Violence on TV – Its Effect On Children and What We Can Do About It

They say it takes a village to raise a child. But what do you do when the village turns violent, vandalizing each other’s’ properties and spreading hatred among the inhabitants? What happens when in your own home, your child gets to see televised violence – real time or in a movie format? What does that do to your child?

The past few days in Bangalore have been fraught with tension and chaos. Friends and relatives from all over the world are writing in to enquire after our safety and wellbeing and the media has had a field day raising their TRPs thanks to some of the most sensational images in recent history!
And in the middle of all this, children who joined their mothers and grandparents in front of the TV to check up on the latest news about the situation outside, ended up seeing some of the goriest images on TV! 

I know the issue is sensitive; and I also know the solution isn’t easy or anywhere in the near future. But where does all this violence and chaos leave a mother like me whose child ended up seeing unpleasant images on TV?

I cannot help thinking why the media was being so irresponsible with the telecast. Couldn’t they have filled in a little background while they awaited new developments instead of showing the same images of brutal vandalism over and over again? Would it hurt them to delve into some past footage somewhere and give more background on the whole Cauvery Water Dispute? What was the point in showing the images of a torched depot for 30 odd minutes?

Maybe it isn’t the media’s responsibility to think of the effect these violent images had on my child, but it is mine. And that is why I chose to switch the TV off after a certain time. But really, is it so important for these channels to raise their TRPs at the cost of provoking and inciting people?
It is not only this one instance, but there are several instances in everyday life, where we watch some movie on TV, it may be a spy movie or something based on real life traumatic events and forget that little children at home are hanging around us too. We forget that they too are watching the televised violence – real time or made into a movie – and that it will have long lasting effects on their psyche.

The environment children grow up in shapes the adults they become. Studies have confirmed the adage “violence begets violence.” i.e. exposure to violence at a young age can result in children growing up and indulging in violent behaviour themselves. Exposure to violence can also have long lasting effects on children’s mental health. This is also found to be linked to psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression and so on. Exposure to violence also has a huge impact on children’s physical, social, and emotional development. It can also result in children having issues with maintaining long lasting positive relationships and give rise to trust issues.  

Televised violence too has similar impact and makes children more aggressive, reduces their capacity to empathize, and causes a host of mental health problems that many times go undetected only to surface in later life in the most horrific ways.

As a parent, I think it is important to remember that we have a responsibility to provide the best environment to our children growing up. So what can we do? We cannot keep them away from the TV forever, nor can we keep them tucked away safely inside our homes while violence rages outside our doors. Sooner or later, they have to face the world and that is when we need to prepare them for. How do we do that?

Open up a dialogue
Communication is the key in every relationship – even more so in a parent-child relationship. Children need to know that they can talk to you – about anything, at any time – and that they will always have your undivided attention.

Answer all their questions
Children are naturally curious. Obviously, when they see something unpleasant on TV, they will definitely have a lot of questions for you. And when they ask you these questions, it is important that you answer them, all of them – no matter how nasty the answers or how difficult it is to make them understand some things. Try to come to their level to answer the questions as much as you can. But answer them all you must!

Don’t shy away from sensitive questions
Sometimes children ask very sensitive questions. In their world everything is black and white, but that isn’t so in real life. All adults know that, but children cannot comprehend this. At the same time, if you don’t answer their questions, there is always the fear of where their curiosity might lead them! So answer their questions, no matter how sensitive or embarrassing they may be.

Don’t leave them without an answer
Ever! If need be, check it up together. If it’s not something you can tell them yet because they are too young, tell them that they are too young now and they will be told when the time is right. Believe me, they appreciate being taken into confidence.

Don’t play the blame game – that will only increase prejudice
It is easy to be prejudiced and easier to pass that on to our little ones. But what does that achieve? Won’t it create a next line of prejudiced citizens ready to spread hatred at the merest of provocations? Isn’t it better to let children know the facts of the matter and let them decide by themselves on what they feel about things? It is a free country after all, and children do need to make their own choices and face their own consequences, right?

And finally, always point out the silver lining
There is no grievance that a positive mind cannot overcome. Sometimes, things can look really bleak. It may seem like there is no good that can ever come from the way things presently are; but never forget, every dark cloud always has a silver lining – the sun is right there, ready to shine, just waiting for the cloud to pass – and that is what we need to let our children know too!
It will be great if there is no hatred or violence in the world. But short of that, it is amazing if we can raise our children to be confident, just and with a positive frame of mind. This way, there at least would be hope, that when they grow up, there will be peace and happiness in the world that they will be happy to spread around! 


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