours and the age at which they start which produces the biological effects. It is because of the medium, not the message, that these effects are occurring. Dr Arixc Sigman


Remotely Controlled book coverIt has long been blamed for creating a nation of couch potatoes. But a new report today claims that Britain's love affair with television is causing far more damage - both physically and psychologically - than previously thought.

The findings have been compiled by Dr Aric Sigman, a psychologist who has previously written about the effects of television on the viewer. His report, analysing 35 different scientific studies carried out into television and its effect on the viewer, has identified 15 negative effects he claims can be blamed on watching television.

The report suggests the consequences of television are far more serious. They range from myopia and attention deficit disorder to diabetes, autism, Alzheimer's and a generation whose brains are being numbed by on-screen imagery.

His report, published in the respected Biologist magazine, claims the problem with television lies in the length of time we spend in front of the set. For most people, watching television now takes up more time than any other single activity except work and sleep. According to the British Audience Research Bureau, by the age of 75 the average Briton will have spent more than 12 years of their life watching television.

Dr Sigman, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and author of Remotely Controlled: How Television Is Damaging Our Lives, said arguments over how educational programmes are were a distraction. He said: The medical studies I have looked at are about the medium of television, irrespective of the programmes children are watching. It is the number of hours and the age at which they start which produces the biological effects. It is because of the medium, not the message, that these effects are occurring.

  • OBESITY. Television viewing is directly related to and now considered an independent cause of obesity. Sitting in front of a screen commands an increasingly large part of children's lives and, Dr Sigman believes, has replaced physical activity for many. Inactivity can also overlap with poor diet.
  • HEALING. Television may be involved in alterations in the activity, size and consistency of skin immune cells. It may lead to an increase in the migration of "cutaneous immune system mast cells", parts of body tissue that play a key role in healing wounds and offering defence against disease.
  • HEART TROUBLE. Television can set the conditions for long-term cardiovascular illness, some research claims. The adult risk of raised cholesterol and the potential for heart disease is strongly linked to TV viewing habits formed in childhood and teenage years, setting up a store of problems for later life.
  • METABOLISM. A significant relationship was found in which the metabolic rate decreased as average weekly hours of television viewing increased. Lowered metabolism leads to a reduced ability to burn fat. Combined with high-calorie food and drinks, it sets the stage for obesity and other health issues.
  • EYESIGHT. Permanent eyesight damage previously attributed to genetics is now being strongly linked to television-screen exposure. TV screens, or indeed computer screens, are blamed for a rising incidence of myopia as they demand long periods of fixed attention from the viewer.
  • ALZHEIMER'S. Television viewing between ages 20 to 60 is associated with the development of Alzheimer's disease: for each additional daily hour of television viewing, the associated risk of Alzheimer's disease development increases. Attention, memory and reaction time may also be affected.
  • ATTENTION SPAN. Long periods of TV viewing may affect what are called the "neuronal mechanisms" behind attention and impulse control. This means damaging brain-cell development and the person's ability to concentrate on non-TV subjects. For children this could mean learning difficulties and attention disorders.
  • HORMONES. Watching television suppresses production of melatonin, a key hormone and powerful antioxidant that has important roles in the immune system, sleep/wake cycle and the onset of puberty. Melatonin regulates the body's internal clock but bright screens may interrupt production.
  • CANCER. Reduced levels of melatonin may also result, Dr Sigman suggests, in a greater chance that cell DNA will produce cancer-causing mutations. Some doctors have speculated on a link between sleeplessness and cancer, which one expert suggested formed a "pathway from stress to disease".
  • EARLY PUBERTY. Exposure to TV screens affects the melatonin levels of younger children, in particular at the onset of puberty. Girls are reaching puberty much earlier than in the 1950s, a fact critics of TV put down to reduced levels of melatonin. Animal studies link low melatonin levels to early puberty.
  • AUTISM. Early childhood television viewing may be an important factor in autism, which currently affects one in every 166 children. Dr Sigman quotes Cornell University, which last year published research suggesting television may be a trigger in young children with a tendency to the condition.
  • SLEEP. A signiicant relationship was found between exposure to television and sleeping difficulties in different age groups ranging from infants to adults. Television viewing among infants and young children is independently associated with irregular sleep schedules.
  • HUNGER. The lack of sleep ascribed to the effects of watching TV may directly increase appetite and body-fat production. Research suggests it could do this through alterations in the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which regulate feelings of being full and of hunger respectively.
  • BRAIN GROWTH. Even interactive media such as computer games have been associated with limited neurological activity. Watching television has been found by neuroscientists to be a "non-intellectually stimulating activity" for brain development. This was not found to be the case for reading.
  • DIABETES. Dr Sigman's  report suggests TV viewing is directly related to and significantly raises the risk of abnormal glucose metabolism and new Type-two diabetes. This is linked to side-effects of a sedentary lifestyle and the kind of diet that can go with heavy TV watching, such as sweets and sugary drinks.
    Bright light from sets may suppress sleep hormone

