We are shocked when violent acts occur in our schools and churches and rightfully so, but at the same time our children and even many adults watch violence on television as a matter of course every day. A surgeon’s general report concluded that 61% of all TV contains violence. Violence and sexual images are as much a part of today’s television fare as peanut butter and cereal ads. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a child who watches three to four hours a day of non-educational TV will see about 8,000 murders by the time he or she completes grade school.
American children spend an average of 6 hours and 32 minutes each day watching TV or using other media like the Internet and video games. By their exposure, they can easily become less sensitized to the terror of violence or accept violence as a way to resolve life’s difficulties. Many can imitate the violence they see on TV or as part of their video games. The debate over whether violent video games are linked to violent behavior has been going on for years. But the general conclusion has been that playing violent video games is linked to an increase in more aggressive behavior in young people.
The Walking Dead, Stalker, Hannibal, American Horror Story, CSI, Sons of Anarchy and the infamous Game of Thrones are examples of programs with a very violent content. These programs are watched more by adults than children. A nationwide battle is taking place over sexually explicit programs on cable TV. There is now a proliferation of programs that offer far more nudity, sex, and profanity that have ever been seen on TV. Unlike conventional commercial TV, which is restrained by broadcasting standards in its depiction of sexual content, cable television, once subscribed to can bring violent and sexually explicit programs into your home unchecked. While subscribing to a cable television service is a voluntary act, cable television is now reaching nearly 40% of the nation’s 83.8 million television households.
There is no doubt in my mind that, over time, the publication of violent and sexually explicit TV will have an effect on both older audiences as well as young adults. Efforts are underway to let the cable television program subscriber limit the number of channels that he or she is willing to pay for and to exclude channels that the subscribers find offensive. But it will be an uphill battle as, at least 40% of the uncut HBO entertainment films on cable TV are R-rated. Cable industry officials offer lockout devices that can shield subscribers from objectionable shows but again they are not well publicized.
Our moral values are under attack. Children especially are vulnerable to songs, games, rock bands, television and books that depict sex and violence as a matter of a way of life. Parental control is slipping to peer pressure. All 50 states have statutory laws prohibiting tattoos under age 18 but, with parental consent, body piercing is pretty much open and can be performed at just about any age. Many young adults dress in a very offensive manner and find it acceptable to display, with open clothing, parts of their bodies that in the past were covered. Drugs are a danger to every age and in some of the more affluent neighborhoods in our society, drug use is an acceptable way of life for both adults as well as young people. Yet, we are shocked when deranged individuals break into churches, theatres, bars and restaurants and commit unbelievable acts of violence. Does our way of life not influence the way we act? I suspect so.
DONALD WITTMER is a retired business executive who held key roles in the automotive and banking sectors. For a time, he also served as a Fiscal Agency Manager for the Detroit branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He received his undergraduate degree from Cincinnati’s Xavier University, an M.A. in business management from Central Michigan University, and earned certification in bank operations from the School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A husband, father, and grandfather, he teaches part-time at the Kent Place School for Girls in Summit, New Jersey.