 

Correlating Violent Movie Viewing to Poor School Grades

From The Telegraph, October 2006

Sounds somewhat arse about tit to me. I would suggest that middle class parents are a little more careful about what their kids view. Middle class kids do better at school simply because they come from a family who place a higher emphasis on education. Hence the correlation between TV viewing and educational success. Nothing to do with any causality.


Friday 13th DVD coverChildren who watch violent horror and action movies suffer from poorer grades at school, according to new research.

A study of more than 4,500 school pupils aged between 10 and 14-years-old found those who watched films intended for older audiences were more likely to get lower school marks compared with classmates who watched tamer movies.

The researchers also found that children who watched more than four hours of television during a weekday scored on average lower grades than those who spent less time in front of the television.

Child health experts at Dartmouth Children's Hospital and Montefiore Medical Centre in New York quizzed children at 15 schools across the US on their viewing habits before comparing it against their grades.

They found that adolescents who had watched movies such as the vampire film Blade and the slasher flick Friday the 13th, which were classified "18" in the UK, were 64% more likely to perform badly in class.

Dr James Sargent, a paediatrician at Dartmouth Medical School who led the research, believes disturbing scenes from these films may be provoking rebellious behaviour in adolescents while also disrupting their sleep, leaving them less likely to work hard in class. He said: These are young adolescents who really should not be watching this type of adult material. Watching a lot of violent material seems to crank up their rebelliousness.

The research also showed that the number of children who attained excellent grades fell from 50% to 25% when they watched more than four hours of television a day during the week. Watching television at weekends had no effect.

The research will contribute to the debate over the influence that violence on television and in films has on childhood behaviour. Richard House, a senior lecturer at the Research Centre for Therapeutic Education, at Roehampton University in London, said he believed the results of the US study underestimated the "noxious effects" of television on children. He said: That exposure to adult content had the strongest negative impact on school performance also supports our concerns about the premature 'adultisation' of children that is becoming routine in modern technological culture.

Dr Trish Livsey, head of child health at City University, also in London, added:
There is an argument that even soaps such as Hollyoaks are affecting children. A recent plotline about self-harming saw more young people harming themselves as they were given the suggestion.

 

The British Psychological Conference hears that endless back-biting on soaps is helping to raise aggression


Toned down from a biased article in The Times, April 2004


Rovers returnWatching television soap operas encourages a range of anti-social behaviour in children, including backbiting, gossiping, spreading rumours, splitting up other people’s relationships and verbal bullying, a new study suggests.

Research into the effects of television on young viewers has found a supposedly significant link between the amount of indirect aggression shown on screen and bad behaviour among adolescent viewers.

The most blamed offender is the soap opera Emmerdale, followed by EastEnders and Coronation Street, which were found to have an average of 14 incidents an hour of characters back-biting about each other. The more gentle Australian soaps Neighbours and Home and Away had an average of four incidents of indirect aggression an hour.

Sarah Coyne, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Lancashire, said it was highly likely that indirect aggression in soaps was contributing to aggression and bullying in society in general and in the playground in particular. I think it’s very worrying.There are ridiculous amounts of indirect aggression on television and TV producers don’t care. The way it is portrayed as justified or attractive is producing role models that children are likely to follow. It’s having a cultural effect, she told the British Psychological Society’s conference in London yesterday.

Dr Coyne conducted a test in which 199 11-to-14-year-olds were divided into three groups. One group watched a soap opera scene containing indirect aggression, in which characters were shown gossiping about others behind their backs. The second group watched the same film in which the indirect aggression was replaced by physical violence. The third group saw the same film, but with all violence written out of the script. The viewers were then asked to complete a puzzle and were supervised by an extremely rude man. After watching the film, they were asked to fill in a questionnaire about the man in which they were asked whether or not he should be recommended for a job and whether he deserved a bonus worth up to £100.

The children who had watched the indirect and physical aggression gave the man very low ratings and suggested that his bonus should be £14 and £7 respectively. Those who saw the film with no aggression at all gave the man a much more positive rating and awarded him a bonus of £40.

A separate analysis by Dr Coyne of 250 hours of soaps and sitcoms shown on British television found that indirect aggression was present in 92 per cent of them, and physical violence in 65 per cent. Some 60 per cent of indirect aggression was committed by female characters, who were often portrayed as attractive and justified in their actions. Indirect aggression was more often rewarded with a positive outcome than not. The analysis covered 39 television soaps and sitcoms, but not Footballers’ Wives, which was not on air at the time of the analysis.

Given the pervasiveness of backbiting or indirect aggression on television, Dr Coyne said it was important that television producers thought long and hard about the image of the world that they were portraying to young people.

Her research is the first study to investigate the effects of indirect aggression on viewers. Previous studies have examined the effects of screen violence on behaviour and have found that viewers who see a lot of physical violence often become more hostile afterwards, although they do not necessarily replicate the physical acts they have seen.

 

Flawed Research

Children who watch more than an hour of television a day are more likely to be violent, claims a study. However, this finding is disputed by a UK expert, who describes the study as "flawed".

News article from the BBC

March 2002


TVChildren who watch more than an hour of television a day are more likely to be violent, claims a study. However, this finding is disputed by a UK expert, who describes the study as "flawed".

The research was carried out by Jeffrey Johnson, of Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. His team tracked more than 700 children through adolescence to adulthood. They found that those who had watched one or more hours of television a day appeared much more likely to get into fights or behave aggressively towards other people later in life.

The results were adjusted to take account of possible influencing factors, such as family income, childhood neglect or psychiatric disorders during childhood. Only 5.7% of the adolescents who watched less than an hour of television a day committed aggressive acts in later years, compared with 22.5% of those who watched between one and three hours, and 28.8% of those who watched more than three hours a day.

Professor Johnson, said: Our findings suggest that, at least during early adolescence, responsible parents should avoid permitting their children watch more than one hour of television a day. His research, he said, found a strong link between aggression and television for adolescent males - and for females during early adulthood. It's quite surprising. We wouldn't have predicted what we found.

However, British expert Guy Cumberbatch, from the Communications Research Group, based in Birmingham, said that the study findings were highly misleading. He said that the relatively small number of children who watched less than one hour a day - 88 out of the 700 - represented an extreme which it was unfair to use as a basis of comparison. He said: How many families do you know where children watch this amount or less? These are highly unusual families - the kind who are more likely to be taking their children to art galleries and museums. And there are so few of them compared to the rest of the children studied. This is a case of torturing the data to make it fit a theory.


Response by Nick Thomson

I myself have just finished conducting a research on this topic for my Sociology coursework (from the point of view of a 'video age' youth who is surrounded by such media). My research totally conflicts with this 18 year long research.

Here is a list of what I see wrong with this research:

  • The USA's population is what, a good billion people right? They covered 700 kids.

  • Class and ethnicity were not covered or talked about. I reckon that most were white, working class/underclass individuals who were paid to be involved. Also, working class/underclass individuals are statistically proven to be much more violent.

  • Violent media is mainly produced and viewed by the middle class sector - what was said about this? From my experience the middle class viewers of such material are perfectly capable of handling it. They are aware that it is NOT REAL and is PURELY ENTERTAINMENT.

  • These kids were 'subjected' to this research (yes for money most likely, but it's a forced environment). This is not natural viewing.

  • This "hour" of TV limit bullcrap neglects the fact that every hour of US TV is not just violence. Did they forget comedy, animation (the non-violent ones anyway), romance, documentaries, soaps and so forth?

  • As my research found - violence in the media actually stops people from wanting to commit it themselves. These images trick the brain into thinking you have done your violent deeds for the day/week/month/year etc, so you are not urged to go out and gun someone down or stab someone in the face.

  • What about the zillions of violent acts dating from man's birth? Were they all influenced by media?

  • How about the many court cases that have thrown out the thesis that movies are the cause - for example, the Bulger killing and the French Natural Born Killers fiasco.

  • This only covers the USA, the main consumer of such imagery, and producer too, but what about other countries such as the UK or all of Europe, and what about those mad Japanese people over there, they're mental and are host to the most disgusting imagery I have ever witnessed!

  • This research is no doubt biased, or at least leaning this way by their methods.

  • They neglect the fact that it's an "each to his own" world - people will watch violence if they want to.

  • If the rating system in the USA worked differently then many less kids would be exposed to such images, or at least for longer.

  • Parents are not being responsible enough with what their kids watch. Take some fucking responsibility (in the words of Neve Campbell in Scream 3).

  • They say they dealt with mental disturbances and bad background and such - but come on! There's got to be something behind these words! I am rather suspicious of it all.

  • They say parental neglect was covered and ruled out (or so I have read everywhere), but what about social neglect? Social outcasts (a la Columbine killers) is a far more damaging thing than a film.

  • What about other media? Music for example, art, internet sites, the people you hang out with, your temperament on a particular day, S.A.D.? Huh? Come on! This is hardly representative, valid or reliable now is it? These factors need to be fully addressed.

  • People are mean and nasty frequently anyway, they don't need a movie to tell them that. Really, people aren't sick because of movies, movies are sick because of people!.

  • Look at the holocaust - that is the most horrific thing mankind has ever witnessed in such a long time - did movies cause this? No! Facism and sick bastards did!

  • The respondents (only a piffling 700) were only viewed, each (with their parents), four times throughout 18 years. Each person has a bad day surely, this hardly paints a full picture of the individual.

  • The likelihood of violence from a one hour of TV viewer was like 5%, for up to 4 hours it was like 28% or something. Correct me if I am wrong, but this is still a large minority!

  • They say boys are particularly prone to such violence - boys are always rougher anyway, it's in our genes to behave much rougher, play gun games and what not.

  • Computer games are not mentioned - you WATCH a movie, you PLAY a game - you interact with it, you are the game. You control the action, a movie is a set path of events glamorised beyond reality.

  • Some violent movies are actually informative - they show it how it is, like wife beating or incestual rape or something

  • These kids are quite possibly not the sort who watch violent imagery. They could possibly much prefer to watch something softer, hell, even porn! Who knows!

 

Video Violence and the Protection of Children

By Elizabeth Newson

Elizabeth Newson is a Professor of Developmental Psychology with the Child Development Research Unit, University of Nottingham, U.K.
 
In Electronic Children, London 1996


Introduction

Child's Play 3 DVD coverTwo-year-old James Bulger was brutally and sadistically murdered on Feb. 12, 1993, by two ten-year-old children. This stark fact has prompted a long overdue focus upon what conditions in our society could precipitate such an unthinkable action.

The need to ask "Why?" is central to the human condition; we cannot and should not accept a randomness in events, unless we are content to see the world spin totally out of our control. As is usual at such times, during the trial the media approached every possible "expert" for comments on causes; and as usual the experts obliged, from their various points of view, sometimes under pressure with little time for the consideration that was due. Then, once again as usual, other media commentators derided the multiplicity of views, and with it the entire search for causes.

Now that the immediate shock of the trial has a little receded, perhaps this is the time to evaluate more carefully the situation which this murder of a child by children has forced us to examine. Many have asked despairingly how we can ever come to terms with it. We can only begin to do so by facing it squarely and considering what might be done: not to erase Jamie's loss, not to redeem the two children who survive, but to try to ensure that Jamie is not just the first of many such victims. And, given that children of ten are by law seen as in need of protection by society, we perhaps should consider future Roberts and Jons, and how far society should accept some responsibility for children who, at least in some sense, are its victims themselves.

It is of course more comforting to believe that children like Robert Thompson and Jon Venables are a "one-off"; "evil freaks," as some sections of the Press described them. Detective-Sergeant Phil Roberts, present at Robert's interviews and in desperate need of comfort himself, was quoted as saying: "These two were freaks who just found each other. You should not compare these two boys with other boys – they were evil." (The Independent, 25.11.93). Similarly, one might describe a child who lacked any sense of pity or moral control as the equivalent of an adult psychopath: but does it not defy belief that two such children "just found each other"?

Whoever might or might not have been leader – however much this might have been a case of two children egging each other on – the fact is that this was not a crime of sudden impulse. Jamie was not the first toddler that these children attempted to entice away that day; they both persevered in seeking a victim. If they had actually pushed Jamie into traffic or into the canal, both of which they explicitly considered, then we might have seen such an action as an uncontrolled and perhaps one-sided impulse: they rejected both these ideas, and it is in fact the sustained determination with which they propelled a distressed and frightened little boy over two-and-a-half miles, stopping when necessary to"explain themselves" to concerned enquirers, that is the second piece of evidence that an act of torture was in the making. We now know that the final scene beside the railway line was long-drawn-out and merciless; that paint was thrown, and blows were struck not once but enough to cause 42 separate injuries: that there were sexual elements to the torture and Jamie's mouth was damaged on the inside; and that the children got blood on the soles of their shoes.

These details have to be remembered, much as one would like to forget them, because of what they imply: that in this crime there was both the expectation and the attainment of satisfaction of some sort through doing deliberate and sustained violence to a very small child (described by the children as a "baby") whose distress was unremitting, Afterwards, too, the children were composed enough first to push James on to the railway line in an attempt to disguise the murder, then to wander down to the video-shop where they were known and where their demeanour did not arouse suspicion of anything worse than truancy even in their mothers.

So here is a crime that we could all wish had been perpetrated by "evil freaks"; but already the most cursory reading of news since then suggests that it is not a "one-off." Shortly after this trial, children of similar age in Paris were reported to have set upon a tramp, encouraged by another tramp, kicked him and thrown him down a well. In England an adolescent girl was tortured by her "friends" over days, using direct quotations from a horror video Child's Play 3 as part of her torment, and eventually set on fire and thus killed; while the following note appeared in a local paper on 7.12.93:

Two schoolboys were today expected to appear in court accused of torturing a six-year- old on a railway line. The youngsters, aged ten and eleven, allegedly tried to force the boy to electrocute himself on a track in Newcastle upon Tyne last week. They are also accused of stabbing him in the arm with a knife. They will appear before Gosforth Youth Court in Newcastle upon Tyne charged with making threats to kill and three offences of indecently assaulting the youngster and his two brothers aged seven and ten.

We do not have the information to be able to comment on the full background of any of these crimes at present: all that can be said is that they have in common a willingness of two or more children or adolescents together to carry out brutally violent assaults likely to result in protracted suffering and death.

It would be quite unlikely that any single cause for these children's behaviour could be identified, although possible contributing factors might be offered; for instance, experts consulted by The Independent (25.11.93) variously suggested the effects of physical abuse, severe emotional neglect resulting in lack of self-worth, deprivation, "play on the mean side which went too far," exposure to sadistic videos and conversations, sexual abuse and disturbed family relationships, Poverty and despair related to unemployment and a culture of no-hope families have also been cited. However, child abuse, poverty and neglect have been a part of many children's experience over the years; indeed, although neither Jon nor Robert could be said to have come from happy and nurturant homes, there was little evidence of the extremes of neglect and abuse that could be documented in any Social Services department. What, then, can be seen as the "different" factor that has entered the lives of countless children and adolescents in recent years? This has to be recognized as the easy availability to children of gross images of violence on video.

Evidence of professional concern

Over the past few years, considerable anxiety has been expressed by those professionally concerned with children about the effects of "horror," "sex and violence," "soft porn" and similar scenes experienced by children via videos seen in their own or their friends' homes. Mr. Justice Brown identified children's access to sadistic videos as cause for concern following the Rochdal case of suspected ritual abuse, where the children's familiarity with horror images from videos such as Nightmare on Elm Street misled social workers into assuming that they must have experienced such things in reality. At an early stage the British Paediatric Association had invited comments from its members on damaging effects of "video pasties": at that time, concern was mainly centred upon children who were presenting with nightmares and traumatization by images that they could not erase from their minds and one might suggest that this was an "innocent" period, in that having nightmares is a relatively healthy reaction, denoting the child's continuing sensitivity to such images. In 1985, too, opinions of child and adolescent psychiatrists on the viewing of violent videos by children were reviewed in the Bulletin of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (U.K).

More recently, however, concern has grown greater and has addressed more serious and long-lasting effects. It now seems that professionals in child health and psychology under-estimated the degree of brutality and sustained sadism that film-makers were capable of inventing and willing to portray, let alone the "special-effects" technologies which would support such images; and we certainly under-estimated how easy would be children's access to them. Where formerly children were said to see them "by accident" or in defiance of parental edict, it is now clear that many children watch adult-only videos on a regular basis, with or without their parents' knowledge, and that many parents make less than strenuous efforts to restrict their children's viewing. Thus it is not surprising that Mr. Justice Morland speculated upon the part that such videos might have played in creating the degree of desensitization to compassion that the children in the Bulger case shoved – not only during their. attack, but in comments like Robert's (before he admitted the killing): "If I wanted to kill a baby, I would kill my own, wouldn't I?"

There must be special concern when children (or adults, for that matter) are repeatedly exposed to images of vicious cruelty in the context of entertainment and amusement. Michael Medved makes the point:

Not only do these films suggest that brute force is a prerequisite for manliness, that physical intimidation is irresistibly sexy. and that violence offers an effective solution to all human problems; today's movies also advance the additional appalling idea that the most appropriate response to the suffering of others is sadistic laughter. (Hollywood Versus America, 1993)

In the context of entertainment:

1.The viewer receives the implicit message that this is all good fun – something with which to while away one's leisure time.

2. The child viewer receives distorted images of emotions that he has not yet experienced so must accept – especially dangerous when love, sex and violence are equated.

3. The ingenuity with which brutality is portrayed is likely to escalate over time, since the entertainment industry must try to be more and more "entertaining" and must allow for jaded palates. (How far this might go in the future in terms of video games and virtual reality is not within the scope of this paper.)

4. So that viewers will not be too disturbed to experience "entertainment," the victims must be portrayed as being somewhat sub-human, so that they need not be pitied.

5. An alternative is that they should be portrayed as deserving violent treatment. Robert and Jon explained that they had had to go on throwing bricks at Jamie (30 blows with bricks and an iron bar were counted) because he kept on getting up. (This resonates with the attitudes of many abusive parents, who testify that they had to hit the baby because she would keep on crying.) A parallel in a recently released film is where we witness in lit silhouette the multiple rape of a woman by a queue of men, and hear her agonized screams, all in the context of an intent to punish her. 

The connection between viewing violence and change in attitudes or behaviour

The principle that what is experienced vicariously will have some effect on some people is an established one, and is the reason why industry finds it worth while to spend millions of pounds on advertising. Medved has pointed out that an advertising campaign will be regarded as a major success on the basis of a quite small percentage of its viewers changing their buying habits. The derisive question which film-makers have put to their critics, "Have YOU been tempted to become a serial killer by watching our films?" is disingenuous: it ignores differing stability, susceptibility to influence and levels of immaturity among the audience as a whole. We know that children can be traumatized, not only by the images they see, but also by additional images that are suggested by their imagination in response to the originals; but far more dangerous, because more lastingly damaging, would be that eventually they should no longer be troubled at all by seeing violent images, as a result of desensitization by systematic repetition. The processes of "desensitization" and "flooding" are well-known methods for modification of behaviour, reducing the impact of the original accompanying emotion.

Because of this knowledge, it has been difficult for psychologists to demonstrate experimentally the effect of images of extreme violence on young children's behaviour. Experiments involving live subjects, and especially young children, would usually be submitted to an ethical committee, who would consider any likely effects. The processes of traumatization and desensitization are well enough known for any ethical committee to refuse to sanction the showing of such videos to children in order to monitor effects. Moreover, if it were suggested that parents should watch alongside, child psychologists would be more alarmed still at such a proposal, on the basis that any identification by the child with the violent perpetrator could be additionally enhanced through identification with his parents, were they apparently to accept the film's attitudes.

Thus most research on the results of watching violence either has to follow up long-term effects on individual cases, or has to extrapolate from experimental situations that do not in fact involve witnessing extreme violence. Since children's exposure to the kind of sadistic images with which we are now concerned is relatively recent, there has not yet been time to carry out the longitudinal studies that this would involve, while ethical experimental studies are necessarily rather artificial. Nevertheless, Professors Sims and Gray (Professors of Psychiatry and Paediatrics respectively) were able to point to "a vast world literature, more than 1,000 papers, linking heavy exposure to media violence with subsequent aggressive behaviour" in their document presented to the Broadcasting Group of the House of Lords in September 1993. They made two particularly important points themselves: that in current video material "unlike traditional gruesome stories, the viewer is made to identify with the Perpetrator of the act, and not with the victim"; and that "watching specific acts of violence on the media has resulted in mimicry by children and adolescents of behaviour that they would otherwise, literally, have found unimaginable." There is, of course, a connection between identification and mimicry, which decides what is mimicked.

George Comstock, Professor of Communications at Syracuse University, hew York, reviewed 190 research projects over 30 years on the impact of television violence (remembering the caveats given above); he found "a very solid relationship between viewing anti-social portrayals or violent episodes and behaving anti-socially" in both boys and girls (Comstock, 1991). Huesman and Eron at Illinois published a 20-year follow-up of 400 children, and found that heavy exposure to television violence at age 8 years (again remembering that the violence was by no means as extreme then as now) was associated with violent crime and spouse or child abuse at age 30 – "at all socio-economic levels and all levels of intelligence... It cannot be denied or explained away." (Huesman and Eron, 1984) A British review of 40 adolescent murderers and 200 young sex offenders showed "repeated viewing of violent and pornographic videos" as "a significant causal factor"; this was particularly significant in adolescents abusing in baby-sitting contexts, where videos provided "a potent source of immediate arousal for the subsequent act," including mimicry of the violent images witnessed (Bailey, 1993).

Implications

There continues to be a need for systematic research in order to keep pace with both the growth of violence in children and the growth of violent visual material available to them. (Indeed, the Professor of Psychological Criminology at Cambridge identifies "a pressing need for a new long-term program of high-quality government-funded research on (all) causes of offending" in young people, the cost of which would be "infinitesimal compared with the costs of almost everything connected with crime" (Farrington, 1994).) So far as research on the effect of violent images is concerned, and given the ethical considerations already elaborated, the careful collection of case history material is likely to be the most fruitful. This would, of course, need to be both prospective and retrospective; that is, children's viewing habits (or video knowledge) could be monitored, and eventual outcomes assessed, while child and adolescent violent offenders could be studied retrospectively in terms of background experience.

Meanwhile, it seems impossible to allow the situation to continue, and indeed escalate, as it now is. Michael Medved stops short at advocating censorship, and makes a plea for film-makers to set their own standards and limits. Although individuals such as Kubrick and Hopkins have begun to have doubts about their own contributions, it seems unlikely that those who feel responsibility for protecting children will be able to wait for such corporate self-denial.

Many of us hold our liberal ideals of freedom of expression dear, but now begin to feel that we were naive in our failure to predict the extent of damaging material and its all too free availability to children. Most of us would prefer to rely on the discretion and responsibility of parents, both in controlling their children's viewing and in giving children clear models of their own distress in witnessing sadistic brutality however it is unhappily evident that many children cannot rely on their parents in this respect. By restricting such material from home viewing, society must take on a necessary responsibility in protecting children from this as from other forms of child abuse.

(Note: "In concentrating here on the needs of children and young people, I have limited myself to my own professional specialism. I do not wish to imply, however, that adults are unaffected by or immune from the influence of images of extreme violence and sadism." – Elizabeth Newson)

References

BAILEY, S.M., 1993. Criminal Justic Matters, 6-7

COMSTOCK, G., 1991. TV and the American Child, Academic Press.

FARRINGTON, David P., 1994. "The influence of the family on delinquent development," Family Policy Studies Centre, Crime and the Family (conference paper).

HUESMANN, LR, and ERON, L., 1984. Quoted by Medved, q.v.- and see

HUESMANN, LR, ERON, L., DUBOW, E et al, 1983. Aggression and its Correlates over 22 years, University of Illinois, Chicago.

MEDVED, Michael, 1992. Hollywood vs. America, HarperCollins, Zondervan.

SIMS, ACP, and MELVILLE-THOMAS, G., 198S. "Survey of the opinion. of child and adolescent psychiatrists on the viewing of violent videos by children," Bulletin, Royal College of Psychiatrists 9. 238-240.

SIMS, ACP, and GRAY, Peter, l993. "The media, violence and vulnerable viewers," document presented to Broadcasting Group, House of Lords.

 

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